Not-so-quietly — but sometimes softly — Ty Segall is one of contemporary music’s most prolific and accomplished musicians. Look at 2018 alone – between proper LPs, side projects and one-off releases, the man put out an astonishing eight albums and 13 albums over 6 years. Equally impressive is that largely, the material has remained strong, with his last album Freedom’s Goblin being among his best output.
Perhaps acknowledging that his vast discography can be daunting for newcomers and disappointing for longtime fans who rarely get to see their favorite Segall tunes performed live, he announced a special tour this fall. In a series of residencies held in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Paris, London and The Netherlands, he will play both his new album First Taste in full followed by a full album performance of one of his most beloved albums each night. Tonight’s show at The Teragram Ballroom took us back to where it all started with the back half of the set being a track-by-track performance of 2010’s Melted. While that album wasn’t Segall’s first, it did thrust him into the upper echelon of the wave of neo-psychedelic bands coming out of San Francisco.
Before we got our first taste of Segall’s residency, openers Warm Drag put on a dissonant, noisy and thoroughly impressive set. The band performed as a duo, with Vashti Windish on vocals and occasional percussion and Paul Quattrone behind a soundboard, manipulating samples and pounding out intense beats. The songs were given a coating of dissonance, making even fairly laid-back tunes on a record like “Cave Crawl” a sinister industrial edge. Windish was dressed in a retro get-up with high-waist, massively flared slacks, looking like a young Wendi Mclendon-Covey with a perfectly-shaped curly blonde coif. Along with the intensity of their set, Windish’s stage presence was the highlight of Warm Drag’s performance, moving sensually and using every inch of the stage for her performance, which was so well-done it must have been at least partially rehearsed but seemed completely spontaneous. The only critique that could be placed on the performance – and it’s a fairly minor qualm – was that at times the vocals were difficult to hear over Quattrone intense samples and effects.
Any audience member who’d studied up on the show would have a fairly good idea of what was about to happen when Ty Segall & The Freedom Band took the stage in front of a giant distorted (maybe even… melted?) mask which Segall introduced as the band’s new mascot, “Saladface.” First up was a performance of the upcoming LP First Taste from jacket to jacket. The nicest “surprise” of the night was the absolutely stacked Freedom Band – which included Charles Moothart of CFM on drums, Mikal Cronin on sax and a soundboard and Shannon Lay alternately on guitar and bass. Rounding out the lineup was Emmett Kelly of The Cairo Gang and prolific multi-instrumentalist Ben Boye. Cronin and Moothart, in particular, have performed with Segall’s band for years but it’s always nice to see these familiar faces return for tour after tour.
The first song on First Taste is “Taste” and it’s a right-down-the-middle psych-pop ripper, the kind of song that always shows up at least once on every one of Segall’s albums. After “Taste” though, the album is much more experimental, particularly when it comes to its emphasis on percussion and rhythm. It’s a good time to point out that unlike most Segall shows, for this one Ty spent a great deal of time playing drums along with Moothart. It was somewhat similar to what Thee Oh Sees were doing a few years ago when they added a second drummer, with the psychedelic rock getting a new touch of flare with tribal drum breakdowns and outros.
The last third of the album was particularly heavy with Segall on drums, singing and pounding along on “I Sing Them,” the interlude-like “When I Met My Parents (Part 3),” “Radio” and “Self Esteem.” Besides the opener and the unique adjustment in sound that Segall made for the back half of First Taste, his most recent single “Ice Plant” was the highlight of the set. Over a sparse drum beat and an angelic chorus of voices and nothing else, Segall put his vocals front and center in an acapella style. While the recorded version of the song concludes with a pretty, baroque pop piano line, live the band cranked it up a notch and powered through a final chorus with thick layers of distortion and more saccharine singing.
The next portion of the set was Melted, with Segall taking up permanent residence on the guitar. For many of the songs, both Lay and another band member played bass, giving the songs an added fuzzy low-end. The band teased out the intro of “Finger,” forcing the audience to stand on their tip-toes as they waited for the gratifying verse chord progression to come roaring in like a train, the circle pit beginning to form in front of the stage. It only took a minute of “Finger” to come through before there was a parade of stage divers and even a few shoes were thrown haphazardly onto the stage. The frenetic pace of “Caesar” was, of course, a crowd favorite, as was one of Segall’s most well-known tracks, “Girlfriend.” After “Sad Fuzz” rang through everyone’s eardrums, it was pretty apparent just how strong that opening run of those four songs was and how it truly launched Segall’s career.
“Melted” and “Mike D’s Coke” were fairly forgettable parts of the album and while the band did their best to breathe some new life into them, they couldn’t quite live up to the previous quartet of songs. Luckily, “Imaginary Person” got the party going again with one of Segall’s most memorable choruses, perfectly blending the melodic sensibilities of early Beatles and Beach Boys with a healthy mix of late-60s garage weirdness. After “Bees” and “Mrs,” the final song of the proper set was the album finale “Alone,” which had the audience singing along. The two-song encore consisted of songs from Freedom’s Goblin, first “Alta” and then “Fanny Dog,” both which revived the pit just enough for the sweaty shirtless members of the audience to stage dive one last time.
Ty Segall Set List
“I Worship The Dog”
“When I Met My Parents (Part 1)”
“I Sing Them”
“When I Met My Parents (Part 3)”
“Mike D’s Coke”
Photo Credit: Sharon Alagna