Insanity. That’s the word that sums up last week’s epic four-band gig with the Beets, Doomsday Student, Total Control and Thee Oh Sees at 285 Kent. Around 10 o’clock the Beets went on and ran through a quick set, transitioning from one song to the next without stopping. Behind the trio was an enormous 30-foot Beets banner, crafted by the fourth Beet, Matthew Volz. The banner had been meant for the band’s show with Pavement in Central Park a while back, but due to safety issues, the Beets couldn’t raise it. But last Thursday the banner was christened and let fly, the spacious 285 Kent being the only venue yet the band has played that could accommodate it. Volz was onstage too, manning the DIY light show, a light dimmer in each hand. (He’s still recovering from his broken arm—feel better, Matt.)
Doomsday Student and Total Control played a loud, raucous set each. This is when the moshing began. Doomsday Student’s singer, Eric Paul, made many ventures out into the crowd, pushing anyone within reach. The rest of the band followed his lead in wild gesticulations and overall stage presence. Total Control’s members were too hemmed in for such adventures. Their Sex Pistols-meets-Yeasayer music excited a crowd surge just in front of the stage. It was only a mere taste of what was to come.
As Thee Oh Sees set up, the Cars’ “Just What I Needed” played over the stereo. Frontman John Dwyer threw out a few bent notes along with this music, backing a vocal here and there. Already the crowd was feeding off of this, shouting, “I guess you’re just what I needed!” Thee Oh Sees play a kind of driving, hypnotic, surf-twang rock, based on loops and riffs that are tough as nails. Twin drum sets crashed and rolled in the center of the stage. Bass was supplied via Petey Dammit’s Fender Jazzmaster. Dwyer himself alternated between a 12- and six-string. Brigid Dawson added her voice to Dwyer’s in short, airy supply. She also played keys and knows her way around a tambourine.
Seeing Thee Oh Sees live is like war: Once the bullets start flying, all sense, reason and logic go right out the window as instinct takes over. But if war is hell then seeing Thee Oh Sees is heaven. The crowd became one massive wave, tossing people up and over like ragdolls. Everyone was covered in sweat, the air became oppressively humid, and the band was completely soaked after 10 minutes. The sea of people raged back and forth, knocking over an amplifier and then picking it back up. Photographers at the front were fighting the sway of the crowd, as they were the only ones trying to stay still. In the middle of a song Dammit put his hand to a few cameramen. “Get behind me!” he shouted, and they scrambled onto the stage and behind the band.
When it was all over the crowd was collectively spent. People stood out in the cold on Kent Avenue in just shirts, still hot from being inside. The evening wasn’t so much a show as an experience, like an old-fashioned revival meeting that left everyone in a trance.
Photos by Alex Eriksen.