Early on in Tuesday’s show, I realized that writing about it was going to prove extremely difficult, not because the show was terrible but because it was one of my favorite performances this year. The high quality of the show seemed to me a potential challenge, or rather, what was it about the Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees show that proved so engaging? Both bands have earned a name for themselves as some of the best modern garage acts out there; however, I would argue that what they are doing supersedes any limited definition of genre (which are always limited terms) and engages in something more interesting. In mixing elements and in being so prolific and dynamic, Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees have created an exciting collection of songs and their live performance only heightened what is great about each of their work.
Thee Oh Sees were the first act to go on. For the last several years, the San Francisco act has quickly released an impressive array of albums, all seemingly only months apart. The set was decidedly too short, but they were technically opening for Ty Segall, so what can you do. Thee Oh Sees were loud and they filled the space of Town Ballroom almost completely. This made the show an incredibly immersive one, and my mind did not wander as it normally does at shows. At one point, a friend ran up to me to tell me this music was “terrifying.” I was actually kind of annoyed because this interrupted my attention but I think this actually helps to speak to what I like about Thee Oh Sees. Despite, in a certain sense, their pop sensibilities, there is a definite sinister undertone to this music. The heavy guitars become droning over time, leaving you tensely waiting on a final climax to each song. In some cases this occurs and the result is cathartic and in other cases it just continues until petering out, leaving a sense of tension to carry over to the next song. This remaining tension never really clears out, even when the build up leads to something. This trance like quality to the music made the show quite memorable.
Ty Segall’s set ended up surprising me. As much as I have enjoyed the last few albums, I was not entirely sure they would translate into a great live set. This also might be residual frustration at how short Thee Oh Sees set was. However, I was happily surprised by how the performance. The group went through a great mix of songs. Each track was on point and there was never a moment where things fell off. Equally heavy as Thee Oh Sees, Segall’s music was still quite different favoring shorter and more straight forward songs. It was equally entertaining to see a group playing so tightly. Unlike Thee Oh Sees, and perhaps, in response to, Segall’s songs often result in catharsis, the buildup ultimately leading to something. This opposite effect was equally welcome and brought an ecstatic end point to the show.
Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segal ultimately points to the possibilities within a genre usually thought to be as limiting as garage rock. The infusion of other elements, on full display at Tuesday’s show, has allowed them to create one of the most exciting bodies of work in recent years. A catalog that is as fun as it is musically interesting (which, can sometimes be two very divergent qualities). The energy they brought to Town Ballroom was contagious and it was hard not to react on a visceral level. I definitely left the performance with a strong desire for more, and hope that both acts, whether together or separate, come back soon. What both acts did, in different ways, was remind me that seeing live music is an incredibly gratifying experience when done well.