Ty Segall’s 9:30 Club Show And The Triumph Of Willful Perversity

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It’s a little perverse when a brilliant musician, whose typically raw but highly polished albums feature him playing every single instrument, turns over the playing to a band of aces.  At this point in his career, though, Ty Segall knows exactly what he’s doing: his perversity is willful.

Ty is a once-in-a-generation inspiration, a revivalist of real rock’n’roll who has an impact on the entire West Coast punk rock environment, but he’s a primitive, right, so it’s okay if we don’t delve too deeply into the meaning of his baby’n’umbilical-chord persona with which he came out flogging his new album, Emotional Mugger.  It’s okay if we don’t accord him the depth of a Bowie, or even a Stephen Colbert, when he abandons the guitar and instead plays a character on the album and stage.  Let’s take this at the level at which we have always viewed him: pure rock’n’roll power, a character like Iggy Pop is a character, not on the level of Ziggy Stardust.

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The Muggers picked our pockets and left us bowled over on the floor, with Evan Burrows of Wand creating his own little breeder reactor on the drum kit, his fellow bandmate Cory Hanson filling in on synth and guitar, and King Tuff, looking like he’d just stepped off of a Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band photo shoot, laying down the leads that heretofore Charles Moothart (whose CFM was an amazing opening act), or Ty himself would have played.  Not having to play guitar left Segall able to tiptoe to the edge of the crowd, inspiring all manner of surfers, including one girl who safely was carried back to the sound booth, returning to the stage with a game face and no doubt minor bruises.

Ty 2016 TFrenzy-3The last time Ty hit the 9:30 Club stage, he was touring behind his most commercial album ever, Manipulator, which had Black Keys hooks with a sharkskin sheen.  Emotional Mugger is at once as ambitious as Manipulator but also deliberately repellant and obscure, but live — and with this stellar band backing him, baby head and all — the tornado force of the music was nothing less than fun.

Ty 2016 TFrenzy-6We don’t really pretend to know why, midway through the set, he went back into character with the baby head and all, just that by the time he played “Candy Sam,”the crowd would have followed him to pillage all the chocolate shops on U Street.

Ty 2016-2When he’d completed the full rendition of Emotional Mugger and we heard the familiar chords of “Thank God For Sinners” from Twins, still his best album, it was great to have him shed the mask, ditch the character, and get back to Ty Segall, the tyro of his age.  “Manipulator” and “Feel” from his last real album were a reminder of what this guy can do, especially when a drummer like Evan Burrows is banging a gong.  In this miserable political year we’ve witnessed one guy with blonde hair get crowds to respond to his manipulations in an ugly manner.  Great it was last night to see another guy with blonde hair whip a crowd into a frenzy with the benignity of the cathartic arts.

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