I knew something was up when the long line of fans waiting patiently to enter the High Noon Saloon snaked out into the parking lot. This was no ordinary crowd. Garage rock fanatics from Milwaukee and Chicago joined Madison fans in a Saturday night meeting of the minds to worship Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees. Yes, a true taste of lo-fi San Francisco guitar driven angst. In addition, Madison bands The Hussy and Trin Tran were on hand to add some local flavor.
The Hussy opens the evening with their signature brutal rapid-fire 20 minute set. Bobby and Heather Hussy had set up their gear off stage in the middle of the crowd. I kept expecting the bubble of the mosh pit contributors to wipe out the drum kit, but it doesn’t happen. The Hussy is riding high on the success of their album “Weed Seizure” released earlier this year and have been touring heavily ever since. One of the most unhip media outlets in the state, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, named the Hussy one of the top ten bands poised to break out of Wisconsin. Go figure! I guess even the ailing newspaper industry needs some “indie cred” these days.
Trin Tran showcased material from his just released “Dark Radar” album consisting of previously released CD-R's that Ty Seagull resurrected from the bowels of the Internet. It’s always fun to see people’s reaction to seeing Trin Tran for the first time. A one-man band with keyboards, guitar and drum pedals, Trin Tran’s stage rig looks like some kind of Radio Shack wet dream.
The 80's influences of the Trin Tran sound take in the mutant electronic output of Devo and Gary Newman. When the opening notes of “The Butcher” ring out, the guy standing next to me begins to get excited. He starts to boisterously shout out the lyrics with unbridled enthusiasm. I’m thinking to myself, “Who is this guy?” Upon closer inspection, it turns out to be Ty Segall who snuck out of the dressing room to catch Trin Tran’s show.
Thee Oh Sees
During the break before Thee Oh Sees I grab a beer and make headway into a good line of sight for the San Francisco onslaught. Thee Oh Sees had the room filled with rabid fans many complaining about who should headline the show tonight. You could feel the energy level rise in nervous excitement for Thee Oh Sees. The band performs a short sound check with each member checking monitor and vocal levels receiving thunderous applause for little effort. Then without warning, Thee Oh Sees kick it in with a rumble that sets the crowd on fire. It’s as if the audience and the band meld as one.
Guitarist John Dwyer is the ring leader spurring on the foursome with his guitar strapped high on his chest like a sixties punk. “We’re Thee Oh Sees, from San Francisco, California,” announces John. He’s definitely in a different world as the fuzzy gritty riffs distort in a most wonderful way. Can these guys really be this good? The moshing crowd says yes! As Thee Oh Sees blast through their repertoire sonic anthems like Carrion Crawler, Lupine Dominus, I Was Denied and Rainbow tell your soul that you really don’t want the set to end. And when it does, you wonder how anyone could top what you just witnessed.
Enter Ty Segall who compensates for Thee Oh Sees genius with brashness and volume. The San Francisco psych-pop prodigy is only 26 years old and has picked up a slew of admirers both young and old. Ty revs up the super chargers and goes into overdrive. The crowd can’t believe it. It’s like adding fuel to a fire. If this is what San Francisco can spawn, I’m moving there next week.
I was strategically located in front of the stage on the edge of the imaginary mosh pit boundary where sweaty bodies pushing against each other would occasionally force me into the monitor speakers. I got to meet several people on a first name basis each time this happened as the chaos ensued.
Bobby Hussy suddenly appears on stage and dives into the waiting arms of the feverish crowd. After moving around the High Noon main floor on top of people’s hands, Bobby is deposited next to me like he was beamed down from the Starship Enterprise. “Hey Bobby,” How is it going?, I shout, a bit stunned by his sudden presence. As Ty Segall’s guitar thunders in the background, Bobby nods his head and proceeds to disappear into the surging mass of people. You don’t get this kind of drama at a Bon Iver concert!
The encore of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” from AC-DC drive the sweaty crowd into a frenzy. The fists pounding and heads shaking like a cult of rockers starved for guitar distortion. Among all the Pitchfork-approved schlock in the world, it’s nice to see bands who throw away all pretense and just rock! Segall along with Thee Oh Sees have become the unassuming figureheads of San Francisco's resurgence in psychedelic garage rock.