Tonight, I'll get to watch Ty Segall and the Freedom Band perform this very album, after the main course of the evening, a showcase of Segall’s latest work called First Taste, an album that had kept a place on the top of my music stack for the past month. A collection of diverse tracks that build upon an impressive catalogue that Segall has been cranking out at a rate that would make most professional recording musicians' heads spin, each proving in a unique way way Segall should be on every rock purist’s radar.
I've stayed in the hostels before. In places like Aspen or India, but never one that was an Airbnb... In downtown Los Angeles... In something that might be called ghetto...
This was something that might be called a ghetto...
I won't specify the area, but it seemed a little rough to say the least. I parked my car and approached the gate. I entered the code and the door swung open. A girl with a bad haircut sat on the front porch of the white house with peeling paint. A row of a dozen tattered shoes lined the wall. The girl was drinking something in a brown paper bag. When she saw me, she seemed to fidget with her drink, as if she thought she might put it out of sight somewhere else but, having nowhere to relocate it, she simply sat with it in her hand.
“This the Airbnb?” I asked. I don't know why. I knew that it was. I just put in the code to get through the gate.
“Yep,” she replied.
“Cool,” I said.
I went inside and looked around. The blinds were pulled down. It was dark. Two guys sat on sofas in the living room, cell phones in hand. A series of “Yo’s” were initiated and I cautiously made my way to my designated room where I found another person's belongings sprawled out across my bed. I return my keys to the lockbox, canceled my reservation, and walked back to my car. I drove down to the venue directly, resolving to find another place to stay or make the drive back home at the conclusion of the show.
Like at the Shakey Graves concert I photographed recently, I was one of the first of a dozen listeners at the door. The Teragram Ballroom was a near-perfect size. My tickets were waiting for me at the call booth, which had been arranged by Pitch Perfect PR in Chicago for the nights event (a big thanks to their team). I received my wristband and made my way to the front of the stage.
While waiting for the opening act to start, I spoke with someone behind me. He had come from Vancouver on several recent occasions to watch Ty Segall perform. He had worked in the music industry himself a time, mentioning a certain record company he had worked with. The room was beginning to get loud and my head gently throbbed from a low-grade sickness I was overcoming. The weather in Southern California had shifted on two occasions this week and my sinuses were busted pipes and my brain felt like an overexerted balloon. A little bundle of pressure crowded my right inner ear. In truth I forgot the gentleman's name, but he shared with me that Segall’s newly recorded, First Taste was created without the use of a single guitar. I had to stop and think on that. I knew that the album utilized a number of interesting instruments, but surely I remembered tracks with the familiar six-string involved.
“Really?” I finally said. “Are you sure.”
He said it wasn't what I thought. There were double basses, dueling drum kits, keyboards, saxophones, flutes, strings, a mandolin, and some type of Greek or Japanese instruments, but no electric guitars. I made a mental note to investigate the album's production further. Toward the end of the night, I would have to abandon my front stage post when the band's performance of Emotional Mugger caused frequent and mosh pits and the thunder of amplifiers began to take a toll on my already drumming head. For these reasons I was unable to bid safe travels to the industry man whom I had spoken with.
Should the gentleman from Vancouver be reading this now, drop me a line.
After a bizarre duo opening act who slowed down and beat to death five innocent Beatles songs, Ty Segall and the Freedom Band came to the stage.
All the members of the Freedom Band (including Emmett Kelly, Mikal Cronin, Charles Moothart and Ben Boye, among others) showed an impressive level of talent, often switching basses for mandolins, keyboards for saxophones, and so on.
The band played hard and heavy through great album tracks like the beautifully harmonic “Ice Plant” with the refrain “Let your love rain down on me,” that drives into your head like a river side hymnal. It takes the listener down Abbey Road, and is a great example of the influences there, especially the English piano changeover recorded on the album.
“I Worship the Dog” for some reason sticks out as an album highlight for me. Here at the venue, I see the crowd jump with similar enthusiasm, as the mass of people head-bang to a song that has a reoccurring hum of what sounds like a kazoo, with a close out of space-aged flutes abruptly torn to pieces by the chords of an old church organ.
More accessible and subdued tracks like “The Arms” and the incredible catchy “I Sing Them” help break up the loud and the weird, while also showcasing Segall’s tight songwriting sensibilities. Even when he chooses to let loose an assault of off note flutes in the middle of a verse, I can't help but feel that such a decision works favorably for what the artist is going for.
“When I Met My Parents part 3” is more ambient echo chamber to take the audience to new heights. “Whatever” and “Radio” also touch on Segall's psychedelic vibes. Songs that stretch and breathe and put the listener into those far out head spaces. “Self-Esteem” is an unsteady drunken walk down a dark, spiraling staircase. The listener is going along, not sure what's coming next, and then the carpet is ripped out from under him. You regain footing for a time, but then you’re headlong down the staircase and discover it's just an infinite funnel falling into a black hole.
“Lone Cowboys” perfectly concludes the set, taking the audience on a slow ride through classic Western nostalgia, before erupting into a dance worthy tempo where Segall puts forth lyrics that connect my heart to feelings of longing to escape to a more subdued existence, which is ironic given the overall mostly fast and heavy album track list. It's a smart move the closes out the collective work and leaves the listener feeling satisfied.
No sooner does the band conclude their set do they begin the first track from Emotional Mugger. I stay to hear my favorite songs, including “California Hills”, “Emotional Mugger”, “Breakfast Eggs”, and “Diversion”, before the mosh pits become too bothersome, as my camera makes several close calls with the stage in front of me as I am shoved from behind. At this point, I am still trying to convince myself that I'm not going deaf and the sinus pressure in my head is just dopamine pulsing through my brain, but I decide to call it quits and slide out between people as the band pauses momentarily between tunes.
Thanks for reading! If you're at Ty Segall fan please leave a comment below or on social media. Let me know what your favorite album is! If you enjoyed this post please like or share. To find out more about Ty Segall and his upcoming shows click here to visit his website.