Once (three years ago) I broke my wrist at a Thee Oh Sees show, and despite the gnawing pain from my misshapen wrist, I stayed to watch the rest of the set.
You see, you just don’t leave a Thee Oh Sees show early. It is a band you experience, because it’s not that often that you get the chance to see a band that enjoys what it’s doing quite so much, and may just want to pull you into the hectic fun.
My most recent encounter with Thee Oh Sees was last Thursday at the Chapel; the band was kicking off its sold-out, three-night residency with spooky electronic act Fryborg, proto-punk worshippers OBN III‘s and precise psych-rock band the Blind Shake.
Fryborg started as people began to file in to the Mission venue. A one-man act, Fryborg tinkered away on various sound boards with his back turned to the audience. Haunting, Halloween-like imagery was projected on to a screen behind the stage while he did his best to conjure up beats for the better part of 30 minutes. It was either hit-or-miss with the audience (as is with most acts of Fryborg’s ilk), with people either nodding along to the music or hitting the bar.
Next up was OBN III’s. The Austin, Texas based band is Stooges worship in the best way possible. The five-person outfit created a wall of sound that enveloped the audience. It was loud, dirty, and leaning on the edge of proto-punk. The frontperson and namesake of the band, Orville Bateman Neeley III, took notes from Iggy Pop with a confrontational stage manner, and straight-up pissy demeanor. The band shredded through its set with great voracity, and the audience ate it up.
Then a trio of bald men graced the stage. One person from the audience thought it was a crew setting up for Thee Oh Sees. But alas, it was not! It was the Blind Shake, a Minneapolis-based group that serves up intricate psych rock for all ages. Though the Blind Shake airs on the noisy side, that doesn’t stop it from cranking out songs with intense, military-like precision. Also of note: the band released a full-length on Castle Face Records this fall, dubbed Key To a False Door, which is worth checking out.
Finally San Francisco locals, Thee Oh Sees graced the stage. If one gazed upon the crowd-goers surrounding the stage, he or she would find that the people in attendance were nothing short of starry-eyed as the band dutifully prepared for its performance.
Now, accurately describing what a Thee Oh Sees show is like describing colors to a person who has never seen before. (Though I digress.) While I have seen the group numerous times by this point, there is something that always brings me back. It’s likely the effort that the band puts into its sets, and the kinetic energy it exudes that’s nothing less than infectious.
While the Thee Oh Sees played a combination of old songs and new tracks off newest release, Floating Coffin (Castle Face Records, 2013), a good portion of the audience danced and pogoed with the best of them.