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Review Wed Feb 13 2013

Review: Ty Segall and Ex-Cult (Early Show) @ Empty Bottle 2/9

The Empty Bottle was already packed by 7pm last Saturday night when Trin Tran, a ski-masked fellow and Drag City one-man garage band/disco curiosity, played his first song with the help of no less than two synth pads, a guitar, an electronic kick pedal and a homemade snare pedal that looked something like a baseball bat hitting a go-kart steering wheel. The fact that he was doing this all by himself made the crowd slightly less anxious to be listening to his baffling blend of deconstructed basement jams, riding both sides of the line between perfect pop and fried-out chaos. This wasn't Trin Tran's party, to be fair, though he seemed perfectly content to be crashing it. The audience, who was still trickling in, seemed perfectly happy to share in his reverie. It was a great warm up to what was sure to be a lights-out night of tunes. And everyone knew the night really belonged to Ty Segall, reigning garage-rock wunderkind, who would play a few hours later (and then a few hours later after that.) This was only the early set for Segall's twice-sold-out stand of two shows (early and late) at the Bottle, his first time in Chicago since the last time we saw him, but everyone seemed plenty awake.

Segall is already somewhat of a legend in certain circles due to his prolific output in recent years and ascendant songwriting muse (having one of the best working garage bands around doesn't hurt things either). So it turned some heads when Segall opted to produce the debut LP for Memphis punks Sex Cult last year. A quick burst of sessions in San Francisco, a cease-and-desist letter prompting a name change to Ex-Cult, and a little over six months later, they had an album. And, now, they also have a tour: The Memphis punks have been on the road with Segall and his band since mid-January, criss-crossing the States and putting in some serious miles both on-stage and off. And when Ex-Cult hit the stage next, you could tell they were battle-tested.

On stage, Ex-Cult frontman Chris Shaw is a dead ringer for Ron Reyes or even a younger Glenn Danzig, and it suits the band's hybrid of classic California hardcore and Oblivians-obsessed Southern punk well. Combing through tracks from their Segall-produced LP, Ex-Cult, the band was locked-in from the start, shooting out blasts of sound across their well-honed and worn-in hardcore tunes. It was a throwback sound (and temperament, if anything can be assumed by their classical-style hardcore band logo), to be sure, but blended in the space-chamber dinginess of modern-day San Francisco acts like Thee Oh Sees and The Fresh & Onlys nicely. More importantly, it became immediately clear that these guys were the real deal and had no problem demonstrating that to everyone in the room. The crowd, few of which seemed to be familiar with the group before their set, was converted in no more than 30 minutes. Ex-Cult killed it, and they knew it. And they'd be back a few hours later to prove it again.

Ty Segall took to the stage moments later, unassumingly testing out his guitars with the band for minutes on end before his set while people hung out in the front rows looking up at him. Once the band was assembled and a few line-checks were made, Segall said hello and cranked into a hopped-up version of Twins standout "Thank God For The Sinners". The band, which includes ascendant garage peer Mikal Cronin on bass and the perpetually badass Emily Rose Epstein on drums, sounded red-hot, blasting through tunes from across Segall's already vast catalogue. Mostly, they focused on standout tracks from his more recent albums, playing fan favorites like Slaughterhouse's "Wave Goodbye" and "I Bought My Eyes" or Twins' "The Hill". Throughout the hour-plus set, Segall proved again his effortless knack for writing inspired past-leaning and playful songs and even made a serious case for his skills as a guitar player, no doubt. Minor technical problems aside (a bum cable or two), Segall was a true showman, mostly all business if not noticeably quite polite and seemingly happy to be there. No encores here, though — the guy has to remember to save at least some of his energy for the next set.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


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