A man can cram a mess of headbanging into an hour when his songs average about two minutes in length. West Coast garage crumbler Ty Segall knows this well. But well before Ty took the stage at Manhattan’s sold-out Webster Hall late Wednesday night, a breathless audience of 20- and 30-something miscreants stood satisfied with aching necks, ringing ears and booze-speckled shirts. The Men, the Strange Boys and recent Segall conspirators White Fence each took a crack at the increasingly thick and sweaty ballroom audience, making for one of the loudest, head-thrashing-est garage-rock bills in recent memory, even if half those in attendance may not remember it this morning.
At the butt of the bill, feral basement quakers the Men were allotted a skimpy 30 minutes to cram with as much fuzz, sweat and beers as they were able. With four of the band’s five beardy Brooklynites on constant guitar duty this was no tall order to fill. The Men earned some notoriety for their recent testosterone opus Open Your Heart, but on Wednesday they kept their set pointed toward the future. Tracks from a still untitled follow-up album due out later this year got the crowd bobbing early and often to their chunky punk progressions, opening the evening’s first mosh pit like a knife wound.
The errant fuzzcloud that introduced The Men was answered with a crisp harmonica honk by Austin’s Strange Boys, heralding a pleasant change of tempo and atmosphere before a set that was markedly more boot-scoot than bar brawl. Once a posse of six that included White Fence’s Tim Presley on backup strangeness, the Boys took the Webster stage as a nimble quartet that proved both controlled and forceful enough to tackle the band’s eclectic catalog of garage/pasture rock gristle. Leaner cuts from the band’s countrified Live Music suited the prairie vastness of Webster Hall’s simulated starlight backdrop, inspiring more audience members to shimmy past one another than crash chaotically together. But just as in the Wild West, peace in these parts proved fleeting.
Psych-scholar Tim Presley and cohorts took the stage as White Fence with some anxiety. “Who threw that beer?” Presley asked the increasingly rowdy crowd after his second reverb-blasted track. “That’s been happening to me a lot on this tour. I’m not mad. Just anxious.” And rightly so. The natives had grown hostile by 10:30 p.m., the hall perfumed with reefer, mosh pits converged into mosh chasms, and as many cups of $9 booze tumbled through the air as were trampled against the sticky floor. Any hint of DIY kitsch from Presley’s recent self-recorded Family Perfume collection was obliterated onstage by amped-up instruments and twin microphones that rendered Presley’s voice another mid-pitch blur of echoing fuzz. When Segall himself made a cameo appearance as guitarist No. 3 on one early track, the crowd’s animal reaction was a chaotic augury of the Ty-phoon soon to come.
Though the Webster marquee billed the headliner as “Ty Segall and White Fence,” (aka “The Hair”) Presley only joined his fellow Pacific coast fret-punisher for two songs from the recent Hair collaboration. Album opener “Time” and three-chord meltdown “Scissor People” received extra doses of pedal heaviness and noise-spaz freakout time, but only amounted to about 10 minutes of material before Presley scampered into the wings, not to be seen again. (Ty would eventually receive backup vocal support from brave/blotto audience members who ventured up to and subsequently belly flopped off the stage edge.)
With nearly an hour to kill and no song in his prolific arsenal ranging longer than two or three minutes, Ty and his three-piece crew zig-zagged through a good 20 selections scattered across his career plus teasers from his upcoming Slaughterhouse LP (Spoiler: It’s gonna rock), while the crowd expressed its approval in puffs, shrieks and dives. “This is our best show ever,” Ty said at one point with a gasp. Whether he was pandering or being genuine was immaterial. If the audience’s roof-rattling cheers were any indication, truer words were never spoken on a Wednesday at midnight.
All photos by Adela Loconte.