Last Sunday, Andrew Savage, best known for his role as vocalist and guitarist of the indie band Parquet Courts, played at Great Scott as part of his first set of live outings under his new moniker A. Savage. His first record under this name, “Thawing Dawn” (2017), takes significant steps away from the dissonant and anxious post-punk sound of Parquet Courts to present a more personal set of tracks, many of which amplify the Southern influences present in the work he has done in other projects.
The show opened with guitarist Rob Noyes, a Massachusetts native, performing on a 12-string acoustic guitar. His semiformal shirt-and-sweater combination proved to be a faulty indicator of the music to come, as Noyes presented the crowd with a set of ceaseless, prismatic melodies which paid clear homage to great American primitive guitar greats such as John Fahey and Robbie Basho. Noyes played without comment, appearing to enter trance-like focus with each track. While Noyes’ ferocious and searing sagas were a far cry from the far more sparse and measured sound A. Savage and co. would come to offer, Noyes nonetheless served as a wonderful start to the night.
After a brief intermission, Savage appeared on stage in a yellow beanie, a pair of daisies tucked carefully in its fold. In lieu of an introduction, he began an untitled solo ballad, whose lyrics were imbued with the same pastoral, romantic spirit present all throughout “Thawing Dawn.” The rest of the band arrived and was properly introduced some time later, with each member effortlessly adding their instrument to a steady groove as Savage introduced them.
“That was just us fooling around,” Savage said.
The performance began in earnest with “Buffalo Calf Road,” a song about Custer’s Last Stand and the history of Native American plight. It’s also notable as one of the only times “Thawing Dawn” concerns itself with something other than being in love. It is otherwise an album “about the sensation of being in love,” as Savage put it in an interview with the Dallas Observer. The performance at Great Scott largely spoke to that, with tracks like the subdued “Wild, Wild Horses” and borderline honky-tonk “Phantom Limbo” leaving the audience gently swaying along like heads of wheat in a country field. The sincerity with which Savage croons lines like “and I’m sure that you’re the sweetest / breeze that’s ever blown through me” keeps his music from feeling absurd or saccharine. At one point, after citing that the next song was a “traditional number,” Savage and co. covered The Cranberries’ song “Linger” (1993).
The track “What Do I Do” was a significant departure from what were relatively tame waters. It was instead charged with a feeling of energetic anxiety, each verse of existential lamentation followed by a descent into madness. The chorus was marked by Savage’s retreating to set his guitar down and delivering a blissful cacophony of guitar shrieks and yelps. “Ladies from Houston” served as a return to more familiar comforts, with its final plodding melody rebuilt by Savage and co. into an extended jam that had the crowd entranced.
The show finished with the band playing the album’s titular track, a rather theatrical finish to the night where each verse was like a self-contained poem, ranging from Savage’s encounter with a man on fire to his musing on organized religion. Astonishingly, these fragments of thought appear to be strung together with a common thread — perhaps the unnamed desires and private longings that appear in the idle spaces that border productive thought. With this final number the night floated down to a gentle resolution, and the crowd burst into much-deserved applause.