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Thee Oh Sees at the Ukrainian Cultural Center, Sunday, October 30th, 2011

I don't know how many bands I have seen this year which are cultivating this garage 60s-surf-rock-revival sound, a plethora of bands! You can easily get lost in this ocean of projects when you plunge in it, but once you are drown in this sound, you can actually begin to see the different shades of waves, and Thee Oh Sees seem to have found their distinctive sound, immediately identifiable.

But before the punked out surf-psychedelic-garage-rock sound, what you immediately notice at a Thee Oh Sees’ show, is the festive atmosphere, the I-am-here-to-have-fun attitude of the crowd. A carefree ambiance had invaded the Ukrainian Cultural Center where the FYF fest organizes so many shows now; it was where Arcade Fire had done their secret-booked-at-the-last-minute show last February, and it was my first time in the place. It was Halloween eve and everybody was dressed up for the occasion, which was suiting quite perfectly this five-piece band of jovial San Francisco rockers, fronted by prolific musician John Dwyer.

Very soon, the fully packed room was making a large unique head banging at the wild rhythms of the surf-turned-psychedelic guitar, the pounding drums and the frenetic and electric moves of Dwyer. Thee Oh Sees were the fourth band of the night, so of course, most people were already drunk and excited, but the crowd surfing began at the first song, and there was not a dull moment starting from this.

Dwyer looked like a hippie warrior, in shorts and tattoos, just coming back from the beach, dancing and pointing his guitar like a gun, while the music was alternating between these long moments of psychedelic distortions with beat rhythms and these outbursts of energetic cacophony producing little earthquakes on stage.

It was happy-sunny music, riot music, trance music, drug music, exuberant-restless music, accelerated-retro-pop, knock-your-head-on-the-stage-till-your forehead-bleed music, with synth and vocal harmonies lost in the chaos.

There were slow psychedelic drones, some fast repetitive melodies spiced up by Dwyer’s hiccup-high-pitch vocals, which brought the crowd close to a sweaty ecstasy stage. At that point, I was sitting on the left side of the stage, avoiding the legs in the air and the stage divers, but everyone, me included, was having a very fun time.

What did they play? ‘Meat Step Lively’, ‘I was denied’, and many many others, they had no setlist and they are so prolific! After all they are a band which released two LPs, yes two, this year. Their ‘Carrion Crawler/The Dream’, due for November 15th, will follow their ‘Castlemania’ released earlier this year, and that will be their 13th album, without counting the numerous EPs, 7 inch…!!

They disappeared but had to come back for a two-song encore, people would not let them go… at the end, there were a few casualties, some Halloween costumes not so fresh anymore, tons of empty beer cans on the floor, and still an echoing reverb in the air.

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