Thee Oh Sees Chase Away Cold Weather at The Bowery Ballroom

November 19th, 2014

Thee Oh Sees – The Bowery Ballroom – November 18, 2014

The reasons to stay home last night were there for the taking: It was the first “damn, it’s cold outside!” night of the season, late start on a Tuesday night, etc. No one’s blaming you if you skipped out on the Thee Oh Sees at The Bowery Ballroom. But John Dwyer and his bandmates are a center of gravity, and judging from the jubilant packed house, few, if any, were able to withstand its irresistible pull. Opening with “Tunnel Time,” off last year’s Floating Coffin, Dwyer was a lesson in classic physics—pure kinetic energy, object-in-motion-tends-to-stay-in-motion conservation of angular momentum—and pretty much kept it up the entire set. The band mixed songs off their newest album, Drop, with plenty of older barn burners, but it wasn’t so important which tunes they played as how they played them, and how they played them was like a powder keg with a very short fuse.

Here’s what you don’t get at a Thee Oh Sees show: fancy lights, digital projections or witty banter … or any banter for that matter. They pretty much employed the Bowery’s basic lights, eschewing the modern color palettes and designs available and sticking mostly to red, yellow and blue. This was primary-color rock, stripped down to its bare essentials: guitar, bass and drums operating as a single unit, a shot of punk adrenaline with a garage-psych chaser. Which isn’t to say that Dwyer’s music is simple. Songs were stretched out just long enough, Tim Hellman on bass and Nick Murray on drums matching his blistering, never self-indulgent guitar with propulsive melodic rhythm.

On some songs Dwyer used a 12-string guitar to add a little flavor, other times playing a few riffs through a small synth to good effect, but mostly he was pounding away at his guitar, half singing/half shouting his lyrics, everything punctuated by one big Sans Serif exclamation point, if not two or three of them. The crowd kept up with the band, bouncing and moshing with the occasional stage diver taking a ride on the bubbling audience. It was hard to not get sucked into the high-energy fun. For all their great studio tracks, Thee Oh Sees proved that they are best experienced live in the raw and that this was live music in its purest, distilled form … well worth getting off the couch. —A. Stein |

(Thee Oh Sees play Warsaw on Friday.)