Show Review: Ty Segall with White Fence, Mikal Cronin and The Feeling Of Love at the Great American Music Hall, 3/2/2012

by Jonathan Pirro on March 4, 2012

Ty Segall captured mid-thrash

Ty Segall captured mid-thrash

Put down your spiked hair. Pull those safety pins out of your pierced ears. Trade in the leather jacket, the studded belt, the plaid pants, the violently political message, the inability to enjoy anyone within your immediate proximity unless you’re physically engaged in violence towards them. But don’t stop enjoying yourself. This is not the place for the energy to drop, for the volume to descend, or for the spirit of radical thought to become extinguished. This is the place for two-minute songs and stagedivers and snarling fuzz and harrowing reverb, all compacted together into a stick of dynamite that keeps burning for almost five solid hours. This is the first stop on the tour for Ty Segall, a veteran to the Bay Area garage-folk-psych-rock scene, which, tonight, has taken up residence in the Great American Music Hall, and is here to demolish the foundations — both figuratively and a significant bit literally.

Guillaume Marietta of The Feeling Of Love

Guillaume Marietta of The Feeling Of Love

The world of three-chord, reverb-soaked, warbling punk rock seems to exist as a feral animal of surprising mystery. All of the acts that played tonight’s show were connected, albeit loosely, with a vibe of simple but effective songwriting, a whip-smart pop sensibility, and the balls to crank their effects and walls of sound into overdrive. French openers The Feeling Of Love kicked off the evening with a dizzying display of this, with simple jangly tunes giving way to pulsing electronics and howling blasts of feedback, directed primarily by singer Guillaume Marietta as he attempted to force his guitar into its amplifier at the back of the stage. The trio, hailing from Metz, France, seemed to have the most simple translation from studio sound to live performance; in contrast, the Los Angeles collective known as White Fence was sharp, loud, and surprisingly precise in their sonic presence, an interesting contrast to the hazy psychedelic sounds on their recent release, Is Growing Faith. Frontman Tim Presley, himself no stranger to the firecracker energy of various aspects in the California punk scene, took up the reins as the third act of the evening, with a steady set that maneuvered expertly between pounding, grinding guitar chaos with a dash of surf rock, and pleasant dabs of graceful songwriting and folk nostalgia.

Tim Presley of White Fence

Tim Presley of White Fence

It is important to mention and distinguish White Fence and The Feeling Of Love from the other acts of the evening, as both Mikal Cronin and Ty Segall played with each other for their respective sets. Often lauded together by critics, who have noted them for their unconscious nods to each other in the songwriting world, each of the two wildly energetic frontmen carved out their own massive set, all the while backed by a steadily churning and solid rhythm section. Mikal showcased a more charmingly playful persona, both in his lyrics and in his performance. with gleeful smiles and casual swaying back and forth as he played his 12-string acoustic guitar, leaving Ty to thrash around wildly on the left side of the stage. Many of his songs shifted in energy dramatically at the drop of the hat, hurling from simple sing-alongs to a sudden steamroller of guitars and bellowing three-part harmonies. Whether through his connection to Ty, or a general love and passionate following in the scene, the audience knew every word of Mikal’s songs and sang them with an almost feverish gusto as the four bandmates plowed through their set.

Ty Segall under the gentle haze of light

Ty Segall under the gentle haze of light

In addition to the bandmate camaraderie surrounding Mikal and Ty during their times onstage, the general energy level of the crowd that had packed itself into the club was at a skull-crushing, limb-smashing peak during both performances. However, the first song of Ty’s set — the title track from his newest studio release, Goodbye Bread — was the sole opportunity for breathing room during the hour that he was given to reign the stage, and even during that song, a general pulse of thrashing energy seemed to be simmering within the gathered crowd. Moments after Ty’s second song, “Doctor Doctor” began, the dance floor had become a furious writhing mass of humanity, and remained so for nearly all of the time that the band remained onstage. No doubt owing to the unstopping wildness and manic energy with which Ty, Mikal, and their bandmates hurled themselves back and forth across the stage with, the Great American Music Hall was quickly exploding with crowd surfers, younger concertgoers sneaking in a few glorious seconds of onstage dancing, and a whirlwind mosh pit that took up nearly all of the smooth wooden floor before the stage.

Mikal Cronin backing up Ty Segall on bass

Mikal Cronin backing up Ty Segall on bass

Through all of this, Ty maintained a remarkably serious yet joyously expressive stage presence, with every muscle in his body seeming to grow taut with energy in moments not spent pinballing himself around his corner of the stage. Ty and the rest of the band plowed through their set with all the fury and delicate intricacies present on his recent studio record. Each tune was bathed in fuzzy, howling guitar snarls and thunderous, punching drum beats, punctuated by the raspy and heavily-distorted voice of Ty, who alternated between breathless, husky crooning and mind-bendingly hellish screaming from song to song. The chaos and destruction of the evening overtook everyone onstage in several instances, with Ty, Mikal, and their respective backing companions each taking turns to violently shrug off their instruments, or take a nosedive into their pedals to crank out a monstrous wall of feedback in place of a noodling guitar solo.

One of the few moments of calm

One of the few moments of calm

Never before have I experienced a show like this — one in which the entire swell of humanity around me was completely on fire and thundering with mayhem, joy and utterly incomprehensible energy for every single act that graced the stage. The staff of the Great American Music Hall was seen pulling up smashed pieces of the cocktail tables that graced the front of the stage, as they had caved under the 600-strong human force that hurtled itself towards the musicians for nearly the entire night. The bands and crowd fed off each other magnificently, although there were more than a few confused faces watching the maelstrom in utter wonder, including from yours truly (especially during Mikal Cronin’s set, as he was at that point unknown to me). Now more fully prepared for the onslaught that comes with seeing Ty Segall in his hometown, I was able to walk away from the show drained of energy but overloaded with excitement at having made a new discovery. This is a world where the maniacal energy of unapologetic punk rock, and the timeless songwriting and wise pop sensibilities of bygone beautiful psychedelic folk rock, pair together like the elements of an exquisite meal in a five-star restaurant, and it doesn’t seem to show even the slightest sign of slowing down.

Ty Segall's setlist

Ty Segall's setlist

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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