City Paper is not for tourists
Barrence Whitfield can warble slow-tempoed gospel and country songs with the best of them, but most of the time he prefers to shout numbers that blend R&B and garage rock at breakneck speed. In late-1970s Boston, Whitfield joined with proto-punk guitarist Peter Greenberg to form a band, the Savages. On their 1984 self-titled debut, they opened with Whitfield wailing “Ow, ow, ow” on the opening verse of the obscure Don Covay track “Bip Bop Bip” that set the feverish tone for the rest of album. Whitfield’s vocal style drew from the likes of Little Richard, Smiley Lewis, and Wilson Pickett, while the band’s fuzzy guitar, honking sax, and rhythm section roughed up jitterbug and twist rhythms for a post-punk era. After achieving some fame in the U.K. and releasing more records in the 1990s, Whitfield has mostly stayed quiet this century. Greenberg left the band in 1986 but reunited with Whitfield again in 2010. On the new release, Under the Savage Sky, Greenberg’s guitar is cranked up higher in the mix. The band roars in a manner that, with the right exposure, should appeal beyond their original fanbase to devotees of Afropunk and house show hardcore alike. Barrence Whitfield & the Savages perform at 8:30 p.m. at Hill Country Barbecue, 410 7th St. NW. $12–$15. (202) 556-2050. hillcountrywdc.com.