“This guy, he’s like an artistic genius who’s always about to lose it, you know, like go nuts, but then always has it together,” said the hyped-and-sweaty kid behind me after Ty Segall and his new backing band, The Muggers, left the stage before their encore. “But he keeps that energy, and turns it into something insane and fucking good.”
The boy was not wrong. Ty Segall & The Muggers put on a set whose verve was infectious. It was unlike any show to which I’d been before.
The crowd’s energy was sparked by the surprising opening set by CFM. CFM’s set consisted of ten tracks off their 2016 album Still Life of Citrus and Slime. Their front-man Charles Moothart and Segall collaborate in their band Fuzz, so CFM brought the exactly kind of intense and haunting riffs to prime the audience. Towards the end of their set, I noticed that their grinning and dripping drummer Thomas Alvarez would hurl his quickly emptied beer cans up towards balcony right. There, cloaked in a red-hooded cape, Ty Segall stood watching, as if fueling himself on CFM and the crowd’s energies.
Segall came onstage to the sounds of an infant’s wails, donning a rubber baby mask and umbilical cord rather than a guitar. For the duration of the show, the multi-instrumental Segall did not touch an instrument, sticking only to vocals. When he was not at the mic, looming over the crowd, or lost in baby-inspired commentary (once asking the audience, “are you my mommy?” and later screaming “I love my children!”) or antics like offering bananas to the audience, Ty Segall would stand still, towards the back of the stage, disheveled shoulder-length hair fallen over his face and with clasped hands, as if to let the band (and his fans) take center stage.
The set list was dominated by tracks from Emotional Mugger but included hits from Twins and Manipulator. After a brief departure from the stage, during which the audience refused to move and the air in Royale hung heavy with buzzing anticipation, Ty and The Muggers returned to please the audience first with an amped-up sing-along to First Heart at Mighty Dawn. To end, they surprised a ready audience with a nightcap cover of Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” This sonically appropriate, but somewhat lyrically incongruous twist was met with the same raucous and dark enthusiasm from the crowd.
Despite the substantial size of Royale, the sold-out show felt intimate throughout; it was inclusive to such an extent that the audience was part of the performance. It was more like an interactive jam session in that the crowd was not one of content attendees, nodding pleasantly or moshing in only the core of the pit. The mezzanine was the pit. The stage too was the pit; a stream of fans perpetually climbed onto and dove off of it, and several enterprising youths took the liberty of lingering with the band. Some hugged Ty Segall and he would allow it—before amicably shoving them off the stage. Tufts Freshman, Sam Lenny of Dirty Nalgenes, ripped off his shirt before leaping back into the crowd. A veteran of Ty Segall shows, Sam later commented that even though “it was my fourth or fifth time seeing Ty . . . the intensity and craziness were there as always. I saw my friend get up on stage and take his shirt off, so the only thing I could think to do to top that was jump up there after him and rip my shirt in half before jumping into the crowd. Too bad after about 3 seconds my support vanished and I took a 6 foot fall onto my elbow (ouch). But it was worth it.”
But what I witnessed that mild Tuesday night was more than a mosh pit. Ty Segall is as much a performer as he is a prolific musical talent. The show was a stop along Segall’s tour for his eighth studio album, Emotional Mugger. This album distinguishes itself from Segall’s expansive discography, whose range spans from sonic, cerebral, and acoustic meditations (i.e. Sleeper), to psychedelic garage-punk (sometimes in Twins) to the fuzz and groovy, almost old-school rock (Melted). Synth-heavy and directed, Emotional Mugger is indeed quite unlike his previous album of T.Rex covers, Ty Rex, that was released less than two months prior. Emotional Mugger contains a clear, purposeful, and disquieting sentiment. Lyrics that lament society’s addictions, especially to cheap, mindless and unfulfilling pleasures (he mentions “candy,” late night rides, and magazines throughout) were brought alive purposefully by his March show’s visuals. The show, very much an extension of the album, had a deliberate, “Emotionally Mugging” aesthetic throughout.
Ty Segall’s stop at Royale was remarkable. It seemed like everyone there knew what they were there for, that they were seeing one of the most productive and interesting young musicians out there. Ty Segall clearly curates not just a setlist for his shows, but an immersive, purposeful and pretty weird experience. He’s talented and intense, so his audience was impressed, amped and intense themselves. I look forward to seeing what new, trippy or unusual direction Segall takes on his next album and next tour of not just setlists, but performance art pieces.