Thee Oh Sees in a Sweat-Lodge Hallucination of Garage-Rock Glory

November 14th, 2016

Thee Oh Sees – The Bowery Ballroom – November 11, 2016

Thee Oh Sees – The Bowery Ballroom – November 11, 2016
Catharsis? Many people were looking for an emotional release at the end of last week, and the sacred haven of a rock club was as good a place as any to find it. As if by fate, Thee Oh Sees were in town for three sold-out performances, and their show on Friday night at The Bowery Ballroom was the kind of shared experience that can renew your faith a little bit, even if it’s only for one night. John Dwyer took the stage with his band and offered, “Good luck the next four years,” before kicking off a set filled with flashes of anger and euphoria. Thee Oh Sees, the band with an extra e in their name, also bring a little bit extra to their live show, with one extra drummer, Dwyer backed by seemingly one too many amplifiers and the band as a whole delivering an extra bit of oomph into every morsel of their set, but, as always, it ended up being the perfect amount.

The performance covered Dwyer’s extensive and constantly growing and evolving repertoire, although it felt less about which songs were played and more about that they just kept coming without rest. With those two drum kits front and center—both literally onstage and musically—offering a constant pummeling of ready-to-explode rhythmic energy, there was little for the audience to do but relent to the music. Barely one song in, the show felt like a communal experience, some friends, mostly strangers. No matter how you tried, if you were on the floor, you were making contact with other like-minded human beings. By the time Thee Oh Sees busted into the crowd-pleasing rage of “Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster” early on, there was real physical contact: Whether you were slamming your body into others in front of the stage or just bumping into the guy next to you as you each contorted and flailed, song after song, room-piercing guitar riff after guitar riff.

That contact, the flesh and blood of the humans around you, heightened the energy in the room. Watching Thee Oh Sees channel all of that felt somehow biological: the sweat of the musicians, the pure kinetics of the nonstop drummers, the limits to just how hard you can flail your head back and forth in ecstatic dancing before you get dizzy, the tingling hairs on the back of your neck when Dwyer finally slowed it down for the psych-prog of “Sticky Hulks.” The set ended with an older piece, possibly “Warm Slime,” what he promised to be a “long song” ended up being a 25-minute sweat-lodge hallucination of garage-rock glory. Dwyer seemed oblivious to the outside world and took the rest of us with him. Bouncing from one cathartic melody to the next, it just kept going as if to make sure that everyone there had enough to get to that deep-inside place before walking out the doors to face the world again. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Silvia Saponaro |