The Great American Music Hall was sold out Friday night as it billed four bands (including two local groups) that build the case for garage/psychedelic rock. At the show, local garage noise hero Ty Segall was supported by White Fence, longtime collaborator Mikal Cronin and French psych-rock trio, The Feeling of Love. It was a long night and for all good reasons.
The show was the first date of a tour in support of the 2012 release of Hair, a collaborative album between Segall and White Fence to be released in late April. Accompanied onstage by drums, a second guitar and Cronin on bass and background vocals, Segall opened the set with the title track from his 2011 Drag City release “Goodbye Bread.” It is probably one of the most solemn songs in Segall’s repertoire, and accordingly was appreciated by the audience in a sober manner.
Irreverence was the mood for the rest of the set as the band roared through more grungy, noisy songs from its long list of releases. In response, the audience launched into a floor-wide mosh pit, making the Great American sway like an ocean tide.
Long interludes of guitar solos, lyrics replaced by screams, drums that play idiosyncratically with tempo and reverb-soaked vocals are all staples of Ty Segall’s sound. These characteristics also define the spacey garage rock popular in San Francisco. The obstinate rhythms and guitar indulgence insure a good time for young and rowdy audiences.
As teenagers in the audience (there were lots of them) met their curfew times, the room’s density dwindled. By the time the band started its four-song encore, there was plenty of room to move around. Moshing was still going strong and the mood stayed intense, however, as diehard crowd surfers got a chance to get their feet in the air all the way through the last song.
The Los Angeles five-piece White Fence did not reach the levels of psychedelia found in their 2011 release, Is Growing Faith. In part, this is because the production tools used in recordings are not available in a live setting. The band played a strong garage-rock set and pushed a wall of sound with bass and drums. An overkill of three guitars doubled and sometimes tripled parts. On one of these guitars, band leader and lead singer/guitarist Tim Presley’s voice sounded like some of Lennon’s spaciest takes or Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker.
Mikal Cronin started his set singing the intro for “Is It Alright” in harmony with Segall, who played guitar and sung background vocals. The song list consisted mostly of tracks from the self-titled 2011 full-length debut release. “Apathy” came across as one of the most defining songs. It featured Cronin going from honest, uncontrived vocals and acoustic guitar to the garage sound that gives the mosh its money’s worth. The song also revealed an appreciation for ’90s British rock, including a reference to Oasis’s “Champagne Supernova” during the guitar solo.
French trio The Feeling of Love successfully fulfilled their duty of warming up the room. The drone grooves emanating from the guitar/vocals, synthesizers and drums had the audience moving and entranced from the first song. The Feeling of Love are authentic ambassadors of psychedelic rock. Their tunes narrow the listener’s focus into the music by raising the music’s tempo deliberately as the songs progress, and sustaining chords and grooves to obsessive degrees. They closed the set with the odd tempo and groovy “Numboy” out of their 2011 release, Dissolve Me. A pleasant finish as hardly any contemporary bands venture out of the 4/4 format.
All in all, the night lasted a marathon four hours. And those who managed to remain standing by the end of it had witnessed one of the best, most intense shows I’ve seen in San Francisco.
For more photos of the event, visit photographer Manali Sibthorpe’s blog.