Words and photos by JENZ
I’m incredulous that any of my live shots came out during Les Savy Fav’s closing Noise Pop set at Mezzanine Sunday, or that I escaped wound-free. Four songs in, the photo pit barricade was being ripped to pieces by the crowd thrashing about; at one point, people began lifting the rail about their heads. Once the barrier returned to the ground, my hips were subjected to barricade bars being slammed into them by the moshing audience. Then I had to watch out for crowd surfers, my shirt being pulled down to expose my bra, and not breaking my borrowed camera.
And that was only 20 minutes in.
LSF has two very decidedly different components to the live show: singer Tim Harrington’s antics in enforcing the ‘no boundaries’ policy between him and the crowd, and the band itself. What I figured out quickly and thankfully is that by no means are the remaining members only providing a background soundtrack to Harrington’s act. They can shred, they can swagger, and they can rock just as hard. They’re just not shirtless or have toilet paper stuck to them via sweat glands.
My adoration of the Brooklyn group started the night before, having met guitarist Seth Jabour in the smoking area at the Flosstradamus show. Talking shit about some dude’s cabbie hat to him face-to-face, we wrapped our arms around each other and laughed, me promising we could talk about anything he wanted to for the interview the next day. He requested “Books, dancing and turkey.” While upstairs Jabour then proceeded to make up a rap about turkey, gravy and peas, gyrate his hips to symbolize Thanksgiving dinner (I think?), then dive into a leather couch face-first repeatedly.
Then he tried to convince some of his bandmates to hold the balcony railing and spin upside down, despite the fact that we were on the second floor. Two of them started to slowly flip over until their feet were above their heads, and I rushed over to grab one of them by their belt loops and boxer waistbands as to prevent imminent death. You know. Because I care.
Humorously and sadly enough, Jabour could only piece together parts of the previous night when I popped in for our interview the following day, but smiled deviously and apologized when I filled him on the events. Alongside bass player Syd Butler, who also runs LSF’s label Frenchkiss, the two sat down with me pre-show for a short interview about existentialism and DJing.
How often do you feel you are understood as people?
Butler: 50 percent of the time.
Jabour: Really? For me it’s more like 20 percent of the time. (points to a water bottle on the table) ‘This is a water bottle!’ And someone else could go ‘No, it’s the Statue of Liberty,’ and in your head you’re telling them ‘God, you just don’t fucking get it!’
In the Noise Pop festival booklet, one of the writers thanks you for “keeping it real.”
Butler: Really? We’re just being ourselves; to our own selves, be truthful. We don’t pretend to be anyone else.
Jabour: People can tell when other people are being [dishonest], they sniff it out. We are not bullshitting anyone. Some people remember seeing us seven years ago when we were in these costumes that look [insane]: ‘Hey, we saw you in this small Tempe record store, and look, you guys are still keeping it real.’ But in my next side project, I promise I will not keep it real.
Butler: It becomes our own personal experience that there is this sense of community that gets established that is cool. Other bands have crazy lead singers, guitar players, and so on. We just let each other be the best that we can be in our own space; I give Seth the space to be the best he can be. There is a bit of a jazz element in how you can respond musically and physically in a room. Tim [Harrington, LSF singer] can explore the room to get all of us to be the best at our solos.
Jabour: If people look like they’re having a miserable time, I get very self conscious. It’s like ‘Shit, we both might have better things to do.”
You guys filled one of the guest DJ spots over at the Diesel happy hours this week. How is it to be playing records amongst various items of apparel?
Butler: I have a great time DJing. I’m a terrible DJ. But I generally read a room and then go from there. If it’s sexual, sweaty, maybe some soul, reggae. At Diesel I played LCD Soundsystem, Neil Diamond.
Jabour: Really, it’s all about embellishing the shopping experience. If you think about it, music is playing at all time when you shop. I was at a store once that played Modest Mouse, Built To Spill, and Band of Horses all in the time I was in there. That’s pretty remarkable.
In the middle of music ramblings, Butler excused himself to grab dinner with his wife and tuck daughter Lila in bed, who is camped out over in a nearby hotel. Jabour and I continue chatting about books, particularly about John Fante’s Wait Until Spring, Bandini, a continuation of Fante’s “Ask The Dusk” characters and the story of Italian immigrants. “It’s a sad-ending book that still has this sense of hope,” he muses, also mentioning The Road by Cormac McCarthy, all about “blood-letting and deprivation.”
“I hated reading when I was a kid, so the value of it was discovered right after I finished college,” he said. “Now I can’t imagine not reading.”
Before departing, he showed me a picture of himself and Butler’s daughter Lila on a porch, Jabour lifting up the little girl with such adoration it melted my brain.
Such sweet sentiments promptly evaporated as I was thrust into the madness of the live show. Lead singer Harrington appeared on stage wrapped in toilet paper on top of his red-striped shirt. After mumbling something about how he got into an accident, and that the toilet paper reminded him of a tampon, he bounced around stage for a couple tracks before getting bored and jetting over to the stairs leading up to the VIP section, despite not having a cordless mic. He hooked his feet in the bars to make an airplane with his body before finding two foot stools to use as sleds back down the stairs. Over the duration of the show, he then stripped, donned a brown shower curtain for a cloak, duct taped himself to fans, wandered some more into the audience, used someone’s cell phone, put a bucket over his head and constructed a smiley face out of duct tape, peeled a banana and stuck the end of it in a photographer’s mouth, found a straw hat, passed around a large bag of tortilla chips to the audience, and changed into an actual shirt for the encore. While still singing.
I was exhausted just watching him.
Somehow though, I knew opening the show with something like “The Equestian” was going to breed some psychosis from audience members. The furious track begins with Jabour’s heated guitar plucking, and dance anthem songs like “Patty Lee” only carry the crowd into more destructive oblivion. But for all the mad performance jumping jacks Harrington laid on us that night, I’m relieved to know that as a band LSF has some real rock meat underneath the craziness of their lead singer, even if they themselves look bewildered and slightly mortified at times by Harrington.
Third to last song I decided to follow Harrington through the crowd as he pranced about and put his face too-close-for-comfort style to many an audience member; I seriously thought I was going to get mobbed, but was touched to see people letting him do his thing while they danced around him. Post-show, Butler stood by the stage and handed out posters screenprinted specially for the concert; I adjusted my displaced clothes and thanked him for such a good time.
At home I still rode the high of seeing such an energetic and well-sounding band; the closing night was one of the best I’ve seen in a while. Thank you to Noise Pop for propagating such a great party, and for letting me survive Les Savy Fav. I’m sure lucky and legal installment #18 next year will be just as juicy.
A special thank you to good friend Morgan Hopper for his generosity in letting me borrow his camera for the week. Apologies if Tim Harrington’s spit is still on it.