Ty Segall - The Vic Theater, Chicago

by Texacaliago Rating: Release Date:
Ty Segall - The Vic Theater, Chicago
Ty Segall - The Vic Theater, Chicago

I read an article recently that essentially suggested no one had done a better job of keeping rock and roll alive and well in this decade than the infamous Jack White. And while that is a fairly reasonable assertion (in spite of the somewhat uneven nature of White’s material this decade), many of the thousand or so folks at Chicago’s Vic Theater Sunday night would likely make a strong argument for Ty Segall being the standard-bearer of garage-rock in the tweens thus far. Given that Segall has released roughly a dozen or so (mostly solo) albums with various bands this decade, he would certainly win based on prolificacy alone, but when you also consider that all of those albums are pretty damn good, his body of work only becomes more impressive.

In fairness, it’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, especially considering Mr. Segall’s music is typically much more psych-tinged (and often unhinged) in nature, but again, considering the sheer scope and quality of his output, it’s somewhat surprising that Segall is not more of a household name. But I suppose none of that really mattered to the masses in attendance Sunday night, as everyone was certainly pretty stoked to see such a talented artist in the intimate setting that is Chicago’s famed Vic Theater.

But before Segall hit the stage, we were treated to performances from two opening acts, The Bed Band and Axis: Sova...although in the case of The Bed Band, the more apt term would be that we were “subjected” to their performance.

When I used to live a block off Haight Street in San Francisco, there were often many dubious burnout “street artists” that would give various unsolicited and impromptu performances which were usually mentally deranged and insufferable in nature. Basically lots of mumbling/ranting of nonsensical phrases and stream-of-consciousness “dancing” that was kind of like watching a human train-wreck happen right before your eyes. You didn’t know whether to laugh or refer them to the local psychiatric clinic, but at the end of the day it was all harmless I suppose. The Bed Band was kind of like that, except 10 times more excruciating because it was all premeditated and intentionally absurd. It was basically one dude, with a sheet over his head, mumbling over a recording of murky/noisy guitar squalls that had no real form along with sporadic splutters of deep bass spewing out of the speakers. It all felt like some misguided and highly tedious social experiment, and considering I’ve never been a big fan of “artists” that go out of their way to be bad on purpose (especially when I have to go to work early the following morning), suffice to say I could have done without The Bed Band’s “performance”.

The Bed Band: F

Axis: Sova did their best to put The Bed Band out of everyone’s collective memory, and their driving 3-guitar attack delivered the goods for the most part. With the help of a drum machine, Axis: Nova provided a lot to like for fans of straight-forward/wailing guitar rock, and although most of their performance seemed a bit one-note, coming off the heels of The Bed Band, it practically sounded like The Rolling Stones to these ears.

Axis: Nova: C

After what seemed like an exceptionally long 2 hours of pitiable/adequate performances, the theater (and this reviewer in particular), were definitely hungry for the main event of the evening. Taking to the stage shortly after 10:00, Ty Segall and his Freedom Band made sure that we were all rewarded for our patience by delivering an emphatic set that drew heavily from his fantastic new album Freedom’s Goblin. The band actually opened things up in rousing fashion with euphoric renditions of “Alta” and “Fanny Dog” from that aforementioned album, which did a great job of bringing the crowd to life (particularly those of us on the floor). After a downright crushing version of “Finger”, Ty performed 3 straight songs from my personal favorite album of his: 2016’s Emotional Mugger. The trifecta of “Squealer”, “Breakfast Eggs”, and “Candy Sam”, certainly packed quite a deranged and malevolent punch live, often stirring up a delightfully chaotic ruckus on the floor.  

But the highlight of the night for this reviewer came not from a particular song, but rather a particular act from the stage by Segall himself. In a nutshell, jovial moshing (for lack of a better term) is a pretty common (and harmless) activity at most Ty Segall shows, and while bouncers have a role to play in keeping everyone safe, one particularly authoritative bouncer on hand that evening seemed hell-bent on ruining the experience for most everyone on the floor. Looking like a douchier version of Dog the Bounty Hunter, he would frequently perch himself atop the front-row barricade and aggressively shine his flashlight into the crowd whenever there was the slightest hint of people actually enjoying themselves (even just jumping around seemed to earn his scorn for example). It was unnecessarily stringent and became more excessive towards the end of the show, which definitely had a detrimental effect on those of us letting the music move us on the floor. Finally though, Segall (who was also growing visibility irritated by the bouncer’s disruptions) had apparently had enough, and proceeded to walk over to the front of the stage, tap the bouncer on the shoulder, and authoritatively point his ass down from his barricade perch! A truly heroic moment, the crowd (myself included) roared with approval, and suffice to say very little was seen or heard from the bouncer in question for the rest of the show.

Fortunately though, not all of Segall’s material is tailor-made exclusively for moshing. On the contrary, some of his best songs are actually downright melodic and subdued relatively speaking, and those qualities were best displayed during performances of the perky “My Lady’s On Fire” and the brooding “Rain” (which featured an appearance from his 3-piece horn section). He also threw in a couple of covers for good measure, which predictably included “Everyone 1’s a Winner” (Hot Chocolate) and a surprise cover of “Cherry Red” by The Groundhogs. The eclectic variety on display was really impressive in a live setting, and really helped round-out the Ty Segall live experience as a whole.

In a decade that has become increasingly saturated with bland big production performers and incredibly trendy, flavor-of-the month subpar rappers, it’s fair to say that guitar-driven music has somewhat fallen out of fashion to a degree, at least in the eyes of the mainstream. However, as is often the case with trendy music, it’s rarely actually indicative of quality, so it’s commendable that Ty Segall has boldly blazed his own unique path and carved out a niche for himself and fans of his emphatic brand of acid-fried garage-rock. Trends come and go, but there’s something undeniably real, palpable, and visceral about Segall’s music that will certainly outlive those said trends, and he and his band conveyed that spirit and energy in resounding fashion Sunday night.

Ty Segall: A

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Great article. Part of it reminds me when I "worked" security at an INXS concert in college, but mainly makes me more insistent about seeing Ty Segall live. He's playing in Austin soon with Parquet Courts and A Giant Dog, but my daughter won't let me visit due to "finals". How boring!

  • Thanks Mark. I'm sure being a bouncer is not easy, considering all the security demands, etc, but this was clearly the type of guy who felt emboldened by this "authority", and presumably signed up to be a bouncer for all the wrong reasons...cheers to Ty for saving the day! (or night technically) ;)

  • I was primarily joking. Was about 5'10", 145 back then, so I was strictly a volunteer to get into the show free. We were supposed to keep people in their seats, but Michael Hutchens kept telling people to come up front and dance. He got his way as did Ty! I did help a girl that fainted though!