I knew I would have problems getting into this show. Goddammit, I was supposed to remind the guy to remind the guy to secure my place on the list. I forgot, so he forgot, so HE forgot, so now I have to stand here in time-out next to the door guy. I’m in time out because of my negligence and Max Pain and the Groovies are already playing. I’m missing them even though I came on time and now I’ll be chewed out back at the office, just fucking scolded so fiercely for missing part of the show. I’m a piece of shit. I’m secretly glad though, because I just can’t stand Max Pain and the Groovies. I don’t know what it is, but it’s like there is some kind of internal switch that clicks when I hear them and it makes me stare straight ahead, emotionless. This condition actually really stresses me out a lot, like it gives me incredible anxiety, because I’m going to have to write about this later and the Groovies are going to read it, and they will feel bad about themselves or they will be very angry. They’ll read what I write and they will get angry, and assemble and kick the shit out of me in the street. They’ll hate my guts just for having an opinion that formed itself internally without any conscious input on my part and thinking about this is making me very anxious to get into the show. I hear the door guy say to Lance, or whoever just walked by, “We’ve got about 10 more.” Shit, it’s going to sell out before Dralex can text Lance and grant me entry. I’m emotionally conflicted because I want to see Ty Segall play—his new record Manipulator fucking rules and he’s like a rock god—but if I don’t get in, that means I don’t have to write the review later and I can go home, just relax and go to bed and save my hearing. “You’re good,” the door guy says, so I stuff my expertly crafted toilet paper earplugs into my ears and prepare to stare straight ahead, emotionless.
The first person I see is Segall himself, standing behind the merch table. Oh god, look away. I don’t want him to think I’m a Fan, like a creepy dude who wants to talk to him and say how much his record fucking rules. I’m not a Fan now, I’m a Journalist. I’m a Reporter. I’m The Media now, so I should go introduce myself to him and give him my card and tell him I’m gong to write about him later. God, I bet he’s sick of that. I can’t burden another person with an obviously unwanted conversation right now. He’s out in the audience now, in the back near the merch table, drinking a beer and staring straight ahead, emotionless. People are glancing at him sidelong and whispering in very aggressive whisper tones, “IT’S TY SE-GAAAALL,” pronouncing his name as if he’s the son of Steven Seagal. Idiots. The Groovies just got my attention with a switch to a heavier, more proto-metal sound. Like heavy, fast Black Sabbath shit. All right. Cool, they can really rip. I wish they would only play stuff like this and ditch the hippy dippy shit. I feel bad about not liking them earlier. I want to make a T-shirt of frontman David Johnson’s hat. It’s like a Salt Lake icon. Even if I’m not a fan of the Groovies I still think he’s a really rad guy. When I ran into him in Austin at SXSW this year we got drunk with the rest of the SLUG team and went to the Texas State Cemetery at midnight and that was fun. He’s cool. This place is packed and most of the crowd is just standing and staring, emotionless. I better get a drink so I don’t look like them. A beer. Liquid emotion.
The Groovies are done. I’m talking about haircuts with Matt Crane and Christina. She cuts hair. I cut my own hair because I’m cheap and I avoid confined one-on-one social situations. It’s like going to the dentist. Every time I see Christina I end up saying, “I should really get a real haircut one of these days.” I’m like a broken record. A boring, cheap, broken record with shitty hair. Four women just got on stage and they’re tuning up. This must be La Luz. I’ve only briefly heard them but I’m excited to watch them play. Brian at work has been talking about them, asking if I’ve heard them and telling me that they’re really cool. They look really cool. All black of varying degrees. Their clothing, I mean. Now they’re playing and Brian was right—they fucking rule. They’re like The Ventures, a little bit like The B-52’s. It’s like the Dum Dum Girls playing garage surf rock but more badass. Ah shit, this band is cool. I love the drummer’s style—she has a really light, precise jazz-like touch but still makes the stage shake. They keys player is flailing and dancing between riffs. She reminds me of Jenn Wasner from Wye Oak, both in appearance and keyboard-playing mannerisms. They’re pretty wild and aggressive for a surf rock revival band—on their record they sound polished and precious but now they’re full of power. The inner crowd is in a frenzy. They remind me of Black Lips for some reason. The same kind of performance, I guess. Yikes, they’re so good. I think they’re having more fun than the audience.
La Luz is finished and I’m just standing around instead of going outside to smoke because somehow I recently convinced myself that I don’t smoke any more so I just drink more instead. Now and forever. The crowd looks so serious. It’s like it’s their fucking job to be here. It’s my job to be here and I’m absolutely radiant. I don’t even like coming to shows any more but it’s Ty-fucking-Segall. He’s on the stage now and people are screaming. I see an audience member’s fist rise in the air and it appears to be clad in a gardening glove. Segall is wearing a white long-sleeve tee with a black symbol of Jupiter on it. He has white jeans with black stars and symbols on them. He is wearing silver lipstick and some kind of makeup. Charlie Mootheart’s majestic mane fills half the stage. The sound check takes about a half hour and I think the crowd is about to kill each other. A cowboy named Jimmy takes the stage and is introducing the band with a drawn-out story about finding them on the fourth moon of Jupiter or something. I guess Segall and the band are space aliens. I’m taking extensive notes on Jimmy’s speech but I realize that they are completely incomprehensible and there is no way I’ll be able to read them later, let alone quote them. Who cares. “Hello, Salt Lake City, hello!” Segall chirps into the mic. “HELLO, SALT LAKE CITY, HELLO!” He keeps saying it. He’s being a goof. Jimmy the Cowboy stays onstage and starts plunking out the keyboard riff at the beginning of “Manipulator” and the show has finally started.
Like the rest of the songs on Manipulator, Segall plays the title track faster, heavier and with more aggression. Gone is the polish and embellishment of the studio version, with acoustic guitars and a string section. This is a four-piece (aside from Jimmy) electric wall of rock. So much hair. Everyone on the band has long, flailing hair. I try to flail my hair as best as I can. Fuck yeah, this is it. “Tall Man Skinny Lady” hits surprisingly hard. The audience is actually dancing and smiling a little. Seagall is smiling, yelling, head banging, shredding, being a rock god. “Free your mind and your ass will follow,” he says in between songs. I think he’s played the first four consecutive songs on Manipulator. I think he’s going to play the entire album. It’s 17 songs long. Holy cow, this will be good.
I’ve lost track of how many songs he’s played. I’ve lost track of how many crowd surfers get dangerously close. This is better than when I saw Segall play here in Fuzz and that was one of the best performances I can remember. Holy cow, this is amazing. How can he play so well and so hard, non-stop? There have been at least 10 songs so far and he’s still thrashing around and yelling and shredding like it’s the best day of his life. Like it’s his last performance. The drummer looks exhausted. She hasn’t missed a single beat but she looks like she’s gong to collapse. I think maybe she’s sick. Segall stops the song to save a person in the front from being trampled. This is like breakneck stoner metal, not beautiful ‘60s psych balladry. It’s amazing. My neck is starting to hurt. I’m giving myself whiplash. A bunch of dudes in the front are dance-fighting or something. There is an actual line of demarcation between people who are moving around and having the times of their lives and people who are standing and staring, emotionlessly. Like it’s they’re fucking job to be here. I’m at the border so I move closer. I just remembered when I saw FUZZ here and Charlie Mootheart showed me how to roll the most bitchin’ toilet paper earplugs in the bathroom. I silently thank him. Segall is relentless. His skill makes me sick. Hey, this song isn’t from Manipulator—it’s “Thank God for Sinners.” FUZZ played this and everyone freaked out. Same situation this time. They play a couple older ones. Segall tells us that they have two more and the look that the drummer shoots him is one of pure agony and despair. They play “Wave Goodbye” and the place is thrown into chaos. I have two beer bottles and a notebook and a pen in my hands. I’m hiding behind the corral on stage right and I think I’m safe. And just like that they’re done. Of course, there will be an encore. There is, and Segall’s face displays a coy grin as he climbs the steps right past me. The drummer still looks defeated. They play some older stuff, which I know everyone is dying to hear, and end up on “Girlfriend.” Perfect choice. The mob thrashes around and Segall shreds like he didn’t just spend an hour on stage—like it’s the first show of the tour. For how reserved he is offstage, Segall is an animal onstage. With a mic in front of his face and a wall of amplifiers shaking behind him, this is where he belongs. He is a fucking space alien—he’s too good for this planet.