Ty Segall and The Muggers
Friday, Jan. 15
To get into Ty Segall's sold-out show at the Teragram on Friday night, you had to fight your way past a line of David Bowie fans snaking down 7th Street from the nearby Monty Bar, where one of about a zillion Bowie tributes was taking place. It was hard not to read some fitting symbolism into this. Over the course of his brief but insanely prolific career, Segall has dabbled in everything from heavy, Sabbath-y psych-rock to lo-fi garage-pop. But his bread and butter has long been a punky update on the glittering glam-rock of Ziggy-era Bowie and T. Rex, filled with Mick Ronson-esque riffs and fuzz-tone solos — usually played, with frenetic intensity, by Segall himself.
But making his first official L.A. appearance (not counting a secret warm-up gig the week before at Silverlake Lounge) with his new band, The Muggers, Segall seemed determined to shake off his old image as L.A.'s reigning glam-rock guitar hero and reinvent himself — which, you could argue, is a pretty Bowie-like gesture in and of itself, though his recalibrated stage persona is less Thin White Duke, more Iggy Pop.
Taking the stage as his new alter ago, Sloppo, in a creepy rubber baby mask, and not once picking up a guitar, Segall played the role of rock & roll bandleader to the hilt. He preened. He posed. He stared at a fixed point in space somewhere back beyond the sound board. At one point, near the end of the set, he abruptly collapsed, James Brown-like. He took his mic stand crowd-surfing and, several times, walked gingerly out onto the crowd's outstretched hands — an old Segall trick, perhaps originally borrowed from Iggy Pop, but now one of his signature moves, performed last night with a vacant, trance-like expression (he'd lost the baby mask by then), like a cult leader communing with his flock.
His performance was enigmatic, confrontational and affectionate, sometimes all in the same gesture. Saliva played a prominent role; at various times throughout the set, he literally drooled on audience members, or licked his palm before extending it into the crowd for a handshake or high five. His banter between songs seemed both purposeful and nonsensical. “This next song is about my newborn baby,” he announced, beforelaunching into “Diversion” off his latest album, Emotional Mugger. “He went to jail. Let's hear it for my baby! I hope you get out of jail soon.”
Minus the electronic noise jam “W.U.O.T.W.S.”, Segall and The Muggers played Emotional Mugger in its entirety, front to back. That might have disappointed fans hoping to hear more of Segall's vast and often excellent back catalog, but still made for a pretty entertaining show, especially when the band's guitarists, King Tuff's Kyle Thomas (wearing an orange jumpsuit, and whom Segall introduced as Tang — “He tastes as fresh as he looks!”) and The Cairo Gang's Emmett Kelly cut loose on riff-heavy tracks like “California Hills” and the album's slow-burn closer, “The Magazine.”
The rest of the band, a sort of Eastside psych-rock supergroup, was just as tight. Dressed like a refugee from an '80s ska band in shades and a tan trenchcoat, Wand's Cory Hanson occasionally added a third guitar to the ruckus, but mostly jammed on keys and synths, keeping a trippy backdrop of noise going even between songs. Wand's Evan Burrows provided heavy metal muscle on the drums and longtime Segall cohort Mikal Cronin held down the bass (and delivered a killer sax solo during the encore).
Segall's youthful fan base, out for the all-ages show in force, responded to the new material enthusiastically, stage-diving and crowd-surfing throughout the 90-minute set. But they saved their most raucous reactions for the show's second half, when the band delved into Segall's pre-Muggers material. The churning “Thank God for Sinners” from 2012's Twins, the title track from 2014's career-best Manipulator, and his 2011 foray into full-throttle head-banging, “Spiders” — sounding even more metallic with Kelly and King Tuff's twin guitar attack — were especially well-received.
“When you go home tonight,” Segall said before the band's final song, “I want you all to make babies. Make babies with someone you love. Or,” he added mischievously, “someone you don't care about.”
Anyone looking for a Bowie tribute — unless all that saliva was a sly reference to the “Changes” lyric, “And these children that you spit on” — went home disappointed. But in a way, in its very theatricality and weirdness, the entire set was a Bowie tribute, or at least a performance the head Spider From Mars would have approved of.