There was a tangible sense of excitement from the crowds loitering outside the Danforth Music Hall on Friday, March 4, while people debated what songs were likely to be played on stage shortly and pedestrians navigated the sidewalk crowded by young people finishing up their last cigarettes. Long hailed as one of the best live music venues in the city, the Danforth Music Hall has the advantage of being able to accommodate a large number of people in a somewhat intimate setting (especially compared to huge arenas like the Rogers Centre). We arrived at the venue just in the nick of time, as the stage was being set up for the headlining band, Ty Segall & the Muggers.
Headed by the 28 year old Laguna Beach native Ty Garrett Segall and featuring talents like Mikal Cronin, Cory Hanson, Emmet Kelly, Evan Burrows and Kyle Thomas, Ty Segall & the Muggers is an ensemble band of sorts. However, there is no denying that Ty Segall is the star of this show: The San Francisco native’s discography boasts 8 solo albums, numerous EPs and countless singles. With a sound deeply rooted in the San Fran garage and indie rock scene yet evolves with each subsequent album release, Ty Segall is arguably one of the most prolific artists of this generation. His debut solo album is a garage rock masterpiece that has been described as having the “timeless, impudently rowdy energy of a cement basement dance-off”. Each subsequent Ty Segall album has introduced us to a different sound and musical direction, delivering something new and exciting.
His latest project, “Emotional Mugger”, which seems to go a long way in fulfilling Ty’s promise of one day producing a sound that is “evil, evil space rock”, is another stand-out in Segall’s ever-changing catalogue. Originally sent out on a VHS tape to pitchfork with a note attached that described emotional mugging as “A psychoanalytic subject to subject exchange formed as a response to our hyper-digital sexual landscape”, this new album is a foray into a new sound by Segall. Featuring a heavy psychedelic influence combined with trippy synths, Emotional Mugger is more rough, raw and groovy than anything we’ve heard from Ty Segall so far. Soulful, mellow Goodbye Bread, it ain’t. It is perhaps, as others have argued, an attempt to “deconstruct whatever’s comfortable”.
And that it does.
As 9 O’clock passed and the band still hadn’t shown up on stage, the excitement was turning vocal, with sporadic shouts from the crowd increasing in frequency as the lights started to flicker and confetti steadily rained on the audience. Then everything happened all at once. The brief albeit confusing Italian introduction ushering members of the band on stage was drowned out as Ty Segall himself appeared wearing a navy blue mechanic uniform and the now familiar rubber baby mask of his alter ego “Sloppo” and dived right into Squealer, the title track from Emotional Mugger. The whole set was like a basement show on steroids as people jumped, screamed and moshed till the only safe place to watch the show from was a good 10 feet away from the centre of the stage. Even the usually strict security at the Danforth was loose as an endless parade of people got on stage, took bows, gave Ty a hug and occasionally commandeered the mike before jumping right off the stage to crowdsurf. Sometimes this process was helped along by Ty himself, who made occasional commentary like “I don’t like that guy” or even pushed people off the stage onto the crowd. Ty Segall maintained his stellar vocals while the band played song after song off the new album and still managed to jump around like a maniac, his energy drawing the rowdy crowd in the centre to him like some sort of musical gravitational pull. It was like witnessing a human tide controlled by Ty’s fingers, being pulled and pushed to whatever side of the stage he happened to be standing on.
Deconstructing the comfortable was never more apparent than when Ty donned the rubber baby mask on again for a performance of Baby Big Man (I Want a Mommy). If the crowd’s energy was high before, it was absolutely through the roof when Ty started singing, squealing and screaming “MOMMY?!”. This was obviously a crowd favourite even before he took out the red rope/whip and started dangling it in the middle of the crowd. There is nothing quite like the sight of a 28 year old man in an infant rubber mask dangling his metaphorical umbilical cord from stage while screaming for his mommy and being greeted with loud cheers of approval. But such is the magic of Ty Segall.
A couple of crowd favourites from Ty’s older discography leading up to an absolutely high-energy encore featuring 3 songs was the perfect end to a great show. The most surprising aspect of the show was that despite the appearance of “Sloppo” and the nightmare-inducing rubber mask, the show never devolved to a gimmicky set. Even the choppy drums, trippy synthesizers and rough melodies came across better live than they did on the album. Helped along with his mega talented backing band, Ty sang, jumped and entertained the whole night through. Experience tells me that Emotional Mugger is just another experiment in Ty Segall’s ever-expanding discography and will be one of a kind. Be that as it may, this album and more importantly the live show prove that there is very little Ty Segall cannot do well.
*All pictures courtesy of Emily Frost (@throwmethecello)