THEE OH SEES @ THE GOTHIC | 9.13.12
Since playing Rhinoceropolis in 2007, Thee Oh Sees have progressively worked their way through the daisy chain of Denver venues from Bender's Tavern to Moe's Original BBQ. Last night, the San Francisco band headlined the Gothic and blasted everyone with an infectious madness, bringing as much volume, chaos and irreverence as they would have in their earlier days of playing warehouse shows. Playing squeal-pop hits off their latest release, Putrifiers II, Thee Oh Sees double bill with Ty Segall made for a nice Bay Area package of ear splitting goodness.
Opening with "The Dream" off their 2011 EP Carrion Crawler/The Dream, the Thee Oh Sees were lead by John Dwyer, who flipped his shaggy hair like a possessed rooster while absently spitting on the floor and walls. The band was packed tight together, the drummer uncharacteristically placed up front, with the two guitarists bracketing him and keyboardist/singer Brigid Dawson tucked away behind all the action. The arrangement seemed like a conscious effort to reverse the typical rock show setup, taking the gorgeous female singer away from the hungry eyes of the crowd, leaving her obscured in the dark and replacing her with a sweaty drummer under the bright spotlight.
The harmonies of Dwyer and Dawson could be at once bubble-gum catchy and Twilight Zone creepy, best seen in the Grindhouse style romper "Ghost in the Trees." While the two guitarists kept their instruments strapped tightly below their necks, the band, at times, digressed into fiery jam sessions in songs like "Block of Ice," giving a special tension to the already cranked up audience.
The reason the crowd was already as wound up as a humming bird in a wind tunnel was due to the physiological marathon that was Ty Segall's set earlier in the evening. The Bay Area wunderkind delivered some raw, boyish energy with his straight-forward Detroit blues-punk and charmingly juvenile stage presence.
While less instrumentally ornate than Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall's band had a much thicker foundation -- primarily due to some bulldozer-heavy bass playing -- allowing the cracked-speaker highs something to comfortably rest upon. Despite his music never straying very far from a traditional five-bar blues, the real honey is in his wild inflection, the primal energy he blasts into every note of each song, like an insubordinate banshee refuting the death of rock and roll.
There are no shortage of talented bands making memorable records in 2012, but the skill of a truly kinetic live rock show is in the hands of only a few. And rarely do you get the pleasure of having two of those rare bands on the same bill. Like a classic punk show -- minus all the self-important idealism -- the two groups attracted a riff raff crowd of backpackers and whiskey slobs, who got pistol-whipped into a cult-like frenzy during each bands feverish crunch-rock.
Attempting to keep order, the Gothic security guards had their hands full, wading into the crowd every two minutes to rip giggling crowd surfers off their perch and get them out the front door. But nothing would keep that scene tame, as volcanic plumes of marijuana smoke rose into the air, followed by half full beer cans raining a mess down on everyone, John Dwyer brought his guitar up even higher, strapped against his shoulders like an assassin's weapon as the band roared through "Lupine Dominus," the art-rock-meets-space-rock number off Putrifiers II.
By this point security had removed so many hooligans from the crowd there developed significant gaps in the hippie-mosh-pit, which had already become a tangle of shirtless boys and drunk girls. John Dwyer let a giant loogie fly out of his mouth (for the seven hundredth time that night) as he flung his head backward, the saliva-wad hitting hitting the large curtain behind him, with Ty Segall and his bandmate monkey-dancing across the stage (like that Estevez, Nelson and Hall moment in The Breakfast Club). It was "Lupine Dominus" that brought the 75-minute set to an end, with any questions of an encore instantly squelched by the house lights, which instantly blared on before the last stream of feedback finished ringing out.
Personal Bias: I lived in San Francisco for a year in 2006 and developed a taste for their particular brand of white-boy garage punk. Ty Segall's Horn the Unicorn has been on my turntable throughout the writing of this review.
Random detail: Profoundly drunk girl in the crowd became inexplicably angry at me for something (I never did find out what) and continued to pick a fight throughout the show.
By the way: The Gothic security guards are salt of the earth.
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