I arrive at the Electric Ballroom to see Ty Segall on a cold dark night, edging out of a dangerous bout of pneumonia. The last time I saw him play in London I was sick with flu. This is either a case of lousy timing, healthwise, or perfect timing; because these gigs fall just as I need the kind of healing you can only get from good rock ‘n’ roll.
I edge on up to the balcony and find the perfect protected spot. I have paid my mosh pit dues, now it’s about ensuring the best view point. Swathes of male denim and hipster energy swirls below. Just as I take my seat, a cowboy roadie named Johnny Longhorn shrouds the crowd with buckets of silver glitter he calls stardust and announces that this is the last gig before Ty’s newly incarnated Manipulator Band “head into the black hole”. From darkness into the shimmering light walks Ty and his band ready to rock. The first chords of loud distorted electrified guitar hit the cavity of my raw lungs, sending me into surrender.
Ty raises his guitar over his head and overdrives his amp with distorted fuzz bliss, the title track off the recent album Manipulator kicking off the mosh. Crowd surfing insanity ensues as Ty throws the rider of bread, meat, cheese and fruit into the crowd. Was this a genuine gesture of sharing and caring or ritual of renewal to shed the glories of UK cuisine in anticipation of their USA return? 22 songs later, more than half from the new album, Ty fills the space with a continuous chant, screaming over and over into drone, “YES! NO! YES! NO!! LOOK AT ME !!!! DONT LOOK AT ME!!!” acting out a genuine Gemini dilemma, it would seem. Or has the prodigy begun to believe the too right hype of his status as guitar fuzz slay god? Electrified energy and brilliance all true. But no matter how rockin’, this gig was different. Ty’s shout out for “anyone who knew Billy Childish” seemed more like a quest for cred than genuflection. Why Ty why? You ooze cred. Yet has all the adulation grazed your young mans psyche and in true punk rock spirit do you feel “stupid and contagious”? Was this nights performance ego shed or guitar shred? I know if the audience is rocking you are doing something right. The entire band brought the house down. But my recent illness and isolation had granted me the pomposity to claim extrasensory perception. Ty rocks. But something was different . Ty was different. Maybe I witnessed the very cusp and artistic death that fuels Ty’s constant transformation into new musical worlds. As Longhorn says, we are stardust. I can’t wait to see what music Ty brings back with him next time from the black hole.