During the month of May I’m seeing a show every week. Last week was Spiritualized at the Metro, next week is Radar Eyes at Subterranean, followed closely by Kurt Vile at Lincoln Hall. For some odd reason I didn’t have much in the way of expectations when I walked through the doors at Lincoln Hall last night. I’ve seen San Francisco-based garage/punk wunderkind Ty Segall before—but it was at one of his many stops at Permanent Records. I believe this time was while he was touring for 2010’s ‘Melted’ and, for whatever reason, I found the whole thing a little disappointing. I don’t know why—it’s a free instore and not the best context to judge a live band’s power. Regardless, the chain of events that led me to buy my tickets were all rewarded in ways that I couldn’t have possibly imagined way back then in February.
As I’ve mentioned before it’s difficult to get me to leave the house. I once bought tickets to see Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra at Schuba’s and never bothered to show up because I just didn’t feel like going out when the time came. Ridiculous, I know, but any more something has to be pretty sublime to get me out of the house to begin with and then, on top of that, there are annoying crowds of drunk people bumping into you all night while they push towards the bar, people who chit chat with their friends loudly about their boring day and then (here’s the part where my crotchety nature comes shining through) people plugged into their bright white-screened phones surrounding you tweeting, taking pictures and texting their night (and lives) away. Live shows, to me, have always been about the glory of the transcendental/transient moment where the music sweeps you away and outside of yourself and your life just for that brief period of time. When you have all of these outside influences piling up it can get a bit difficult to get to that place and as I get older I find my tolerance for these cumulative interferences waning with my desire to stand in a crowded room for three hours trying to maintain some semblance of my own personal space while enjoying music that I paid to hear. This year I’ve been on a fairly good run so far—the only show I’ve walked out of without seeing the band that I’d shown up to see was CAVE’s free show at the Empty Bottle a few weeks ago. It was just too overwhelmingly crowded and there were far too many drunk assholes so I just left.
Lincoln Hall has rapidly become my favourite venue in town to see shows. They have it all there—flawless sound (there literally isn’t a place in the entire room where it doesn’t sound magnificent), great bands and that beautiful balcony section. While I wasn’t too keen on the idea of sitting through a four band bill, I realized it would be a necessity if I wanted to stake a claim on a balcony seat. When my wife and I got to the venue and staked out our seats upstairs I was worried this night would turn into a bit of a farce—that Segall wouldn’t play until well after midnight and we wouldn’t be able to get home without taking a cab. I thought it was especially cool that openers Bitchin’ Bajas were set up on the floor of the main space. A small crowd of people who didn’t care about the Bulls game raging on the TV screens in the bar gathered around them in a circle as they washed the room in some pretty spacey keyboard drones as well as some layered, driving rhythms. They were much better than I was expecting. I have a tendency to get a bit worried when I see a bunch of keyboards set up onstage and no drummer. I thought their best stuff was the dronier bonkers oscillation stuff that they did—it was a nice extension of the best keyboard-based Spectrum stuff. They played a nicely woven 30-minute set and the Strange Boys were ready to go onstage within 15 minutes. I was excited to finally get to see the Strange Boys as I’ve heard about them a lot in passing for years. They stuck to their more restrained stuff, which I thought was an odd choice for an opening slot for Ty Segall. They didn’t get to the really noisy and rollicking stuff until they were practically out of time, which was a shame as it seemed like they were just getting started. It was humorous to hear them play instrumental accompaniment to the Bulls’ loss during the last few seconds of the game, which was projected on the screen above them as they were setting up.
Next up was the first great surprise of the night. I’d never really heard of White Fence until hearing about the collaborative record that main man Tim Presley (who’s played in the excellent Darker My Love, not to mention the Strange Boys and a brief stint in the Fall) recently released with Segall (entitled ‘Hair’). I was not at all prepared for how blown away I was by them. The music would shift from skuzzy garage to hooky 60s jangle and then veer off into these unexpected psychedelic takeoffs. There was even one song where they droned away on one chord for quite a while. It was pretty amazing. There was a guy sitting a few seats over from me wearing sunglasses and bopping his head the entire time who kept saying, 'Fuck! Rock and roll!' after every song. It was enough to prompt me to get my hands on ‘Family Perfume Vol. 1’ immediately and listen to it a handful of time since last night. Can’t wait for Vol. 2, which comes out on Tuesday.
Finally Ty Segall took the stage. Presley joined him for the first two songs which were from ‘Hair’ (and sounded massive) before Segall started strumming the chords to the title track from last year’s ‘Goodbye Bread.’ As Segall moved things into a more pummeling direction what happened next was something I haven’t seen in at least 15 years—a mosh pit. It was glorious to watch from above. It was no mere mosh pit, it was the gold-standard kind, which I remember from punk shows where people are quick to pick people up who’ve fallen down and where everyone was having fun and looking out for one another. I’ve only been in a few of them (I’ve always been the guy who sits in the back and tries to take it all in), but I know it when I see it. There were even a few crowd surfers and some humorous incidents involving security trying to stop it. In the end they just formed a ring around the pit trying to keep it somewhat contained rather than trying to stop it. It was pretty inspiring. The music was suitably fantastic as well—drawing liberally from all of Segall’s many albums (although a lot of it was from ‘Melted’—not a surprise as it’s one of the most perfect mixes of garage and psych that’s been released in the last ten years) the kids in the pit screaming along with their hands in the air. It looked really fun, but I have to say that I enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t stuck in it as well. There were even a few bras thrown onstage.
After an intense set with a lot packed into it, Segall came back for an encore and launched into a dead-on cover of James Gang’s ‘Funk 49’ before bringing things to a close with ‘The Drag’ from the self-titled album which sounded amazingly beefy with his incredible live band. So I left with a shopping list of four new records to buy (‘Hair,’ ‘Family Perfume Vol. 1 and 2’ and the forthcoming ‘Slaughterhouse’), rounded the corner to find the Fullerton bus waiting for me to board at 11:30. A four band bill that worked and was over in three and a half hours?! An inspirational mosh pit?! A new band to be obsessed with?! A ridiculously talented young musician getting his due (I neglected to mention that Segall was able to sell out Lincoln Hall—a feat that Thee Oh Sees and Woods haven’t been able to accomplish yet) while churning out quality releases quicker than I can keep up?! My only hope is that I haven’t used up all of my good show karma in one night.