To anyone who has spent time on his Spotify page, Ty Segall looks about how you would expect — well-fed, serious and very friendly with his razor, but with surf-blond hair long enough to prove that he doesn’t work a 9 to 5. Having released 13 solo studio albums in the last 12 years, as well as working with numerous spin-off bands such as the metal-minded Fuzz and punk-driven GØGGS, Segall has no time to be idle. Never static or afraid of collaboration, Segall continues to put out music at a fervent pace, working with a large pool of artists to create a musical universe of his very own.
This universe was on full display Sept. 14 at the Teragram Ballroom in Downtown LA, with Segall playing his fourth and final sold out show in a two-week stint at the venue. He may have known the drill, but for me and many others in the crowd, it was our first pandemic concert — our first time showing a vaccine card at the door, first time wearing a mask in a room full of sweaty, dancing people. Unsurprisingly though, no one seemed to mind — an aging punk in a studded leather mask talking to a twenty-something who was hitting other people’s vapes, couples on their third date, an elementary school teacher describing the birthday cards his students had made him — we were all just happy to be there. Happy to dance with someone wearing their favorite outfit, happy to push and shove and help a stranger find their phone.
As the pandemic continues, these moments of connectivity remain novel, brief reminders of a happier past and a brighter future.
Opening was Richard Rose: a band led by Chris Shaw, the frontman of Ex-Cult and GØGGS. Also featuring a bassist in a red jumpsuit and a saxophonist with permanent sunglasses named Gravy Mckay, their set was loud and fast, unwavering for 30 speaker-shaking minutes. Having pushed their drum kit to the front of the stage, the band was up close and personal, with Shaw often leaning out into the crowd and shouting into people’s faces. Perfectly setting the tone for the night, Richard Rose was brash, talented and a lot of fun, fully engaging a crowd largely unaware of their existence.
And then, right on time, walked out Segall, cloth face mask on and a Tecate in hand, embodying every bit of the 21st century Californian rockstar he has become. Joined by his current backing band, Freedom Band, Segall and team dove wordlessly into a face melting rendition of “Harmonizer,” a track off of his 2021 album of the same name. It was immediately clear that the Segall before us, standing confidently in a dark denim jacket, subtly jeweled, was not the same Segall that frequents the recording studio. Every song was cranked to 11, extending many minutes longer than the original recordings and often into deafening walls of sound, with guitars screaming and an ever present synth rumbling through the room.
Never falling into flashy guitar solos, or even moving much at all, Segall and his band commanded the room with only music, playing from the corner of the stage, hair strewn across his face. Apart from an energetic appearance from Segall’s wife and collaborator, Denée Segall, decked out in a flowing red dress with matching red heels, singing “Feel Good,” I was confident I could get lost among the bodies of the mosh pit and not miss a thing.
After an unceremonious departure from the stage, an encore appeared inevitable. The crowd chanted for only a minute before Segall and friends returned to the stage, picking up right where they left off with a 10-minute rendition of “Fanny Dog,” an ode to Segall’s clearly adored dachshund. And then, after an hour and a half of head-rattling sound, Segall and Freedom Band left the stage for the final time. The lights turned on to reveal the crowd, out of breath and euphoric.
And so we left — ears ringing and brains fuzzified, a reminder of the chaotic joy of strangers.