My camera smells like beer and my ears are still ringing. I guess that means the Ty Segall show on Tuesday night lived up to its reputation of being an honest-to-god rock show. First things first though, let’s talk about the opening acts.
Sandrider took the stage first and there was little doubt about what we were in store for when Sandrider’s drummer, Nat Damm, strolled onto the stage with a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and stashed it behind his floor tom. (Note: when an opening band playing a 30-min set brings out a six-pack for one band member, you’re about to witness a group cut loose). Another indication that this band was for real and not some wannabe rockers: Sandrider’s vocalist and guitar player, Jon Weisnewski, had stowed his beloved guitar by simply lying it across the top of a speaker rack while Jesse Robert’s bass was just sitting on the ground propped up against a monitor – right next to Damm’s cymbal bag and someone’s discarded beer bottle. Pretentious? Nope.
Sandrider’s sound is an aggressive, driving, and a riff-heavy mix of rock meets metal. Weisnewski’s guitar work is simple but he also seems to know exactly when to throw in a few licks to keep you interested. Roberts seemed to be locked into the beat from the very first note, and Damm is appropriately named as he beat his drums like they owed him money. If there’s anything bad to say about their set, it’s that if you were right in front of the stage, you basically couldn’t hear a single vocal. The guys had their monitors and amps turned up to an astonishing level and with no vocal mixed in it, I can’t even begin to tell you about Weisnewski’s voice. I’ve been to hundreds, if not thousands, of shows since the mid-’90s and that has to have been one of the loudest sets I’ve heard. I imagine it was better a few yards back once you cleared the PA speakers, but holy god I think I might actually ring in the New Year with a ringing in my ears.
Up next was Night Beats, a three-piece psychedelic garage rock band that reportedly takes their name from Sam Cooke’s 1963 album of the same name. While I initially laughed when I heard this, by the end of their set I sort of got it. There is a little bit of soul in the trio’s psychedelic sound. Tarek Wegner’s bass work had a real “let’s-go-for-a-walk” groove to it. And, while there wasn’t any Sam Cooke in Lee Blackwell’s singing, his reverb-heavy guitar work was much more melodic than your average psych band. That’s not to say that he wasn’t totally on the tie-dyed wagon. He certainly was. He fiddled and fingered his collection of effects pedals more than a horny prom date. So much so, that something came loose and he had to unplug the whole mess, bypass the effects, and go straight into his old Fender amp for their last song.
Drummer James Traeger, however, made sure to keep the band firmly rooted with drumming that would make a music teacher run in fear. Traegar even went as far as playing a couple of the songs with a maraca in place of one of his drumsticks. Simplistic? Sure. But, it fit perfectly.
One of the cooler elements of the Night Beat’s set was how well it meshed with the accompanying lights. One of the production employees put on a liquid light show throughout the evening using real old school techniques – glass pie pans, colored mineral oil, alcohol, and an overhead projector. While the evening’s show was much smaller than they used to be in the ’60s, the fact that it was being done at all was fairly awesome.
Of course, after a heavy rock set and a psychedelic-inspired jam set, it seemed only natural that the last act of the evening would be a little of both. So naturally, Ty Segall proceeded to just totally crush it.
I have to admit that before Segall took the stage, however, I was a little confused with the audience. The PBR-to-microbrew ratio was all out of whack, and the crowd seemed more like a group of sedated hipsters than rock fans. Thankfully, before Segall was even halfway through his second song, a mosh pit had formed, people were stage diving, and someone was spraying beer like they had just won a NASCAR race. In short, a real rock show had broke out.
Now, I’m not going to complain too much about getting clipped in the back of the head with a beer can. No blood, no foul. But, I have to admit that I was a little embarrassed of my fellow Seattleites when a handful of beer cans and even a beer bottle got tossed onto the stage. After all, this was a Ty Segall show, not The Circle Jerks or The Exploited. Thankfully, no one on stage got hit and the show went on and the can throwing ceased.
Segall got his start in the underground garage scene in San Francisco, but seeing him live makes you understand why he’s not underground anymore. If Iggy Pop and Black Sabbath had a love child, Ty Segall would be it.
His touring band includes Mikal Cronin, Charlie Moothart and Emily Rose Epstein. Together they rocked a 75-minute set that sounded exactly how garage rock is supposed to. It’s rock. It’s punk. It’s got a slight pop appeal to it. I’d even go as far as calling it grunge – and I don’t mean that in some cliché way. I was around during the birth of grunge in Seattle and this is what it was like. It had an energy that you could feel. This show had that same energy. Segall is the real deal. If you get a chance to see him live, you’d better do it.