Show Review: OCS aka Thee Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Shannon Lay at The Chapel, 12/18/17

by Dakin Hardwick on December 21, 2017

John Dwyer & Ty Segall have been doing their holiday benefit for the SF Coalition on Homelessness for quite a few years now. They have been doing it for so many years that it’s become an established Bay Area Holiday Tradition. However, Thee Oh Sees and Ty both have played the Bay Area twice already this year, which, at first, made me question whether or not this was going to happen this year. Happily, the gigs still happened. And, instead of playing it straight, we got two very, very surprising sets by two of the most prolific acts in modern music.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I first realized that tonight was going to be special when I saw, throughout the venue, notices requesting that people remain “silent” during the performances. People obliged, and most of the crowd even avoided ordering drinks during sets. This helped set the atmosphere for the night.

The first performer of the night was Shannon Lay from LA psych band Feels. Unlike the thunder of her day job band, we were treated to a short, sparse set of delicate folk music. She was accompanied by only her own acoustic guitar and a violinist, and the audience was completely motionless and silent throughout her set. Lay’s voice wove nicely around the violin, and it was a truly stunning, albeit brief set. I’m excited about seeing her returning to the bay next week to open for Cherry Glazerr at The Fillmore.

After a short set break, Ty Segall popped out casually, strapped on an acoustic guitar, and ran through a series of his unique brand of surf punk, stripped down to just the acoustic guitar, but not stripping down the intensity. He showed off his guitar mastery, as well as surprising with a vocal mastery that he doesn’t usually express in the electric setting. During the English folk-inspired “My Lady’s On Fire,” he showed a dynamic range usually reserved for somebody like Bowie. This may be the 10th time that I’ve seen Segall perform in one of his 800 projects, but was definitely the strongest performance I’ve ever witnessed by him.

Expectations were already set well ahead of the band taking the stage, as this wasn’t billed as “Thee Oh Sees,” but had the much wordier billing as “OCS (A mellow / quiet set feat. John Dwyer, Brigid Dawson, Tim Hellman, Paul Quattrone, Tom Dolas & a string section consisting of Heather Lockie, Eric Clarke & Emily Elkin).” The stage set proved that this was not the same band that played Great American Music Hall only a few months prior, as there was only one drum kit on stage, several music stands with sheet music, and an actual acoustic guitar. This was going to be a treat.

The main set focused entirely on material from their recently released record Memory Of A Cut Off Head, a stunning, nearly baroque, 3-sided album. Bandleader John Dwyer sounded clearer than ever when he sang, and long time Thee Oh Sees percussionist Brigid Dawson showed off her beautiful soprano while singing harmonies, and several times throughout the night, she took over lead vocals. On those songs, I could feel chills up and down my spine.

The sound quality in The Chapel was exquisite that night. It may have been the best quality ever showcased by the venue! The music swirled between big, epic masterpieces and sparse, delicate tones. The string section interplayed nicely with Dwyer’s guitar. Feedback was used sparingly, but to a great and intense effect. We had elements of psych and chamber pop, and even some 20th Century Classical flourishes.

This was one of the finest sets ever to grace a San Francisco stage. I can only hope that OCS takes show on a longer tour, as it just feels unfair that only a handful of people were able to experience this amazing performance.


This was a benefit for SF Coalition on Homelessness, and they do some really great work. They are also always accepting donations, and financial gifts can be made here.

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