Ty Segall @ The Waiting Room, Omaha

B+


Jack Keogh

The Waiting Room in Omaha, Nebraska is a venue that often a showcases upcoming local talents and artists making waves in the indie community. The venue is small and personal, but doesn’t often reach capacity unless an artist of relevance to the current flavor of indie rock comes through town. For instance, two years ago J Mascis made a stop at the Waiting Room for his tour. Despite how widely known and appreciated his work was back in its day, only about 15 showed up to the event.

I could barely walk inside the Waiting Room to see Ty Segall and the Muggers. By the time the opening act set up, the entire venue is completely full; there are at least 250 people at the show, and for good reason. As if Ty Segall wasn’t enough to satisfy the crowd, the Muggers are comprised of many big names in the noise rock scene including Mikal Cronin and King Tuff. They come out without Segall, dressed in tuxedos and suits with black aviators, an obvious joke about how garage rockers usually dress. Across the stage there are about three or four Rickenbackers, multiple Korg synths, and one lone saxophone sitting in the back. The Muggers start playing, and Ty Segall comes out with a baby mask on, a tribute to his latest album. As the show progresses, one thing that shocks many audience members is how tight the band sound for being a lo-fi garage rock band. The chemistry between the bandmates is palpable, and it’s easy to see that they love playing together.

Segall isn’t afraid to interact with the audience in the slightest. He stops the show abruptly to talk about his favourite breakfast foods and why the audience should avoid certain kinds. At certain points he puts his mask back on to address the crowd in a squealing, piercing voice, whining ‘I can’t find my mommy’, which causes many of the older audience members to scrunch up and cover their faces in embarrassment. In the midst of many of the songs he grabs a random audience member’s head and proceeds to yell lyrics into their face, and at one point in the show Segall calls out an obviously blacked out audience member saying that ‘[he] must enjoy drinking the most’ in a very sarcastic tone of voice. Aside from the great performance, Ty Segall and the Muggers didn’t play much music from their latest record – 2015’s Emotional Mugger – leaving a few audience members disappointed that ‘Girlfriend’ and ‘Caesar’ didn’t make the cut. Most expect them to close with ‘Girlfriend’, but instead Mikal Cronin starts playing the bassline to ‘Sabotage’ by the Beastie Boys. Everyone is losing their minds. The whole room turns into a mosh pit, and Segall is no longer on stage, but part of the crowd. This is by far the loudest and most interesting song played all night. Segall proves that he’s got the chops to keep up with the intensity of the original, while the bandmates emulate the sound of the original with a heavier, fuzzier feel. It almost seems as if Ty Segall and the Muggers wrote the song themselves.

Image by Dresdof (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

LA Priest @ Glasgow Broadcast [Review]

Sam Dust brings the cheer for a refreshingly personal night of pop and electro. 


A

by Alexander Smail

For one moment during his set, Sam Dust takes a sample of the audience’s cheers, before playing it back as a loop, pointing at a wooden case and manically declaring “I’ve got you guys in this box now”. It’s a surreal moment, but then Dust is a pretty surreal guy. Known for heading nu-rave outfit Late Of The Pier, he now indulges in hypnagogic 70s-tinged electronica under the LA Priest moniker.

Donning a satin shirt and blue cotton bottoms, he looks pretty unassuming as he emerges onto the stage. In fact, everything about Dust is understated, from his bedroom getup to his blithe attitude. Even the stage design is bracingly simple. Performing in front of nothing but a lighting rig that could only be homemade, Dust keeps the spectacle to a minimum during the night. Flashes of light dazzle every so often, but the set is refreshingly modest in intention and execution.

Declaring that he’s never played the song live before, he jumps into a bouncy rendition of ‘Occasion’. Focused, yet a little hesitant, he reminds the audience that the song will likely sound abysmal. Either he’s messing around, or not giving himself enough credit, because he sounds even better live than on record. ‘Night Train’ is a highlight on his album Inji and it, too, plays better live. It makes sense that the song would translate well in front of a crowd: it’s the most commercial track on the record, and Dust gives it enough extra kick to sound fresh.

Where many bands’ engagement with their crowd feels like forced posturing, Dust really does see his fans as peers. With only a small step separating them, he often jumps down to engage with the crowd, chatting and laughing in between tracks. When one enthusiastic supporter admires the reverb of the vocals, Dust assures him that he’ll let him play around with it later. And he does. One fan even blows steam from his vaporiser onto the stage to create the illusion of smoke. The rapport between the crowd and performer is akin to watching a friend’s band play.

For an extended interlude, Dust indulges in the electronic dance music which defined Late Of The Pier, and which simmers beneath the surface on Inji. Taking a pretty drastic departure from the serene synthpop, Dust describes the foray as “like a crappy DJ set”. He needn’t be so hard on himself. It would be an unexpected – and unwelcome – shift for any other artist, but seems like a natural digression in Dust’s adept hands. He does, by his own admission, get carried away but we’re more than happy to watch him disappear down the rabbit hole.

Forgoing an encore, Dust instead plays one of his loops and casually sinks into the crowd. It seems almost moot to end on such a personal note, as the whole set was nothing more than an affable back-and-forth. Regardless, any preconceptions of electronic music being cold and sterile melt away in face of Dust’s hypnotising charisma. Beneath the – admittedly captivating – coarseness, there is a real elegance to Sam Dust. He may appear rough around the edges, but LA Priest knows what he’s doing.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra @ Queen Margaret Union [Review]

The Portland/New Zealand quartet masterfully blend old and new in a serenely psychedelic set.


A-

by Alexander Smail

“Life just keeps on going…” frontman Ruban Nielson muses midway through his set, before backtracking, “…did I get too deep?” There is a striking disparity between the chilled meditation of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s early material and the energetic funk of their latest album, Multi-Love, and the band seem caught between the two in a night of relaxed sentiments and volatile psychedelia.

Opening with ‘Like Acid Rain’, the Portland-formed quartet instantly catch the crowd in a groove that doesn’t let up. Drenching the audience in bright colours and kaleidoscopic instrumentals, the night is young. Like with much of the setlist, there is an unmistakable energy to the performance that is unmatched on the album – even the more mellow cuts are imbued with it. As the set progresses, it becomes clear that Unknown Mortal Orchestra are a whole different experience live.

Sporting a simple black tee and five-panel cap, Nielson’s stage presence is low-key, yet unpredictable: one moment chilling silently on the floor, the next clambering up onto the speakers. He has come a long way from his meek early performances, not only in charisma but vocal delivery. Although occasionally drowned out by the instrumentation, his sultry voice is remarkably emphatic. He checks in with the crowd every so often, but is still clearly most comfortable letting the music speak for itself – there’s a visible zeal when he strikes his guitar.

Even older material is reinvigorated with the band’s newfound groove. Longtime fan-favourite ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’ is no longer soulful R&B, but a rousing showstopper – the crowd are understandably taken aback, but readily give in to the volatility of the night. The jarring shift works, but only further highlights that Unknown Mortal Orchestra are not the same band they were two years ago. Segueing into other vintage cut ‘Swim and Sleep (Like A Shark’) with an extended solo, a surprisingly large share of the set is dedicated to old material for a band who have evolved so much in such a short time.

There are fleeting moments where the relaxed soul of the band’s salad days shines through. As the riff to ‘The World Is Crowded’ materialises, the venue is plunged into an intoxicating inertia, previously dormant. It’s a radical shift, and the crowd are just as confused as the band – the distinction between the fans who came to party, and those to unwind, swiftly becomes clear. Between those losing their shit to the groove, and others gently taking in the message, everything about the night is of two halves.

Appearing back onstage for an encore, the band close the set with ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’, sounding at their most electrifying and assured. Uniting the disparate audience, and evoking the biggest reaction of the night, the walls of Queen Margaret Union drip with funk by the time they exit the stage. Unknown Mortal Orchestra may be caught between two identities, but they somehow bring them together for a night where psychedelia and serenity are one and the same.

Mac DeMarco @ Rough Trade East [Review]

The indie-slacker effectively quashes melancholy beneath goofy antics in a low-key acoustic set.

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by Alexander Smail

A member of the audience interrupts Mac DeMarco’s strumming to request he play ‘Freaking Out the Neighbourhood’, one of the Canadian’s more upbeat and danceable songs – a request which is gently refused by the singer for being “too rock-and-roll”. Playing to an intimate crowd of around 250, it is clear his intentions lie elsewhere tonight. Armed alone with only the bare essentials – an acoustic guitar and a mini keyboard – he introduces himself by letting the crowd know how he spent the prior night: drunk and throwing up.

Musically, the Canadian seems to be drifting further away from the buoyant slacker-rock of his roots, towards melancholic introspection, and it’s a similar story onstage. While the carefree attitude for which he is loved remains intact, nowhere to be seen are the crazy antics and unprompted nudity which brought him notoriety early in his career and, as DeMarco matures musically (and mentally), the raucous infancy of his fan base is becoming more apparent. After the show, daughters are dragged home by their fathers before they can greet their beloved, and young teens approach him bearing gifts. For kids looking for a way to be themselves, it’s hard not to see the appeal in DeMarco’s eternally chill demeanour, but as his music becomes more subdued and wistful, the unruly crowds to which he plays seem increasingly disconnected from the music. Nevertheless, if the sorrow suggested by the despondency of his lyrics is present in his performance, it is well hidden beneath goofy jokes and gags.

mac1

Throughout the set, DeMarco chats to his audience as if he is chilling with them back at his beach house in New York. Between asking a member of the crowd to feed him a beer, and doing one of his bizarre impersonations, he recalls a particularly unpleasant experience growing up, when one of his favourite bands refused to let him and the rest of the audience sing along during a gig. Consequently, DeMarco seems determined to maintain as good a relationship with his fans as possible – even going so far as giving out his home address on his latest album and inviting them over for coffee. It is easy to imagine the personable entertainer feels most at home during these informal performances, where the connection between him and the audience is palpable.

As he nears the end of the set, DeMarco invites the audience to kneel with him for an intimate rendition of ‘Still Together’ – dedicated to his long-time girlfriend. His howling vocals hush the crowd and, for the first time, the Canadian appears truly vulnerable. The moment is short-lived, though, as he quickly dives off the stage, and into the ravenous hands of his fans. He may not be stripping onstage anymore, but Mac DeMarco has never bared so much.

Cover photo by Ralph Arvesen [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons