Ty Segall oozes California garage rock. Long blond hair, a Travis Bean guitar, Marshall amp and an array of fuzz pedals are all markers of the musician’s heritage in the west coast scene – one that has always had devout support and that, in recent years, with John Dwyer’s success with the OCS, has found exposure worldwide. Now touring his tenth studio album with The Freedom Band, Segall has cemented his position as one of the greats of garage rock.
Mike Donovan, known best as the lead singer of Sic Alps, warms up a heaving Gorilla, already sticky with anticipation. Part-Randy Newman, part-Perfume Genius, Donovan moves dextrously from more conventional ballads on the piano to a darker sound of gravelly synths and drum loops. Sat at one side of the stage, his hunched-over figure is compelling to watch. His set even features a cover of The Soft Boys’ tune, ‘Ugly Nora’ – signposted by the wonderful line: ‘All the best things in your life are loud’.
However, it is the thought of Segall on stage that circles around the venue in a hot buzz. His every appearance during set-up is met with rapturous applause, and a younger crowd member is so aghast that he’s on stage ‘right there!’ that he chokes mid-way through shouting something delirious and incomprehensible. It is evident that everyone here loves him, and with albums like Melted and Slaughterhouse, it’s hard not to understand why. He satisfies those longing for a return of the ‘60s and ‘70s guitar greats in Zappa, Jerry Garcia, Tony Iommi, Marc Bolan, whilst laying down a unique version of fuzz-inflected garage-psych-punk rock.
The band come on stage and the slow descending notes of Mikal Cronin’s bass signify the beginning of ‘Wave Goodbye’ from 2012’s Slaughterhouse. It’s crazed as Segall demonically screeches: ‘But now it’s time to drink wine / and wave goodbye, bye bye ahhh!’, and the crowd joins him in waving furiously. It’s an epic in guitar virtuosity: a screeching homage to distortion and finger-tapping guitar in all of its huge glory.
Melted’s ‘Finger’ makes the whole place explode as the opening chords and quiet crooning give way to the sudden shriek of Segall’s guitar. People fly everywhere whilst somehow keeping single fingers raised in the air. Ty is at his coolest during his laid-back, drawling vocal lines alongside the power of the Freedom Band’s sound, and while the longer jams are impressive from a technical perspective, Segall’s “classic” hits are the most invigorating.
‘Goodbye Bread’ is a welcome release from the incessant soloing, and proves Segall is as tuneful as he is a distortion junky, while ‘And, Goodbye (Sleeper)’ is epic in all proportions, with Ben Boye looking like a possessed alchemist on the keyboard, sprinkling heady magic over the stage in a haze of happy confusion.
Whether you’re a fan of his discography or not, it’s impossible not to be engrossed by Ty Segall and The Freedom Band, and the in-between song shout of ‘this is great’ is a wonderfully understated testament to their performance — they are great on a number of counts, and truly worth catching live.