Photo of Ty Segall by Denee Segall, courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR.
I’m pretty confident a good time was had by all at this show, including the folks who got kicked out. Exactly how much insanity can be stirred up by one dude onstage? Enough to plant a security guy firmly in the pit (yep, there was a pit!) for the majority of the night. And even the security guy appeared to be having a good time. Ty Segall was one of the wildest nights I’ve ever had at Off Broadway (some early JEFF the Brotherhood shows were pretty crazy…), and it set a whole new bar for how exciting a solo act can be.
First of all, this was a sold-out show, and I don’t think I’ve been to a sold-out show before at Off Broadway. Second, it was a thunder-and-lightning, sky-opens-up-dropping-buckets-of-water kind of stormy night, meaning all the smokers were huddled under the overhang, hiding from the rain, rather than enjoying the breadth of the patio. In separate instances, both friends joining me declared, “There is nowhere to go that isn’t full of people.” It was tight. And I saw at least two groups of people who, like me, had attended Parquet Courts with Mdou Moctar the previous night at The Pageant. Two shows in a row can be a bit much, but there was no way in hell I would miss Ty Segall passing through. Obviously, I was not alone.
Third, of course, is the Covid elephant in the room. Off Broadway has been carefully checking vaccination cards and IDs since they resumed holding shows. So, I started off valiantly, taking off my mask to sip my beer and thinking, “You know what? Let’s leave it off. We’re all vaxxed here.” Well, that lasted exactly until the first round of cheers for opening act, Charles Moothart. I panicked at the thought of all those voices spraying particles into the air and put my KN95 right back on. I would guesstimate about ¼ of people wore masks throughout the night, as I did from that point forward. But it wasn’t awkward, and I didn’t feel alone. In fact, that bit of security gave me confidence to smush up front and get cozy with my neighbors just as I would have in the beforetimes.
Starting off the night was Charles Moothart solo. A multi-instrumentalist, he is a regular player in Segall’s arsenal of bandmates. He handles guitar and lead vocals in the three-piece Fuzz, while he plays drums with Ty Segall & Freedom Band. He was seated at the merch table greeting folks as we entered, and I thanked him for coming to town. Onstage, the uniquely biting, slightly acidic edge of his voice was instantly recognizable and highlighted the influence he has on Fuzz’s sound. With an electric guitar and some prerecorded backing instruments, he played from his Soft Crime EP and a new album, Losing Ground, which I regret not picking up at the merch table.
When Moothart’s set concluded, nobody really left the floor. We all just kind of shuffled a little closer and tried to hold our ground while others filtered in to fill any and all available spaces. Segall stepped onstage briefly in a sweatshirt to check out his rig of switches, which he was quoted describing as “loud drum machine delay twin amp Travis bean freak out” in the concert info. Now, the gearheads among his fanbase get really into breakdowns of his equipment. They use terms like Gibby-O-Matic echoplex and DBA Apocalypse, vocabulary in which I am not well-versed. But I can 100% attest to the “loud” and “freak out” aspects of this rig.
When Segall returned to the stage for his set, he appeared in a shiny, pale blue-grey linen suit with a black collared shirt underneath. He picked up that guitar (is the T cut-out in the head a custom job?) and launched right into “Finger”, sending us all into a frenzy that didn’t end until the very last note was strummed.
Ty Segall played that guitar like a man possessed, channeling something from beyond. He played like his hands were on fire. Or should I say, he played like his hands were driving the bus in Speed, and if he stopped shredding for even a second, we’d all explode. He was pure impulse and inertia. He played like a mischievous child who just delighted in showing off his toys. He spat pieces of lyrics into the mic, replacing the occasion line with a screamed “OH!” mixing it up just enough to be recognizable yet still a unique treat of our very own. He smirked and grinned and sweated and somehow knew just how to push all our buttons.
I had one person leaning on my right arm most of the night. My purse must have been ramming into the person in front of me, who turned around at first, realized it was a bag and not a body, smiled and gave me an inquisitive thumbs-up – “We ok?” Yep. We’re good. None of us cared. The occasional stepped-on toe got a quick apology and a pat on the shoulder. And so we went about our reveling.
There was a nicely churning pit of people bouncing and shoving and hopping around, maybe slowing from time-to-time but never really stopping. A couple of aggressive and handsy jerks got the attention of security after the first two songs or so, and one guy was promptly escorted out of the venue. Then security returned to keep the peace in the pit for the rest of the night. He might also have been slightly motivated to enjoy the show from a choice vantage point, as he could be seen at times playing air guitar or fist-bumping those in the crowd who helped him de-escalate potentially ugly situations or picked their friends up off the floor. A couple of near-fights broke out, but overall the crowd was as ebullient as they were excited.
After “Finger,” I had no idea what to expect from the setlist. I had anticipated a heavy sampling from his latest, Harmonizer, which I absolutely love, but has been a contentious album among his fans. It’s synth-heavy and a continued departure from his earlier, more lo-fi recordings. But all those glorious effects let him add new texture to his sound to further tickle the precious cilia in your ears. Even with the requisite earplugs, I could still feel the vibration buzzing through my face.
While we got a few of the new tracks—“Whisper” and “Erased”—we were treated to a variety pack from throughout his catalog. Some songs took a minute to recognize in their new form. I didn’t realize he was playing a reformed “Tall Man Skinny Lady” until lyrics kicked in—and I promptly screamed at this oldie but goodie from 2014’s Manipulator. Other treats that made me scream included “Taste” and “Breakfast Eggs.” But it was “My Lady’s On Fire” that turned us all into one deliriously raucous la-la-la-ing sing-a-long.
Overall, it seemed Segall actually thrived within the constraints of this format. The pre-recorded supporting tracks gave him a clear sense of how much time he had to go buck wild before wrapping it up, and he crammed a superhuman amount of energy into the space within those boundaries. It only proved that whether alone on a stage, in sync as a trio, or helming a bigger collection of incredibly talented musicians, Segall has a preternatural ability to summon kinetic power from some unseen dimension. If you have the lucky opportunity to be a part of Segall’s world, do whatever it takes to be there. | Courtney Dowdall