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Not a whole lot has changed at the remodeled, First Avenue-owned Turf Club, but every change, however minor, gives the room the familiar, inhospitable coldness of a proper rock club, where before it was just a small bar where music happened. Raised ceilings, reduced clutter (less tables on the floor, less flyers on the walls), leveled standing area, less accessible bathroom, a stage-backing mural depicting animal cruelty. All for your viewing and listening pleasure, but the perfected venue of the modern concertgoing experience doesn’t exactly make me want to hang out before or after the show the way I used to at the Turf Club, probably the only venue where I ever did so in any real sense.
I’m probably overreacting. I was on site for a sold-out Ty Segall show, so by default the room was over-large with no space to move. Toward the end of his set’s singular, sustained attack, Segall surfed the crowd (who didn’t, really?) and christened the Turf’s most distinctive and enduring feature, the warmly lit, formerly sightline-crowding (happy memories, again) circular fixture that hangs from the ceiling near the stage. It’s a farther reach than before, but Segall touched it with the neck of his guitar, and finally the Turf Club, for all its newfound clubbiness, was re-inaugurated as vital, not just cavernous and claustrophobic.
The music helped, warm and comforting in its loudness, per the heat-producing friction that results when smooth, constant noise massages and warps the inner ear. Most bands achieve this with drawn-out notes and unfathomable processing, but Segall’s band is the loudest I’ve ever heard, “basic blocky chords” category. The band’s heightened main set, free of any rupture or tremor except for the initial one that faded to a memory as soon as the band reset silence to their roar, pretty much ruled out the possibility of an encore, in my mind, made the idea seem more than ever like an unnecessary interruption, noise. That’s always true, but whereas most bands glaze over this fact with the illusion of narrative, with climax and epilogue, the endless quake of a Ty Segall show couldn’t be more patently anti-narrative. Still, return they must, so for the encore the band looked around for a new vibe, but, finding only stray sounds, eventually returned to the original one and created a miniature replica of the first hour.
Segall never strained for extra-musical significance, but earlier his gang did indulge in a bit of theater, fun and frivolous, in the form of a Ziggy Stardust homage that found a space cowboy and his minion introducing a rock band from Jupiter called, if memory serves, The Manipulators. (Not surprisingly, Segall had spent the previous day paying tribute to David Bowie in Chicago.) In a live setting, there’s nothing I wanted The Manipulators to be other than what they were. I can’t quite say the same about Segall’s Manipulator, the new album from which a lot of the setlist was pulled. It’s good, but too buzzy and omnipresent, continually and curiously held at bay from weird, isolated sounds that would make the tunes really stick. S.F. Sorrow is dead, and though his spirit lives on, the sounds of his body are irreplaceable. But weird sounds aren’t missed at a concert, where a band needs not pricking variety but constancy—to split the ear and, by keeping the gash from healing, to allow the listener to perceive the wound as natural.
La Luz opened the night and, after surveying their surf rock inventory, graduated to a mid-point stretch of songs so wonderful and dreamy that they’ll likely end this year of touring and wonder if any of it really happened. It did.