RICKSHAW THEATRE, OCTOBER 16, 2013
San Francisco garage/psych quartet Thee Oh Sees are a weird band. This is undeniable. From the early days of experimental tapes, to frontman John Dwyer’s eccentric personality in interviews, to their cartoon-meets-horror-film album covers, the band has always had a penchant for the strange. Their show at the Rickshaw certainly showed off this well-publicized strange side, but it also exhibited another side of the band — that they are insanely talented musicians and an incredibly tight-knit live band.
Taking the stage in a ripped T-shirt, short shorts, and what is quite possibly the worst haircut in rock ‘n’ roll, Dwyer picked up his guitar, said “Thank you Vancouver!” and ripped straight into “I Come From The Mountain,” off of 2013’s excellent Floating Coffin. From this moment right until the end of the show, the crowd was 100 per cent with the band on the journey they were taking us on.
After playing a few songs it became obvious the band had little interest in playing their songs exactly as they are on the album. The riffs, the vocals, the structure and all that jazz are still there, but live they have a tendency to stretch parts out and jam them. This may sound like it could be terrible, but for Thee Oh Sees, these sections are a remarkable success. Dwyer and company have somehow found a way to tap into the hypnotic repetitiveness of krautrock and infused it with the energy of garage and punk, creating an incredible, and strange, live dynamic.
Speaking of strange, did I mention the crowd at this show? Definitely one of the strangest and funniest around. In the beer- and sweat-soaked pit one could see: enough coloured hair to complete the rainbow, a girl twerking (seriously), a guy who fully committed to doing the robot the entire performance and didn’t break character once, and more. Then on top of that there was the frantic jumping and crowd surfing one would expect. Being in the crowd was a fun enough experience on its own.
Dwyer didn’t say much to the crowd, but he didn’t have to. His weird facial expressions and trademark smile said more than words ever could. By the end of the show, I think it is pretty safe to say the entire crowd was ready to go home, pick up a guitar and begin their preparations on their own weirdo guitar-rock outfit.
By Joshua Erickson
Photo by Tiina Liimu