Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Review: Ty Segall at the Mohawk

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Ramon Ramirez

Editor’s note: This article was originally published August 28, 2013

It was an acoustic performance of a mostly acoustic album that has been out for one week. Ty Segall’s fans moshed anyway. Outfitted on three white, Ikea-esque chairs set in front of two stacked Fender amps, Segall and three backing musicians packed the Mohawk for the second time this calendar year Tuesday.

The occasion was about slowing down their bullet pace, lo-fi garage angst and performing “Sleeper,” the 26-year-old Bay Area rocker’s stunning, still waters, calm new record. The just-north-of-60 minutes set finished strong with one encore, one cover and unplugged versions of staples like “You Make the Sun Fry” and “Girlfriend.”

Segall’s corpus is assembled like a prolific, popular rapper’s. There are select albums available for streaming on Spotify; collections of singles and mixtapes scattered across the Internet; guest performances left and right. It’s difficult work for completionists — some albums are released under the solo moniker, some under “The Ty Segall Band.” Segall is a member of six other bands, most ardently the metal-ish Fuzz, who release an album and return to Austin in October. Segall plays drums and sings in that one. Without touching the split 45s or limited vinyl pressings, Segall has released 12 albums over the last seven years. I’ve only listened to the nascent “Sleeper” in its entirety twice but it’s an instant favorite. Nine months ago, Segall’s adoptive father passed away after a drawn-out battle with tongue cancer. They were close. During the aftermath of paperwork and family turmoil, Segall and his mother had a falling out and they no longer speak. Segall says that “Sleeper” is about this turmoil. Lyrics are vague but when he punctuates a solo the anger comes out. Onstage at the Mohawk, Segall routinely left his white furniture, walked stage left, and meditated with electric, piercing licks. For what Segall has been calling the “Sleeper Band” — regulars Mikal Cronin and Emily Rose Epstein are touring separately behind Cronin’s 2013 solo album, “MCII” — he leans on a touring bassist, acoustic guitarist and his go-to side man Charlie Moothart behind the drum kit. Earlier this month, this quartet played Pickathon, a downtempo mini-festival on an Oregon farm where Toyota Prius folk rockers acted magical. The “Sleeper” aesthetics were felt Tuesday. Melodies recalled Buffalo Springfield’s “Broken Arrow,” the jamming veered into “Stairway to Heaven”-like AM radio catharsis, the blond mop and wounded warrior pride inevitably reminded us of Kurt Cobain. Segall’s sunny demeanor manifested with rare on-stage smiles and an orange juice-based cocktail in hand.

But it was a façade and the X-on-the-hand fans in the front weren’t buying in.

At his most essential, Segall is like if the Strokes had a backbone and cut their teeth on regional touring circuits. The cool is matched by flying Chuck Taylors and flailing stage divers. It speaks to Segall’s deep bench of tunes that he had the luxury of ignoring “Thank God For Sinners” during his Mohawk set. That’s the standout single from last fall’s “Twins,” which he’d go on to perform on Conan’s show. While Segall’s replacement bass player followed along like a bored music instructor teaching a sixth grader to play “Brain Stew,” Segall himself gave the crowd a series of increasingly long, manic slide solos. Segall recalls Jack White in his ability to obliterate an instrument with the fury of a mob boss rolling up his sleeves and getting his dirty. By the time he circled back to less reverb-laden versions of his songs, the kids were rocking out like no one was watching.