Thee Oh Sees- Alex’s Bar October 28, 2011-
A minor technical glitch stalled Thee Oh Sees Friday Night set at Alex’s Bar. It seemed like guitarist John Dwyer channeled this frustration into his guitar, ripping into a blistering version of "A Heavy Doktor". It’s great to see a band with so much raw energy. It’s even better when a group is so cohesive that no one member really stands out. No grandstanding. No self indulgence. Their attitude seemed to be: “These are our songs and we’re here to play the hell out of them”.
Their music has been described as Punk, Garage Rock, and Psychedelic. Whatever label works for you. What I like about them is that they draw from all of these genres but have a sound that is uniquely their own. Having only heard a few of their songs before the show, most of my impressions were formed that night. There was enough of a stylistic shift between each song that kept me interested. At the same time they never lost their intensity.
Dwyer shifted from a growl to falsetto for their next song "The Dream" and back into more of a Jagger-like bark for "Enemy Destructs". Both songs sound like they’d fit perfectly in a Nuggets compilation. I appreciate how they use feedback to embellish their material instead of wallowing in the sound. A friend of mine recently commented that all indie bands these days are influenced by Sonic Youth. That comment stuck with me and I realized it was not meant to be a compliment. Too many bands these days have long extended noise experiments that are as interesting as guitar shredders playing pentatonic scales at warp speed to display their genius. Instead of this sonic noodling, Dwyer chose tasty leads and only used dissonance to texture the music.
One minor quibble I had with the Thee Oh Sees is that when I heard Brigid Dawson’s voice, I wanted to hear more of it. Her interplay with John on "Tidal Wave" was a clear high point of the evening. It kicked the crowd into to a groove that carried them through the rest of the set. They capped the evening off with an accelerated version of "Dead Energy". This interpretation of the song was hypnotic and memorable, sticking with me long after the band had stopped playing.
The sound mix at Alex’s was a little muddy for my taste. They could have been singing from the phone book, as far as I could tell, but in terms of a performance space, Alex’s Bar has instantly become one of my favorites. It has a great vibe and whoever put together the pre-show music mix has outstanding taste. Their $10 cover and $5 Guiness price closed the deal for me. I can’t believe it took me so long to find this place.
I wanted to make one last point regarding the opening acts. I overheard a band member talking to a friend after their set. Clearly they were disappointed about their performance. As imperfect as they may think they were, at least they’re playing original music and developing a unique sound. I’d check out any one of these groups on their worst night than see another cover band play with note to note precision. Sadly, these tribute bands headline major concert venues at $50-$100 a head. Better yet, come to Alex’s Bar to see vital bands like Thee Oh Sees.