My neck hurts. It’s been 24 hours since seeing Thee Oh Sees electrify Rock City, and I have been left with a dull ache spanning the back of my head along the lengths of my shoulders, from some unceasing, high octane, good ol’ fashioned headbanging, and it feels great. Oh man, what a gig. The Californian psych rock four-piece, currently on their eighteenth studio album and ninth line-up, played with relentless energy and fine musicianship to a crowd that had no option but to mosh for the entirety of the hour and a half set.
In their latest incarnation, assembled earlier this year, the band consists of full-time front man John Dwyer, bassist Tim Hellman and two drummers, Ryan Mutrinho and Paul Quattrone. It was the latter two who, despite their relatively recent additions to the band, stole the show. Their heavy beats continually drove the crowd into frenzied dance; when they played together, their synchronicity was visually mesmerising ,and when they played different lines over one another, the effect was a tremulous, frantic syncopation. This, combined with rumbling bass lines and Dwyer’s through-a-tin-can singing and whooping, created a wall of sound of infectiously high energy and appreciable musical complexity.
To keep a crowd jumping on a Tuesday night is no easy feat, but with a back catalogue as large and varied as theirs, the band made it look effortless. Their songs ranged from pure garage psychedelia, to twisted rock ‘n’ roll and ’60s bops, to hypnotic, unpredictable prog rock. This sonic diversity was reflected in the crowd, ranging from 16-year-old long-haired boys to leather-jacketed men in their fifties, all united with a common goal: to ruin their shoes, transfer immeasurable amounts of sweat all over one another and, of course, to have a severe but oddly satisfying next-day neck ache.
Music critic and radio DJ, Marc Riley once said, “I pity and envy anyone who has just discovered the unbeatable Thee Oh Sees because their back catalogue is a very deep treasure trove which to plunder from scratch could leave you penniless,” a statement with which any fan must wholeheartedly agree. I now also pity and envy anyone who hasn’t seen them live because that might just, maybe, be even better.
Thee Oh Sees will be touring around Europe until mid-August, playing London’s Field Day Festival on 3rd June and Green Man Festival on 19th August.