Thee Oh Sees, With Plumber, Matter Room, Super Lunch, Clipping. At The Teragram Ballroom, Sunday March 26th 2017
The Teragram Ballroom has all the rad shows, and on Sunday night, the venue was hosting another sold out benefit for the Smell with a 5-band lineup, headlined by Thee Oh Sees, the only band I really knew. Now, I had a ticket to see them in January and I had to sell it because a serious case of flu, I almost saw them again a few weeks ago, but the DIY venue Non Plus Ultra was shut down for security reasons, so it was my third attempt to see Thee Oh Sees this year, and it was a magnificent success this time.
But the long night started with Plumber (such a strange name for a band) with a frontman who showed up holding a toilet plunger and moaning as if he had been stabbed in the back. His agony soon transformed into screams and toilet paper (they had brought a few rolls) and overall a very brutal set under a bloody red light. These very angry plumbers slaughtered the place with guitars and drums, and even though they were the first ones to play, they started a very barbarous mosh pit in my back… I even got a bit scared by this plumber jumping from stage and starting pushing people, hurling, yelling, shouting,… there were not enough words to express the rage of the plumber, an existential rage, but I always understand the rage. Raincoats, toilet plunger and blood on toilet paper seemed to be their only reasons to survive this chaos and rage, and hardcore people fell in love.
Next, Matter Room completely changed the ambiance with atmospheric guitars going from stormy to full tempest, building a giant, evolving and enveloping sound. They did remind me about Explosions in the Sky, as most of their tracks were purely instrumental and composed with that same cinematic moody temperament. The quartet was going from a moody shoegaze with heavy, dark layers of fuzz and stormy psychedelia to a more doom metal ambiance, so that it was very difficult to classify their experimental compositions. They finally included some sparse vocals sung by their hooded frontman, who under these blue green lights, looked like a Jedi on guitar.
Super Lunch had a very pop punk surf sound, the very laid-back kind, which inevitably make kids surf their heart out, these abrupt accelerations which launch a ferocious mosh party with some Fidlar accents. And this is just what happened, people did surf even though the crowd was still too thin for this, and a lot of young The-Smell-lovers seemed to be ready to mosh with fierceness, while forgetting it was a Sunday night, so a school night.
It is not that often I see rappers during these types of mini festivals, but Clipping. was definitely one talented rapper with a twist, as the trio was much more experimental than your average hip hop band. Although I had never heard of them they were extremely popular (especially among girls) as the crowd was shouting all the lyrics! However it was truly impossible to follow rapper Daveed Diggs at times, he occasionally had an incredibly fast flow, which made me scratch my head in disbelief, how did he do that? And when he was slowing down, he was rapping over the noise-electronic productions of William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, in full control of computers and other knobs, standing behind a tall black table located behind him. Call it industrial-noise-experimental rap, it’s difficult to say, but the hip hop part was certainly leading the game, bringing infectious rhythms and clashing with, or embracing the weird metallic sawing-squealing electronica happening at the same time. And should I say that Daveed Diggs originated the role of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in the famous musical Hamilton? I now know why this girl behind me almost died when he signed her an autograph.
It was time for Thee Oh Sees, and, as they were installing their row of double-drumsets on the front of the stage, I realized I was on the wrong side! I wanted to get on John Dwyer’s side, so in an act of pure madness, I managed to split the crowd and switch side,… I say madness, because Thee Oh Sees shows always reach a level of energy on stage and in the crowd rarely seen elsewhere… the power of music is immense but when John Dwyer is in charge, this is truly endless, he is a mad man on stage, barely controlling his guitar which seems to have a life on its own. He always holds his instrument high on his chest, almost below his chin, while throwing at us a tough stare like a bull before entering the arena. Meanwhile, liters of sweat are dropping from his face, his hair is violently whipping the space around him, and he becomes the mad man, possessed by the devil of psych-rock. And while he is the center of attraction, the psych-punk god with a guitar, the two drummers beat with a perfect synchronicity and the result is more powerful and stranger than any show you have ever seen, you live it with a maximum of excitation, witnessing more mayhem than you have ever experienced for a long time.
Thee Oh Sees have these long songs full of menacing excitement and krautrocky repetitions or these freaked-out insanities building layers and layers of fuzz with actually very few instruments on stage, but it’s a frenzy not matter what they play, and it’s a ferocious jam from start to finish. They push the limit of excitement, even though they slow down for a few acid-trip dances like the funny creepiness of ‘Toe Cutter-Thumb Buster’.
‘Thee Oh Sees put up the best rock shows’, is a sentence I heard while exiting the venue, and there’s no doubt about it, Thee Oh Sees are something coming out of space, something different, hypnotizing and putting an instant spell on an audience. If, like me, you don’t take drugs because you hate to lose control, even though control is always a delusion, Thee Oh See are probably the closest form of losing control of all senses, they are a sonic ecstasy pill, exploring new levels of psychedelia, they are a new portal opened by their free leader John Dwyer, and, last night, the crowd would have followed him anywhere.