California’s Thee Oh Sees are one of the best live rock bands at this moment. After delivering strong performances last year at Lincoln Hall and this summer at the Illinois Centennial Monument, Thee Oh Sees were back in Chicago for a couple of shows at the Empty Bottle on Wednesday night (Nov. 23) — and the late show may be the strongest set I’ve seen by them yet.
The prolific band just realized its second album of 2011, Carrion Crawler/The Dream, which was originally conceived as two EPs. Like the group’s live shows, the record is bursting with energy, sounding more intense than the last Thee Oh Sees record, Castlemania. But as well as this great new recording captures the live passion of the band, it’s still no match for seeing Thee Oh Sees on a stage. Somehow, Thee Oh Sees manage to make everything sound like it’s turned up and sped up a notch beyond expectations.
Leader John Dwyer and guitarist Petey Dammit both hold their guitars up high; Dwyer keeps his instrument unusually close to his face as he sings in spooky harmony with keyboardist Brigid Dawson. Practically every line of every song featured Dwyer and Dawson intertwining their voices, giving the’60s-garage-rock flavored tunes a somewhat ethereal mood, even as the two drummers, Mike Shoun and Lars Finberg, unrelentingly pushed the beat forward.
The opening sets by Paul Cary and Total Control were good, but it was the fantastic, charged music of Thee Oh Sees that sent the crowd into a writhing frenzy.