The Rickshaw Theatre is grimy. Within the first few steps inside, your nostrils are injected with the smell of stale beer, sweaty t-shirts and dusty denim dudes. Leather jackets can be heard bending, rubbing together throughout the venue — the sound of crinkling fabric is omnipresent. To some, this environment may seem offensive or vulgar. To others, the atmosphere of a dirty punk show at The Rickshaw is heaven. I happen to be one of the others.
The last bit of Austin’s OBN IIIs set was wrapping up as I lifted my first can of cold, cheap beer to my lips. A mosh pit was underway. The singer, Orville Bateman Neeley III (OBN III), was all over the stage. On top of the left speaker. On top of the right speaker. On the ground. Jumping up and down. His energy was matched by his bandmates and they put forth a rowdy set to warm up the crowd for Thee Oh Sees. OBN IIIs are a new group worth checking out if you enjoy heavy-hooked, garage punk rock. Do it. Do it now.
Forming in 1997, Thee Oh Sees have been on the circuit for longer than most. Standing near the front row, that fact became apparent when I noticed the resemblance between lead singer John Dwyer’s face and the crinkling fabric around me. His likeness to leather, however, should only be served as a testament to how fucking hard these guys rock.
“You’re gonna be either a terrible old man or a really cool old man, so you might as well try and point your way toward cool.” -John Dwyer
Cool, you are, Mr. Dwyer.
Thee Oh Sees have a sound built for The Rickshaw – fast-paced riffs, fat bass licks and enough feedback that would make some feel ill. But, remember, this is where the others come to play, and here, we race to the front with open ears and flailing limbs.
John Dwyer is extremely prolific. He’s one of those artists who seem to be able to write a masterpiece while taking a shit (e.g., Ty Segall, Jack White). These type of artists are born with a purpose to create. To create music. To create a painting. To create a great live performance.
Thee Oh Sees mostly played songs from their last three studio albums: Carrion Crawler/The Dream, Putrifiers II and Floating Coffin. From start to finish, songs accompanied by Dwyer’s soft voice (interrupted by his signature yelps) guided the whirlpool of denim around and around and around. Then, his guitar would kick in and fleshy madness would ensue for an undisclosed amount of time. Time does not exist in a mosh pit. Well, it does, but measured only in songs and sweat. So much sweat. Too much sweat that forced me to leave the mosh pit for songs at a time to remove my jacket. Also, to quench my thirst and gather my thoughts. To sit down and actually watch the band perform from a modest distance.
The bassist, Petey Dammit, plays the bass up near his chest. Always a peculiar, uptight style for a bassist; a member of the band who is usually pinned as the chill, droopy one. But, to each his own. I compare that style to the belly putters in golf. Not too many do it, but if it works, it works. Brigid Dawson on keyboards, tambourine, and backing vocals is the only female member of the band. She lays in the cut and helps add a depth to Dwyer’s vocals that would otherwise make them fall flat. Not to diss Dwyer’s vocals, they’re not bad or anything, but Dawson lifts them to another level.
Thee played for a solid ninety-minute set. By this point, The Rickshaw had begun to form stalagmites made of salt, blood, and beer in and around the mosh pit; slowly receding in size the further they got from the stage. I was sweaty, drunk, and mad from losing my favourite toque (remember, I was drunk and irrational) during the set. The encore witnessed a combined moshing effort that included emotions of frustration (the toque loss) and an attempt to squeeze every last ounce of sweat out of the concert. Have I mentioned how sweaty this concert was yet? It was pretty sweaty.
I woke up in the morning and smiled at two friendly reminders of the night before – blue bruises on both my arms. Physical mementos from one of the rowdiest shows this year (a close second to FIDLAR’s set at The Biltmore). A show to remember for years to come. And, just in case those bruises fade with my memory, I bought a limited silkscreen poster to remember the night!