Heads Up for Ty Segall

photo by Annabel Mehran

“All these kids who are growing up on Skrillex and all this digital music – what are they gonna think when they hear rock’n’roll?”—Ty Segall, 2012

Maybe it was the unique 12/12/12 date, the anticipation of the upcoming holidays (or threat of the Mayan end of the world?) but The Waldorf Hotel was the place to be for a rockin’ sold-out mid-week party.

Openers Johnny de Courcy and his band The Death Rangers (consisting of a second guitarist, bassist, and drummer) played what sounded to me like inoffensive ’90s alt-rock and Brit-pop meeting a bit of ’70s prog without the complexities. Johnny used to play guitar in local metal acts Black Wizard and Skull Fist; that former style isn’t very evident in his solo material.

I’m not going to say that the stuff I saw was unique or particularly interesting, but I will give Johnny de Courcy and the Death Rangers another chance if they are opening a future show or are playing a festival.

Seattle’s Night Beats were up next at 10:30. The three-piece of singer/guitarist Danny Lee Blackwell, bassist Tarek Wegner and drummer James Traeger play psychedelic garage with a ’60s soul feel that reminded me of The Dandy Warhols or a not-as-dark Velvet Underground. They also share labels with Ty Segall – Trouble in Mind Records from Chicago.

While it was mainly the wild-haired Blackwell who took on the vocals, Wegner did sing a couple. Although sloppy (as garage is supposed to be) the band is quite skilled with their instruments, often breaking songs into several parts such as multiple solos and starts/stops. The reverb was really thick and at times almost unbearable—I was forced to put in ear plugs due to the tinny guitar sounds, sometimes distorted bass and sharp cracks of the drum. After several songs, the crowd eventually started to warm to the material and move around. I’m sure there were a bunch of fans present who have seen them the last time they were here September 1st at the Biltmore and October13th at the Media Club. Vancouver was their second show back after spending around three weeks touring in Europe. Their half-hour set which ended at 11:00 seemed like a perfect amount of time—it wasn’t too short but didn’t drag on like it easily could have.

Ty Segall is one of those musicians that is both incredibly prolific with his own material and collaborations with others, especially in the San Francisco scene. The 25-year-old is currently in six or so bands, has put out dozens of 45s/7-inch albums and is also on many compilations. In 2012, he appeared on three full-length albums including a collaboration with White Fence’s Tim Presley, a solo release called Twins where he played all the instruments, and an album with the Ty Segall Band called Slaughterhouse.

I first heard the band at Bumbershoot festival in Seattle on Labour Day this year. They had a 3:15 afternoon time-slot. Wandering around between stages, food booths, beer gardens and exhibitions (which tends to happen at such proverbial musical smorgasbords), I caught them about halfway through their set and appreciated their energy and awesome lo-fi garage sound. I picked up Slaughterhouse as soon as I got home and saw that it was getting good reviews. Shortly afterwards I spent a gorgeously warm and sunny mid-September Sunday afternoon alone on Third Beach in Stanley Park listening to the full album twice in a row, something I rarely do.

The crowd at the Waldorf show were in great spirits. They gave a big cheer as Ty Segall, lead guitarist-turned-bassist Charlie Moothart and drummer Emily Rose Epstein came on stage, without usual bass player Mikal Cronin who wasn’t allowed to cross the Canadian border. “Those border cops sure don’t like us,” said Ty.

They opened with Twins lead tracks “Thank God for Sinners” and “You’re the Doctor before suddenly moving into the short and fast “Slaughterhouse”—Ty’s buzz-saw guitar and scream prompting an audience member in front to generously cool down everyone within a 20-foot radius by way of a few shakes of their nearly full beer. Throughout the show, the crowd thoroughly enjoyed themselves—perching on top of benches, dancing on the narrow side shelving, indie moshing (not as fierce as a punk or metal pit), spraying drinks and stage diving/crowd surfing. Several songs later Ty warned the exuberant crowd, “Everyone be careful. Please! Someone is bleeding already.” A few minutes later, after having to trade from guitar to bass for the intro to “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart, he apologized, saying “This is going to get real weird—we’re trying our best here”. They stayed in this instrumental form for several other songs like the awesome “Wave Goodbye”. Charlie wasn’t bad on bass but you could tell that he was much more comfortable pulling dexterous riffs of the six-stringed variety. The raven-haired Emily pounded hard and looked intense but pretty.

Also, the in-between song banter and crowd interaction was amusing, like when someone passed Charlie a party hat to wear and articles of clothing were thrown on stage—Ty wore someone’s t-shirt on his head for a song, afterwards commenting, “This smells so fuckin’ good!”

The Ty Segall Band finished the night around 12:30, encoring with Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. Ty expertly playing the guitar solo behind his head and again giving a shout out to his absent bass player.

Ty Segall has a bright future in front of him. Those who were there for the Waldorf show know that his lo-fi garage/basement/bedroom rock show isn’t a gimmick. He is making a name for himself as one of the most important players of garage rock. The guy who does freak-out jams on news programs and late night TV shows prefers to keep things underground, humble and honest, although within a few years, he could easily become as big as Jack White or The Black Keys.