Anyone ready to go to see Thee Oh Sees in concert knows what to expect, John Dwyer has been releasing some of the heaviest psychedelic music of the past decade. And where you see musicians sometimes take advantage of being on stage to let go a bit more, it just doesn’t seem possible coming from these guys.
On a rainy evening in Berlin, psych garage fans gathered outside of the Columbia Theater to see Thee Oh Sees play. PUFF, a Berlin punk band mixing synth, drums and effected guitar. Their show looked like a scene from Hell, with the light work and energy emanating from them reflecting their album covers. The guitar work is very minimal but terribly on spot with the rest of the act. They have a wide array of songs, at times going into what resembles a bizarre cover of “Break On Through” by the Doors.
In what seemed the longest wait between two concerts, people started taking position in the pit, as Thee Oh Sees took to the stage to install their equipment. It’s a funny feeling seeing preparing for nearly a half hour, to see them in their normal habitat, but not doing what you expect them to be doing. Of course it’s nothing out of the usual seeing a rock artist set up his gear, for five minutes before disappearing backstage. But this was tantalising, it was torment.
In an attempt to pass the time while the two drum sets were being installed, John Dwyer, the frontman/founder/guru/one-man-band started teasing his sound engineer. Alas, when everything was ready, people were going apeshit. John Dwyer played the first notes to “The Dream” from 2011’s Carrion Crawler/The Dream, and the shit hit the fan. Beer was seen flying all over the place, and the whole middle section of the audience got into motion.
The band followed Dwyer in his endeavours, going back and forth in Thee Oh Sees’ vast catalogue of songs. That was enough for crowd members to get up on stage and start the never-ending cycle of crowd surfing. I don’t have anything against people who do it well, you know, actually diving into the audience; it is not called stage diving so people can gently bend their knees and left themselves fall like feathers. I have to admit one person doing it the right way didn’t reappear, so it does take a bit of preparation.
The two drum setup is quite something, especially when every member is standing on the same line. A drummer is usually hidden behind the other members, this band has some kind of togetherness rarely seen. During the last song of the set, former keyboard/tambourine player and vocalist Brigid Dawson came on stage after having left back in 2015. Even though it probably won’t be the same members playing the songs next time around. But in the end, you’ll always have John Dwyer to get you going.
Review by Patrick Bird