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Taylor Savvy
By Ben Ishmael
Interview

“When you hear the name ‘Taylor Savvy’, what comes to your mind?” At his own interview, it seemed like Savvy was the one eager to ask questions. I responded by telling him that among other things, some press had pinpointed his angle as giving fun shows as a well-dressed and fashion-conscious performer.

Looking a little flustered but keeping his characteristically Canadian congeniality, he smilingly replied: “I see! It’s as if they took the name literally at first [tailor-savvy] and it just stuck… Well, I tried this for a while – going through shows with lots of costume changes – but I ran out of money… I mean, look at the way I’m dressed now. Doesn’t really look fashionable does it?” Indeed, tossing his scraggly hair and decked out in a wife beater tank top and black leather jacket, it wasn’t what I had expected; he seemed like a regular dude at a Ramones concert.

Asking him about his musical direction and prepared set for that night, he informed me of his musical dilemma: “I’d like to put on more of an intellectual show, but it should be entertaining. One can’t really fake an interesting and eccentric personality on stage, but if someone like your grandma can come to the show and enjoy herself, then that’s the focus!” At this point I was sold. I was excited to see what kind of show he was going to put on.

Concert

The Zapasnik /Art-Garbage crowd was an interesting mix of socialites, bohemians, and professionals. While the hall didn’t seem to be at its maximum capacity, it added a very pleasant vibe. The concert was being filmed that night, and the cameraman’s spotlight was lost among the multitude of other flashes from the crowd. Clearly there was already a budding feeling of excitement in the air when Savvy got on stage.

Savvy employed the use of a drum machine for the whole night, offering mostly simplistic beats with occasional changes in tempo. Apart from playing bass, he would often bang on a simple drum setup to augment the programmed drum sequence with offbeat breaks. He sang on all tracks (he actually had a set of printed lyrics by his side at all times), often with full vocal arrangements, and sometimes just by repeating the same key phrase over and over again.

He said earlier on in the interview to expect a few covers, and his unique interpretations met with delightful results. One highlight had Savvy bring out his bass to do a cover of Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O / Banana Boat Song”, marvellously done in classic 12-bar blues. Another such number was his use of the beat from Michael Jackson’s “Bad”, slowed down just enough to have him sing Craig David’s “7 Days”. Savvy’s bluesy and weary-sounding baritone delivery fit perfectly into this interpretation.

Savvy’s blues style was also used with full effect on his ode to alcohol, entitled “Drunk”, belting it out as if he was possessed by Howlin’ Wolf. I have to admit that despite the acceptable success of those ‘intellectual’ songs, Savvy’s strength lay in his pure charm and comfort on stage, not to mention his pure Canadian eagerness to please. Midway through he played a love song that used a hip-hop beat completed with a groovy bass line, him repeating the words “Hey little girl, I wanna be your boyfriend…” Simple as it was, I couldn’t help but find this reminiscent of Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl”, black leather jacket and all. It was an unmistakable hit with the ladies in the crowd.

Sensing the gradual change in the audience’s demeanor, it might have seemed logical to Savvy to make changes to his set – seeing some feedback from the crowd in the dance floor in the form of devushki, drunken businessmen, and expat breakdancers. By the time his finale in “Everybody’s Partying with Me” came on, his antics included turning his back into the crowd, howling animal sounds and pulling his jacket up, collar and all, as if he was making his best Dracula impression. This sounds quite ludicrous on paper, but was great fun to those who were present.

Finale

Savvy’s greatest gimmick came into fruition with his encore set, returning to the stage decked out with a blue garbage bag over his tank to sing a couple of ‘dance’ numbers. I was somewhat taken aback with what he said before the encore, feeling like my words during the interview were going to haunt me: “A lot of you think of Taylor Savvy and you think fashion, well, tonight I’m giving away my clothes for free!”

He took off the garbage bag; with it he wiped his face and armpits, and told the crowd that the most active participant would be awarded this ‘fashionable item’. I was very impressed at seeing how this performer could somehow manage to do an act that is preposterous and defiant, yet pull it off and make it entertaining at the same time. And true enough, he ended with a bang, even going down on his knees to the dance floor and crying out “Rock and Roll!”

And rock and roll we all did. It was a night of pure fun, perhaps a little less intellectual than Savvy had hoped, but certainly entertaining. It was obvious what direction Savvy had taken (or had to take), and the crowd loved him for it. At the end of the concert I thought that maybe my response to his question had something to do with his final act, but I chose to believe that this was the type of performance he’s always delivered. Intellectual or not, at least one person is happily coming home with a prize: a genuine blue garbage-bag-shirt from Savvy’s own personal tailor.

14.12.04
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