The prolific California band Thee Oh Sees released yet another fine album this year, Mutilator Defeated at Last, keeping up its run of catchy psychedelic-tinged garage rock records. Frontman John Dwyer completely changed the lineup of the band playing behind him a year ago, and the lineup had changed yet again by the time Thee Oh Sees came to Chicago for two sold-out shows this week at the Empty Bottle. The band’s current configuration has two drummers and a bassist backing up Dwyer, with the four of them arrayed across the front of the stage, Dwyer standing stage right instead of in the center, with a stack of amps behind him. As he usually does, Dwyer held his guitar high on his torso, with his eyes frequently shrouded in darkness; he stuck out his tongue and spat onto the stage many times. He sang nearly every note in reverb-drenched falsetto, and cranked out a series of searing guitar riffs. The two-drum lineup gave the music a driving intensity, especially on the last few songs, when the percussion seemed to take on more multilayered complexity. After playing more than 90 minutes — a fairly long set for Thee Oh Sees — Dwyer and his bandmates called it a night without an encore. It was a strong night from beginning to end, with noisy, energetic sets by two opening bands, the Blind Shake and Make-Overs.
It was cool to see bands from other parts of the world playing loud rock music last Friday night, Aug. 8, at the Hideout, as well as a couple of the Chicago bands that are regulars in the local scene. The evening started with Sultan Bathery, a group from Vicenza, Italy, who cranked out riffs like a punk version of a 1950s roadhouse band. Then came Chicago’s Uh Bones with more of a 1960s vibe. As the guys in Uh Bones started to turn off their amps, some enthusiastic fans shouted, “Play that cover! ‘Gloria’!” And so the band did an encore, playing the classic 1960s song by Van Morrison and Them, “Gloria,” which was a staple of garage-rock gigs back in that era. The song can still get a crowd going. I videotaped about a minute of it on Friday:
Next up was Make-Overs, a guitar-and-drums duo from South Africa, whose music was the most modern-sounding of anything all night, but still very rough and jagged, keeping with the spirit of things. Another guitar-and-drums duo, Chicago’s ubiquitous White Mystery, closed out the night with a typically raucous performance, their red curls flying.
A shrine to the dead
While I was at the Hideout, I snapped this shot of a memorial shrine in the front bar, with pictures of longtime Hideout patron Daniel Blue, left, and Studs Terkel.