Prolific rocker Ty Segall recently took up residence in New York City for a series of shows, exchanging his usual stomp-fest, high-energy tinged performances for a paired down, mellow acoustic vibe…
by: Michael Shields and Chris Thompson
To say that Ty Segall is a prolific musician is a massive understatement. The word fertile feels more apropos. Or flourishing. The twenty-seven year old singer, songwriter, guitarist and drummer has released an impressive eight albums since 2008 and shows no signs of slowing down. His albums are persistently released to rave reviews, and his creative tendencies have lead to collaborations with artists such as Mikal Cronin and bands like White Fence, and has sparked the formation of multiple bands, including Fuzz, The Traditional Fools, Epsilons, Party Fowl, Sic Alps, The Perverts and The Ty Segall Band. When questioned about his vision for 2012s monster of an album Twins, Segall stated, “I want to throw people off. I want to make a really heavy record: evil, evil space rock. Put a little Satan in space and you got the sound.” So when the editors at Across the Margin learned that Segall would be performing a string of acoustic shows through New York City, including two shows in the same night, they needed to be involved, if nothing else, just to see what’s currently bouncing about Segall’s rich, overactive mind.
There are those that say that a prolific rock guitarist like Ty Segall should never put down the electric. Why would he? But those that cling to this narrow viewpoint, have obviously never seen Ty Segall rock a crowd without the benefit of electric amplification. Turning down the reverb (“my crutch,” he joked at the Mercury Lounge during the third and final night of the NYC acoustic run) allows one to truly comprehend Segall’s genius. His vocal ableness and range, as well as the nuance of his brainy musical arrangements are readily discernible when the guitar isn’t plugged in. And there will always be something so special about die-hard fans being given the opportunity to experience an intimate and laid back evening with their favorite artists. This is what Ty Segall’s three night, four show New York City acoustic mini-tour was all about, and it all began Wednesday night at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn.
It’s no secret to Ty Segall’s fanbase that he is a huge Neil Young fan, a fact confirmed by the tattoo in his honor on Segall’s right arm. And while Wednesday evening’s sold out performance (all four shows sold-out the day tickets were released) to kickoff the tour pulled heavily from Segall’s 2014 Manipulator, as well as a few tracks from 2015s Mr. Face EP, the highlight of the evening was a cover of Neil Young’s “For the Turnstiles.” Echoing perfectly the cadence and melody of one of Young’s most underrated gems, Segall’s ode to a man who has so deeply inspired him fit in aptly with his classics like “Crazy,” “The Faker,” and “Sleeper.” The hour-long acoustic set was a compelling start to the run, and was heightened by the added bonus of being bookended by two performances by the King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard. The first set was straight acoustic, in theme with the evenings atmosphere, but after Segall left the stage, the seven-piece Australian psychedelic garage rock band treated the crowd to an energizing and hallucinatory capper to the evening. The table was set now set. Ty was in town. One down. Three to go.
As was the case for the entire run, the next evening’s performance, which took place at the Bell House in Brooklyn, found Segall joined for the meat of his set by Cory Hanson from Wand. Hanson is not only one hell of a guitarist, but one whose added vocals melded seamlessly with Segall’s to create a soaring wave of psychotropic harmonies. Segall and Hanson work incredibly well together, and in front of a mostly muted and restrained crowd, they went to work, rolling through numerous Segall’s classics, a Devo cover, and a mainstay for the three-night run, their take on Spinal Tap’s “Give Me Some Money.” Segall was playful all evening, laughing off missteps and cheerfully bantering with the subdued crowd, which finally sparked to life to the opening notes of “The Feel” off Manipulator, where the crowd sang in unison with Segall, “Walk Down the Streets / Feel the freaks / They are your family now / They are your family now.”
But by Friday night, it was time for the main event. Two shows. Two boroughs. One night. With the early show taking place at New York City’s legendary Mercury Lounge and the late show closing down the run at Brooklyn’s fledgling music venue/record store Rough Trade just a few hours later. This was the kind of night custom-made for those who consider themselves true fans of Segall’s unique sonic assault.
While it is true that Segall has an impressive back catalog of songs at his disposal to delight his fans with acoustic interpretations, it doesn’t mean he didn’t have a few new ditties up his sleeve. Opening Mercury Lounge’s early show, Segall played a new song called “Squealer” that he described as “….a song about a situation….a Mayor, in an office and she’s female and she has an assistant. And the assistants really worried about the end of the world. And the Mayor just says: ‘It’s okay, just lie with me.” The description alone hints at the playfulness present in a lot of Segall’s music and as the heavy, acoustic strumming of the song progressed, we learned that the Mayor’s assistant’s name is Candy, as Segall sings the song’s chorus, “Candy, I want your Candy.” It was a short little song about distraction and not getting caught up in the nonsense and chaos of the greater world and it served as a fun, uptempo way to kick off the night and set-up the playfulness of the acoustic set that was to follow.
Segall’s Mercury Lounge set in addition featured another new track which he originally proclaimed was about “a tree growing inside of an airplane.” He later relented, admitting, “I lied. It’s a love song.” The night concluded with a pair of songs off 2011s Goodbye Bread. The first, the whimsical “Comfortable Home (A True Story)” which features tongue in cheek lyrics like, “She says she wants to buy a couch / I said, why do we have to buy a couch.” Segall has a way of writing about the simpler things that we can all relate to within our lives. His songs aren’t just about love. They are often about the everyday, lackluster experiences we all have and Segall’s talents lie in writing the soundtrack to these moments. The song played well within the intimate confines of Mercury Lounge and a more fitting song for an acoustic setting we could not think of. Closing the show with the title track from Goodbye Bread, the melodic and wholly soothing ballad, sent more than a few of those in attendance off to Brooklyn with ear to ear smiles, and a headful of acoustic psychedelia. It was time for the final performance of the run, the late show at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade, which proved to be the most boisterous of the bunch.
Taking the stage at a few minutes past midnight, an amped up – and presumably well-lubricated – crowd greeted Segall with generous applause, which he in turn acknowledged with an extended set featuring the only encore of the run. The intensity was turned up some, as an extended Spinal Tap bit following “Gimme Some Money” highlighted the intimacy and the give and take between fans and artist during the four shows. Harnessing all the energy he had left, and with Cory Hansen saving, too, his best for last, the duo delighted the crowd with extended, impassioned solos. Segall let it all hang out at Rough Trade, pushing the definition of what an acoustic show can be, and his performance left the crowd finally, not wanting more, fully satisfied with the flood of songs that exemplified how truly talented Ty Segall is. It was an impressive feat, pulling off two shows in one night, especially in light of the fact that they were spread out across two boroughs, but it was not an undertaking that seemed at all out his reach. He’s just that good.
While far from your typical evening with Ty Segall, where crowd surfers roll across the audience enduringly, and there isn’t a soul in the building not thrashing their head to every fierce guitar lick, these four acoustic shows felt like a moment out of time for Ty Segall. A chance for him to roll out selections from his vast musical catalog in an altogether novel configuration, paired with a few new tracks fresh out of the box. He more than succeeded in making it known that his unique brand of thumping psychedelia still shines when stripped down to just the basics. That when all the distortion and reverb, fuzz and noise are pulled away, and what’s left is just the heart of the music, it sounds just as good, because that center, that core, is where the soul of Ty Segall truly resides.