The Oh Sees Light a FireOctober 9th, 2009
The Oh Sees – Mercury Lounge – October 8, 2009
Thee Oh Sees built a bonfire last night at Mercury Lounge—but no bonfire begins that way. It takes some tending to and plenty of ready-to-burn wood. On this occasion, the wood was the crowd, packed in and rubbing elbows. At the get-go, things were loud and blazing. The music was spooky surf music, like someone had taken happy melodies and locked them in some minor-key dungeon. Even the “la la las” of one of the first tunes had a sinister air. There is no bassist in the band. Instead a second guitarist holds down those duties, hanging low on the neck of his guitar, providing a droning low-end strum. The two- and three-chords rage rock was punctuated mostly by the Stewart Copeland-esque drumming, which provided variation via tempo changes and rhythmic manipulations. Frontman John Dwyer had a crazy energy in the he-knows-he’s-crazy-and-he-knows-you-know-too kind of way, running his vocals and guitar through plenty of echo and reverb with a Leaning Tower of Pisa stack of lo-fi amps behind him and the microphone deep inside his mouth.
This energy piqued the crowd and a bit of head bobbing evolved into some moshing in front of the stage. The kindling was lit and the Oh Sees upped the energy even more, spreading things out with more developed songs and some melodic complexity. Through some reverse-osmosis effect, the dudes who wanted to slam themselves against each other floated toward the stage while those who had no desire to be bumped into or spilled upon moved back—I stood somewhere in between—and the smoking twigs became a full-fledged campfire. For the final tune, the drummer from opener the Fresh & Onlys joined in, quickly assembling a second kit at the front of the stage, dumping a gallon of gasoline on an already healthy flame and, voilà, bonfire. —A. Stein