Savages didn't need the annoyances of a shoddy backline to inspire the terse and thrilling performance they gave Saturday afternoon at Pianos, the scene of their umpteenth show of CMJ 2012. Even if the all-female U.K. foursome had been able to hear their instruments, their natural frayed-nerve ferocity would have come through, as footage from other shows attests. But the onstage mix was, as singer Jehnny Beth informed the packed house, "s---," and that made things all the more exhilarating.

One of the more typed-about bands at this year's festival, Savages are newly established yet already fully formed. They played their first gigs earlier this year, and already, they're a fearsome live unit -- tight and aggressive, ready to pounce. With her Sinead O'Connor haircut, Johnny Rotten mic stance, Siouxsie Sioux howl and Ian Curtis dance moves, Beth seethes her way through every second of every song. Amid guitarist Gemma Thompson's distortion storms and the apocalyptic grooves churned out by bassist Ayse Hassan and drummer Fay Milton, the French-born vocalist comes off like an escapee from some dystopian sci-fi labor camp.

That was especially true on the marching punk rager 'Another War' and the bristling 'Husbands,' their debut single. Both of those songs came late in Saturday's set, after Savages had worked through whatever technical difficulties had made their first few tunes so fraught. They'd reached what, for other bands, might have been a comfort zone -- a state of being unthinkable for these ladies. May they never get there.