Wednesday, March 16, 2016

SXSW Day 1

A look behind Thee Oh Sees
AUSTIN, TEXAS _ As Roger Miller would say, my ears still ring from last night's show at Hotel Vegas over on East Sixth Street. The stars of Tuesday's show were Thee Oh Sees, which longtime readers of this humble blog should know is one of my favorite living bands.

This is the third time I've seen John Dwyer and his merry band. I first caught them during the 2012 South by Southwest festival in Austin before I even knew who they were, playing on a bill with The Gories and Kid Congo Powers. By the second time I saw them, a couple of years ago in Albuquerque, their album Floating Coffin was one of my favorites of that year. (It's still my favorite Oh Sees record, though they've done a couple of fine ones since.)

Of those three shows I've seen, last night's was definitely the fiercest, most aggressive and most intense. They started off on full blast warp speed and rarely eased up for the hour-plus they played. Dwyer, after putting Thee Oh Sees on a ridiculously short "hiatus" shortly after the last time I saw them, moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles and put together a new version of the group.

The band I saw last night had two drummers (which also was the case when I first saw them four years ago), a bass player and, of course Dwyer on guitar, vocals and occasional keyboards.

Oh si!
This Austin crowd was extremely fired up, immediately forming a frenzied mosh pit, which inspired a seemingly endless stream of stage-divers/crowd surfers. It was as if the early '90s never ended.

And I've got to go on the record here as a hip and swingin' rock 'n' roll grandpappy and say that this crap irritates me. I've avoided the mosh pits since that night a few years ago I nearly lost my upper plate when some dumbass mosher thought it would be cool to slam into my back. One reason I hate it so much is that the quality of my snapshots suffer when I lost my place up front and center.

But all that geezer stuff aside, this show left me grinning. Not only was the show full of fire, the crazed other-worldliness of Dwyer's musical vision -- his distorted falsetto vocals, the crazy sci-fi guitar bleeps and blorches -- cuts to the bone.

It's all on a visceral level. I couldn't actually make out any of the lyrics he was singing and I didn't recognize many of the songs until several minutes in -- and many of them, I didn't recognize at all.
But you could feel the power, that call of the weird that rock 'n' roll fans crave.

If you're in Austin right now, don't kick yourself for missing this show last night. Thee Oh Sees have taken up residency at Hotel Vegas and will be playing tonight and every night through Saturday there. (Not sure of the times though.)

One disappointment: Another favorite underground band I love, The Night Beats, also was on the bill at Hotel Vegas Tuesday. However, they played hours before I arrived, around 5 p.m. (5 p.m.? What is this, the early bird special at Denny's?) So hopefully I'll catch them somewhere later this week.

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