Who better to close out Noise Pop’s 25th year than Ty Segall? The former staple of the Bay Area music community delivered an explosive and dynamic end to the ten day festival that makes a point to highlight local artists. In their own tradition, Noise Pop boasted an impressive lineup of indie giants but especially hit the mark on the booking of local up-and-coming and underground acts (Hazel English, Plush, Everyone is Dirty, Future Shapes, Mall Walk, Blank Square, Soar and Boy Scouts to name a few). Although he has since relocated to Los Angeles, Ty Segall’s mark on the rock scene in the Bay remains.
Segall (pronounced SEA-gull not se-GALL) has quite the solo discography, and his cult status can be at least partially attributed to projects such as Fuzz or Sic Alps, both formed in San Francisco. I imagine him throwing a dinner party, sandwiched between John Dwyer and Mikal Cronin and surrounded by dozens of DIY A-lister associates.
Opening bands Axis: Sova, White Fence and Shannon and the Clams would most likely be in attendance as well. Axis: Sova is signed to Segall’s record label imprint God? on Drag City records. White Fence and Ty Segall released an album together (Hair) in 2012. Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams played bass in Ty Segall’s cover band The Togas, rounding out a seriously tight knit bill.
Ty Segall and his band took the stage, opening with “Break a Guitar” off of his self-titled album Ty Segall (2017) released one month before the February 27th show to the day. The album was recorded by studio legend Steve Albini, the musician and producer once pursued by Nirvana to record In Utero (1993) after working with The Stooges, John Cale (of The Velvet Underground), Pixies and Slint (arguably one of the first pioneers of post-rock).
After a bout of feedback, they launched into “Freedom” as Segall declared the confidently cogent choral line, “I’m not scared anymore,” to a packed theater. Though a good portion of the set stemmed from the most recent release, old favorites such as “Finger” off of breakout album Melted (2010) found its way in. Reaction to the latter prompted a scolding from Mr. Segall–”Most of you guys are paying audience members!” Despite the occasional crowd surfer and central mass of swayers, showgoers were pretty tame, although not aloof or uninterested. The crowd was about half a decade older than I anticipated, the vast majority endowed with Coors Light bracelets entitling them to purchase a ten dollar beer. In defense of the stationaries, it’s hard to muster the energy or will to mosh after a 9-5 Monday.
Halfway through the set, Segall introduced an all-star lineup in The Freedom Band with Mikal Cronin on bass (who released Reverse Shark Attack with Segall in 2009 and played saxophone on Thee Oh Sees’ Drop (2014)), Emmett Kelly on guitar (of The Cairo Gang and Segall’s 2016 experimental project The Muggers), Charles Moothart (of Fuzz) on drums (alongside Segall who trades his guitar for drums and vice versa) and Ben Boye (who also plays the autoharp) on keys. All are accomplished multi-instrumentalists. Cronin and Moothart also played together in the garage band Moonhearts. But wait! The Freedom Band’s cross-pollination runs deeper. Kelly and Boye have both recorded parts for Joan of Arc, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Angel Olsen (who also recorded and toured with Billy).
Over the past decade, Ty Segall and his merry band of rockers have proved time and again that garage rock is not dead. Though this point in his career marks a shift toward a more polished and streamlined body of work, this comes at no expense to the raw power of Ty Segall as a performer and artist. It’s a miracle the chandeliers held.
Written by Ally Mason
Photos by Fiona Duerr