I knew I liked Thee Oh Sees when their ringleader, John Dwyer, interrupted the set early on to search offstage for something important.
He emerged after a moment with a 3/4 full bottle of Jamison that he made his bandmates swill down quickly before moving on to the next song. Everyone pretty much obliged him, except for the drummer, who had to be coaxed with some girly-looking drink before he evertually took a mouthful of the hard stuff.
Next came the machine gun…
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah was all I could hear as the San Francisco noise punk outift filled the expansive heights of the Granada with their ridiculously energetic buzz. My ears were ringing from song one but I didn’t care. The crowd was ready to respond to Thee Oh Sees’ challenge with their own sweat and enthusiasm, urging the band on in their efforts to demolish their songs.
Which they did.
One thing that I liked right off the bat about this band is that they set up in the very very front of the stage – as close to the audience as they could get. At a venue like the Granada this was especially cool, since the stage is so big and bands can easily retreat to the back, some fifteen to twenty feet from the front row. But not tonight.
Lead singer/guitarist John Dwyer played a twelve string electric for a good portion of the night, along with another electric guitarist, drums, and keyboards. That’s right – no bass guitar. No matter, though. The bass was filled in nicely by some creative amp work with the second electric guitar player channeling some of the lower tones through a bass setup. And it worked pretty damn nicely, I must say. Much better than some other bands who’ve tried the same trick in the past.
As the set progressed, the band pretty much stayed right on course – super high energy, weird yippy vocals, and monstrously big sound, all wrapped into short, zombie-rock songs. The solid crowd of a few hundred was having a blast as the Thee Oh Sees did what they do best – vibe.
It’s not like after a song was over I would think, "Man, that’s a great tune."
It was more like, "I’m going to go up in that pit and kick somebody in the head, then crush this beer, then stage dive off the tall stack."
By the end of the night a few things were crystal clear:
One, if you have a chance to catch this band live, do it. Well, don’t do it if you are looking for a low-key evening where you won’t get beer and/or vomit spilled on you. Do it if you want to stay out all night drinking your face off and sweating through your jeans.
And two, apparently Thee Oh Sees haven’t quite made it yet. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just that the raw-ness and attitude of a band that’s doing something simply because they want to see what happens is much different than the manufactured hype that accompanies many more "established" artists.
At the end of the night, Dwyer was dead serious when he surveyed the crowd for a cute face and a plush couch to crash on for the night:
"We need a place to stay tonight… but you gotta have cable."
A girl’s gotta have her standards.