I was getting my hand stamped at the Black Cat on last night when I overheard the guy behind me in line say “if I don’t leave here with a black eye I’m gonna be pissed.” If I was walking into any other show I would roll my eyes, but for this one I nodded in approval. Ty Segall Band does not mess around.
Guitarist and lead singer Ty Segall, bassist Charles Moothart, drummer Emily Rose Epstein and guitarist Mikal Cronin walk out to an uproar–these guys are clearly uncomfortable with how big they’ve become. Not uncomfortable in the precocious, Anne Hathaway kind of way, but uncomfortable in the sense that the group just doesn’t seem to know how to process the level of success they’ve reached after releasing 3 albums and several side projects within the last 18 months.
“Hi everyone…thanks for coming… this is a song.” And the shredding began. The band issues no mercy after tearing into the first track of 2012’s “Twins” entitled “Thank God For The Sinners,” and didn’t stop until after they played “The Tongue” off of 2012’s “Slaughterhouse.” The Tongue is staggeringly fast and only gets faster as the song barrels toward the finish, making it a necessity for Ty to look up at the crowd from under his shoulder length blonde hair and ask “how do you feel now?” The crowd wailed in response like a brood of feral children.
At almost any type of show in Washington, you typically get the impression the sedated audience has ingested several of Huxley’s “delicious Somas” after arriving not just on time, but early, and planting themselves no where near the front of the stage. Thursday night’s was an audience rarely seen at a DC show. The level of intensity was high, the kids were sweaty, smiling, and smashed up against one another in a glob of humanity who clearly needed the release that comes with music like this.
Still uncomfortable, Ty says the obligatory “it’s great to be in Washington, DC” –waits for applause—“alright, here’s another song we wrote… Like the other ones.” This reads as rude and mocking (see: “At The Drive In” reunion festival tour), but it just isn’t. The band just wants to play, and play fast. And play fast they did. Tracks like “Finger” define the band’s aesthetic—it starts melodically and soft, only to rip the proverbial doors off about a minute in. You can feel the tension build in the crowd as fans who clearly know the tune get ready for the inevitable thrash. Minute long and staggeringly fast, Mikal and Ty honor the art of the classic guitar solo. Their faces are mangled, their long hair is in front of their faces, and when it’s all said and done they look up nearly stunned, as if they just blacked out. Meanwhile, this audience is giving every bit of that energy right back.
The show didn’t let up until right after they played “Girlfriend”, their most popular track, and walked off stage. Encores are par for the course now, and the audience wasn’t fooled for a second. Ty Segall Band headed back out to play 3 more tracks, ending the show with the apropos “Wave Goodbye,” a song that issues enough hard hitting starts and stops, speed ups and slow downs, and a few melodic “oooooohs” for good measure to satiate the crowd.
Catching my breath in the coat check line I heard what I hope was my rowdy buddy from earlier say “dude, I was imaginary fighting someone for the last five songs.” Sounds about right.