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Wily kickoff: Neon Reverb, Sept. 11, The Bunkhouse

John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees (photo by Bill Hughes)
John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees (photo by Bill Hughes)

People getting trashed on a Tuesday. Falling over on other attendees. Fighting. Pissing in the corner. Getting kicked out (girls, too). Tossing beer cans. Losing their shoes. Punching show promoters. And, my favorite, calling people faggots.

Neon Reverb is taking the gloves off.

Last night's festival kickoff was about as wily a night as this reporter has ever had at The Bunkhouse. Not only were the bands -- Bay Area garage rockers Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees -- pretty raucous themselves, but a good portion of the (impressively large) crowd was what-the-fuck unhinged. When indie rockers have made a typical night at the Double Down look like a library by comparison, they've accomplished something. Though I'm not handing out any medals to anyone except the bands, and also the Neon Reverb promoters who ran a tight ship when it came to the schedule

Ty Segall followed opener Tijuana Panthers after struggling with their sound equipment. The band, and we onlookers, would endure continued sounds problems for almost the entire duration of the 45-minute set. Luckily, Ty Segall isn't a spatial, intricate band. Rather, its raw, fuzzy but melodic aesthetic masked a good portion of the PA failures; imagine early Nirvana, but with a California jangle, as if weaned on Nuggets-era San Fran psych-rawk. It's neither sloppy nor primitive; each chord and riff seems where it should be atop the frequently uptempo -- but sometimes slower and sludgier, a la Black Sabbath -- foundation. It stirs the crowd in various ways. Some are dancing. Some are slam-dancing. And others are just slamming whatever or whoever is within their reach. Nonetheless, a good set, on par with the band's July 2011 showing inside Beauty Bar. "I'm going to the Golden Nugget, where I'm going to win back the $400 I lost last time!" announced singer/guitarist Segall. (What indie rocker outside of Win Butler has $400 to gamble?)  

Thee Oh Sees continued and even enlivened the garage/lo-fi hoedown with much more danceable, though experimental, songs. Its sound, lead by the eccentric, charismatic (and muscular) John Dwyer, can be more schizo, spacey (there's a keyboardist), feedback/reverb-drenched and  unpredictable than that of Segall, but it's all corralled into a churning, rolling concotion that can bring the boogie. I hear The Stooges. I hear the Velvets. I hear early Modest Mouse. (I swear I hear the psych-pop version of The Police's "Synchronicity.") It's oddly infectious, and it inspires a little more glee -- and, of course, a little more mayhem -- in the mass of humanity in front of the stage. It's a party out of bounds, a phrase that comes to mind mostly because of Dwyer's Fred Schneider-esque yelps. He's a funny guy. He implores any attendees with drugs to see him after the set, especially because "Ty Segall needs his heroin." He also dedicates a song to a Bunkhouse bartender who he said was mean to him. Which makes him no different than the rest of us, apparently. 

Here's to more musically rewarding Neon Reverb showcases this week ... and less hot-mess Neon Reverb audiences.