Wand, Fuzz, Thee Oh Sees At The Teragram Ballroom, Thursday December 17th 2015 review
Probably because I was front row at their secret Queens of the Stone Age show last September, the Teragram ballroom is becoming one of my favorite venues in LA. This week, it was hosting two nights of fun energy, an Holiday Homeless Charity Event to benefit L.A. Kitchen, with three of the most high-energy bands in town: Wand, Fuzz and Thee Oh Sees! I went to the second show on Thursday night, and the mayhem that resulted was beyond expectation. The night went crescendo to finish in an apotheosis of psychedelic punk rage, the type of thing to turn your neurons upside down for at least a year… when I exited the place, way past midnight, I was as wet as I am after running a 10k, the sweat was pearling on everyone forehead and the sight of all these faces was unique: kids, and I really mean kids as I had some 11-12 year-old next to me, surely had a great time.
Probably like many of these people, I had already seen all these bands several times, but I was ready for another time and it is always a good sign when both nights sold out very fast. The show started with Wand, a band on Ty Segall’s Drag City imprint, God?, which obviously gives out their sound and style, but the trio was nevertheless very interesting and adventurous, wandering from melodies with heavy monster riffs, massive drumming and a guitar dance straight from the Segall school. I had seen them before, with Segall standing next to me in the crowd, and I had already greatly enjoyed their set. Their complex and challenging music, was often building a very rewarding wild maze, while bringing weird noises and crazy distortion at each of their quiet/loud, slow/fast, stop/start detours. Cory Hanson on vocals was holding his guitar high and using it like a powerful tool while Lee Landey on bass and Evan Burrows on drums were contributing to these big empowering and propulsive moments, amping every riff, hiding bliss behind lots of distortion, mixing sludgy doom with ecstasy. They added some organ on some songs and their compositions sounded like paradoxical visions, both elegant and messy, often lost in haze and reverb, like a 70’s song on a heavy weed diet, loaded with heavy darkness… and we all loved them.
Fuzz, one of the numerous projects of Ty Segall, kept us going with heaviness and darkness for another hour. They have a Black Sabath-esque sound coated in a chaotic and massive psychedelia and a heavy dose of fuzz. Nevertheless, they would get a bit lighter at times during long, stretching-forever throbbing halucinogenia, and may be that’s the problem with Fuzz, you often get the impression they want to pile up a bit too much stuff in one song and it becomes overwhelming. Whatever, people in the audience had the time of their life, as they began to get rowdy, either crowd surfing or mosh pitting and the set got very sweaty with immense accelerations, with the next one topping the previous ones. Ty Segall was drumming with an intense energy, but he also sang multiple times, although there is no real frontman in Fuzz… Charles Moothart on guitar and Chad Ubovich on bass all sang at times, and whatever you want to call their sound, psych-metal or stoner-rock, the music was eating everything around the stage like a magnificent metal monster… They played songs from their last album ‘II’ and the self-titled one, blending some rare short punk bullets with 10-minute numbers sprawling in gargantuan proportions. Whenever he plays guitar or drums, Ty Segall with his endless list of musical projects would look like a rock god, if he didn’t sound so down-to-earth between the songs. After two false starts he told us, ‘I forgot how the song goes… this is what happens when you eat too much food for dinner’.
Then came Thee Oh Sees and their manic fury… I soon realized I was standing in the wrong side of the stage as John Dwyer’s mic was set up at the extreme opposite, behind a rampart of upfront drums,… yes, Thee Oh Sees have so many drums it is ridiculous. Too bad for the potential good pictures, but it was certainly too late to move anywhere, people were already pushing hard and I got to fight to keep my spot till the end of their set. As soon as they started with the first riffs of ‘I Come From the Mountain’, the crowd went crazy and the tremendous energy exulting from the blaring music raised mayhem and chaos in a record time … I have seen the band several times and the energy may vary a bit according to the time of the day they play (the later the better it seems) and the age of the crowd, but this time was a winning combination. As always, Dwyer was the mad chemist, wearing a short and carrying his guitar very high, he literally swallowed his mic and punctuated his sonic guerilla with high-pitch hiccup-like screams, playing the next song faster than the previous one. And, do they play fast! They produce this unique ecstatic-aggressive hysteria that can drive any crowd nuts. Since my first time seeing Thee Oh Sees, John Dwyer has relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles and there has been major changes in the line up, but you hear these same long psychedelic distortions, these same outbursts of cacophony, triggering a riot around you as well as inside your head, boosting the energy of the room like a magic drug, with restless beats, accelerated-retro-pop and even some wobbling organ on ‘Sticky Hulks’. It was a chaotic krautrock-y experience, raising the adrenaline level, as I was watching around, a bit afraid to receive a foot in the head the whole time – yep, these kid-surfers were fearless! The crowd seemed to have Oded on a sort of sweaty ecstasy, and it may have been one of the best concerts of the year, a concert to loose your mind and orientation, but all this for an excellent cause.
Setlist (Thee Oh Sees)
I Come From the Mountain
Turned Out Light
(Unknown) (new song)
Contraption / Soul Desert