We Saw This: Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees
Whether he’d like to admit it or not, Ty Segall has way more in common with Jack Johnson than you think. Both are former professional surfers who somehow made the jump to being professional singers who make music with guitars, and on paper, that practically means they’re cousins. But while Jack Johnson makes bouncily boring music that sounds like a gussied-up version of the bullshit your college weed dealer would perform on open mic nights in your local coffee shop, Segall makes music that’s, like, actually good. I remember being a college radio DJ and listening to his album Melted ad infinitum; all of the DJ’s felt like we’d discovered a secret. Despite its inherent hookiness, this was fuzz-rock done by someone on the edge, someone might snap at any moment. It felt dangerous, even with that whole piano solo on “Girlfriend.” There was no way this guy could become popular, and we kind of liked it that way.
Cut to Saturday night, when I saw Ty Segall perform to an adulatory crowd at The Well in Bushwick. Turns out Ty Segall isn’t just popular, more and more he seems to be carrying an entire scene on his back. Loosely, his music falls under the umbrella of “Neo-Garage Rock,” but he does so with the tenacity of a meth addict, less performing his material as much as he attacks it.
He’s not the only musician operating on this wavelength, as proven by his openers Thee Oh Sees. Led by John Dwyer, Thee Oh Sees make music that is very, very similar to Ty Segall’s. They’re cut from the same cloth, both San Francisco locals who seem to have never been advised that bands should only release one album every couple years. Thee Oh Sees make music that’s a bit more psych-tinged than Segall, who never met a pop melody he didn’t like.
It is during their set, not Segall’s, that I got punched in the stomach by a girl. If I may explain. The opener for Thee Oh Sees was a band called K-Holes. One of the members of their band saw my roommate and I standing in VIP not dancing vigorously enough, and came up to us and tried to motivate us. She swung my roommate around, and then punched me like six times in lockstep with the music. It was pretty rad.
Also, a quick note on The Well: It’s an outdoor venue in Bushwick that holds roughly 2,000 people and their first concert was Cam’ron, which is totally awesome. So far, every show they’ve had seems great; they even managed to lure Os Mutantes out for a date a while back. The only thing that is kind of wack about the place is that beers are $6 there. In Bushwick. For comparison, beers at Le Bain, aka one of the nicest clubs in Chelsea, are $7. There is a certain level of cognitive dissonance one must engage in before one buys a $6 beer in Bushwick, but whatever as long as they have Cam’ron concerts they deserve it.
Anyways, on to Ty. He famously described Slaughterhouse, his most recent album recorded with his band, as “Satan in space,” and he pretty much nailed it. His performance made the audience seem like they were possessed by something, at least, he and his band taking his material and adding an extra dose of rage to it, showing an intensity that eclipsed even his recorded work. He seems like a genuinely good guy, too—during the set, a person was lifted over the barrier dividing Segall and the audience, causing Ty to pause the show and call for a medic. When the person was properly taken care of, he asked the audience to give a round of applause to said medic. They went nuts.
One of the foibles of being a primarily outdoor venue is that of weather. You schedule shows and hope for the best, but sometimes rain happens and it sucks. The only people who seemed to mind were sissies like me, so while I huddled under a beer tent waiting for the torrential downpour to subside, the writhing bacchanalia of the pit soldiered on, yielding a very wet, very smelly writhing bacchanalia. Shoes were lost. Rock was rolled. After the show, my roommate was wetter than a drowned rat; he was stoked.
After the show, the party continued at the Brooklyn Bowl, which is a combination bowling alley/music venue/restaurant that sells beers that cost slightly less than $6. Segall DJ’d there, spinning mostly vintage R&B/Norther Soul tunes while a dance-off occurred. It was elucidatory in terms of Segall’s influences and what he’s trying to accomplish with his music. It seems he wants to take that style and throw acid on it, warping it until it gets recreated in his unholy image. Some people, unfortunately, did not seem to realize what was going on. I nearly got my ass kicked trying to calm a dude down at the bar who kept screaming about how mad he was that Segall was DJing instead of playing a guitar. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but some people are just stupid like that.
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