It's a common complaint that bands don't deliver enough in the showmanship department these days. I'm sympathetic: Stage fright can cripple even the most adventurous artist, and audiences can be equally guilty of unemotive responses. However, my sympathy ends where my live-music experience begins, and I'm much more inclined these days to hit shows I know will rip my head off or at least show me something that I won't ever see again.
Two acts guaranteed to do this are Brooklyn's Les Savy Fav and Tel Aviv, Israel's Monotonix, both of which are playing Seattle this Friday, Nov. 30. Unfortunately, they are playing at different clubs (Neumo's and the Comet, respectively) on the same night. Both are headliners tentatively scheduled to go on around 11 p.m. I can't tell you which show to attend, but since they are playing directly across Pike Street from one another, I'd advise you catch at least part of both.
Les Savy Fav are a band many fans are immensely grateful to see back on the road. After releasing Inches (a uniformly solid compilation of 7-inch singles) in 2004, they declared an indefinite hiatus, and stuck to their word for a good two years before re-entering the studio in 2006 to record with longtime producer and collaborator Chris Zane. Last month, they proudly unveiled Let's Stay Friends, their first full-length release of all-new material since 2001. If the hiatus was intended as a sabbatical to recharge their creativity, it definitely worked. Let's Stay Friends essentially delivers all the ingredients that LSF work best with, particularly frontman Tim Harrington's fantastical lyrical tangents (see the medieval masterpiece "Raging in the Plague Age") mixed with poppier punches (the instantly infectious single "Patty Lee"), all bolstered by sharp musical maturity, most evident in the guitar playing of Seth Jabour. The supporting cast of cool-kid comrades doesn't hurt, either: Fiery Furnaces' Eleanor Friedberger, Metric's Emily Haines, members of Enon, and superstar drummer Joe Plummer all drop in to the mix.
This sophistication and growth is commendable, but that's not the reason people will be packed like sardines into Neumo's on Friday. Harrington is easily one of the most entertaining frontmen around. Watching him roll around onstage in frightfully skimpy bodysuits, wrestle with (and interrogate) a bunny hand puppet, hang upside down from any available ledge, and generally engage in unpredictable chaos is one of life's great pleasures. It's a safe bet the band will pull up old friend and Neumo's owner/booking agent Jason Lajeunesse and toss him behind the drum kit at some point, but generally speaking, expect the unexpected.
The same rule will apply at the Comet, where Monotonix will be flooring the crowd with a less-hipster-endorsed but utterly transgressive and electrifying show. One recent CMJ attendee described them as "the most slept-on power trio in underground rock" and I'd have to echo that sentiment. Hailing from Israel is a hell of a calling card, but their homeland isn't what sets them apart—it's their fearless approach to performance. "It wasn't a choice," says guitarist Yonatan Gat. "I think it's a combination of our music, the fact that we're playing on the floor among the audience, and our personalities. Our show has felt like that since the very first time we did it back in Tel Aviv." Despite the fact that their shows are confrontational, glorious affairs that tend to spill all over a venue, with frizzy-haired frontman Ami Shalev occasionally tying himself to unsuspecting audience members and drummer Ran Shimony eventually being held aloft by the audience (while still playing, mind you), Gat doesn't think physicality is the key. "I don't think you should force yourself to move, or to freeze and stare at your shoes. I think the best thing is to be what you're comfortable with. You don't have to move—I think it's a matter of communication. Losing yourself in music is an important part of being a person."