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Les Savy Fav and Bodega Girls at the Royale

Between the ungainly 5:30pm doors at the Royale and the considerable excitement over the sold-out Guided by Voices show across town at the Paradise, both Les Savy Fav and local openers Bodega Girls had their work cut out for themselves on Friday night. The Royale has a stop-dead time of 9:30pm for these weekend shows, which is earlier than some shows start. Neither group is designed as a measured warm-up for more serious clubbing later in the evening; between Bodega Girls’ dance-party beats and Les Savy Fav’s notoriously sweaty audience invasion, this bill should cap off an exhausting evening, not act as a prelude.

Bodega Girls live at the Royale

A self-professed party band, Bodega Girls tried their damndest to steer the slowly swelling crowd onto the dance floor, but didn’t quite set the Royale on fire. Their first few songs offered a grab bag of retro styles—old school ’80s rap, early ’90s R&B—but once their guitarist and bassist came on stage, the sound settled into laptop-beat variation on !!!’s insistent dance-rock. Songs about liking black guys and partying on school nights were built around white-guy rapping in the verses and big choruses reminiscent of hair metal. There’s a fine line between enthusiasm and irritation, however, and the primary MC’s trips through the audience and relentless demands for the audience to cut loose went too far past Jon Spencer’s baseline. (There are only so many rounds of applause the audience can give itself.) Bodega Girls will presumably release their debut LP sometime in the next year, hopefully after the songs have gained focus.

Les Savy Fav live at the Royale

The difference in the stage presence of Bodega Girls and Les Savy Fav is simple: Tim Harrington will not be ignored. You can try to stand clear of the sweaty, shirtless Tasmanian devil, but odds are he’s going to find you. Once he finds you, he may steal your chewing gum, spray a cloud of beer above your head, try on your clothes, grind up against you, or let you scream the words to the current song into the mic. Any of those are possible, if not probable. Perhaps the most exciting part of seeing Les Savy Fav is spotting audience members who came entirely unprepared for this onslaught. The mixture of shock, enjoyment, and fear on their faces is both understandable and appropriate. Even if you enjoy Les Savy Fav on record, the live experience is a decidedly different beast—come prepared.

Les Savy Fav live at the Royale

Harrington’s stage presence isn’t limited to sweaty audience participation. Recalling his MC duties for the comedy stage at this summer’s Pitchfork Festival, Harrington opened the show in costume, playing pipes and wearing a wig and hippie attire. The weird calm before the storm lasted an uncomfortably long few minutes before the group launched into “Appetites,” the Silver Jews-quoting lead song from this year’s Root for Ruin. Within its first 30 seconds, Harrington descended into the crowd, made a bee-line for the side wall of the posh Royale, and dragged a large leather sofa on stage. He then appropriated two hats and a vest from the audience, marking the evening’s first costume change, grinded against his first audience member, and stripped down to his Christmas-lights adorned chest. Soon enough, those Christmas lights came off, getting whipped around in circles before being cast aside.

Given the shock and awe of Harrington’s performance, you could easily forget that there are four other members of Les Savy Fav. Yet with Harrington off exploring the darkest corners of the Royale, the band held the fort quite well. Guitarists Seth Jabour and Andrew Reuland’s digital-delayed strafing is the group’s sonic signature, loading in enough muscular riffs to sending the mosh-happy crowd into fits of violent reverie. Their biggest challenge is maintaining energy while Harrington’s out of range or ad-libbing rambling monologues about wanting to lock the doors to the Royale and stay inside for two years or heralding the bros in the audience, one Jabour and company must know quite well in the band’s fifteenth year of existence.

Les Savy Fav live at the Royale

Harrington’s whirling dervish antics are more immediate, but Les Savy Fav imparted a more important lesson on its up-and-coming openers: you need memorable songs, too. In a set reliant on Root for Ruin’s melodic indie rock, past favorites ruled the evening: the bass-driven sing-along “Patty Lee,” the cathartic howls of “What Would Wolves Do,” the revving/idling engine “Rome,” and two chaos-inducing audience favorites, “The Sweat Descends” and “Who Rocks the Party.” It’s easy to view Les Savy Fav’s albums as distant seconds to the visceral danger of their live sets, but without them, the kids don’t know the words to scream along.

Les Savy Fav closed up shop around 9:15pm, leaving the Royale staff enough time to clean up from Harrington’s unique vision of interior design. On the way out, I saw a member of the night crowd coming in—short skirt, high heels, presumably some item in leopard print. A few words of advice: don’t slip on the sweat.

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On Nov 23, 08:46 PM name said,