As you may have noticed from my last post, I haven't dedicated very much time to the summer festivals this year. The weekend of PDX Pop Now just happened to be taking place at the beginning of our heatwave, and I couldn't imagine enduring ubearably high temperatures inside Rotture. From what I heard, it was a sweatbox inside there, but well worth the money (Free!!). There were a couple other festivals that I didn't make it to due to high costs (Pickathon) and bad timing (No Fest), but the one I finally managed to squeeze in was well worth the money and time.
I was perusing through the local weeklies when I came across a small ad for the Rotture's SMMR BMMR festival featuring Sic Alps, Eat Skull and Ty Segall. While I have been getting seriously interested in this lo-fi, noise-damaged pop revival that has been taking the nation by storm lately, the main reason I was attending this festival was to see Sic Alps. Their set, while cathartic and pleasingly melodic, was not the highlight of the evening for me, as it was too shambling and unfocused. This honor would quite deservedly go to the Oh Sees, the latest project from John Dwyer, formerly the leader of experimental noise bands the Coachwhips and Pink and Brown.
Prior to checking out the Oh Sees at SMMR BMMR, my exposure to their music was limited to their fantastic lo-fi garage masterpiece "A Master's Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In", released on Tomlab Records in 2008. I had absolutely no idea that I was in store for one of the most viscerally thrilling rides of my life.
The Oh Sees began setting up their gear outside on the deck of the Rotture while the Box Elders continued to play their uninspiring, faux punk set on the main stage. I had entertained the notion of leaving before checking out the Oh Sees, as I had been there since around 7:15, and was growing increasingly tired as the night grew old. But thank God I had the energy and the wherewithal to stick around for one of the best live bands working today.
I was chatting with a friend about his thoughts on the bands he had seen throughout the evening while waiting for the Oh Sees to take the stage. He didn't seem too blown away by anything that he had witnessed so far that night, but that was all about to change. Once the Oh See's plunged into the first chord of it's hyped up version of "Block of Ice", the crown began to manically jump around like a horde of speed-addled mental patients who forgot to take their medication. There was absolutely no way for anyone to stand still as there were over 250 people steadily pushing towards the front, practically toppling over the band's instruments in absolute delight. I managed to finally make my way to the front during the middle of the second song, and I slightly avoided knocking over Brigid Dawson's keyboard, as the entire deck began to sway under the weight of the entire crowd. At this point, every song seemed to be extended to an infinite amount of time, even though most of these songs actually clock in at under three minutes.
Towards the end of the band's set, it was interrupted by someone from the Rotture's management saying something to the effect of "You guys are going to die". When I first heard this, I thought that he was referring to us dying due to hyperventilation or dehydration. Little did I know that the enormous sea of people had managed to make the deck sag an inch or two, and the manager was worried that we were all about to plunge to our deaths. I don't know if it was this realization, or the sheer power of the music, but I began to feel a profound combination of euphoria and nausea while the band launched into the final song of the evening.
After the management agreed to let the Oh Sees play one more song, I stood their transfixed by the intense and visceral music that was deeply affecting my body. I managed to wait until the band finished this last song of the evening before I raced to the bathroom to relieve myself of this nauseous feeling, Unfortunately, someone was using the bathroom stall when I got there, so I had to wait for what seemed like an eternity to get in there. Once I was in there, it was so disgusting that I couldn't imagine getting close to the toilet. I stood there in the stall, slowly taking in deep breaths to calm myself down, and I was surprisingly able to escape the confines of the Rotture without losing my lunch.
I've never felt so alive in my life as I narrowly escaped death and nausea within the course of one evening. There is probably no way in hell that the Oh Sees can top this performance, but that doesn't mean I won't give them the opportunity. If they are coming to your neck of the woods, do not, I repeat DO NOT miss out on the opportunity to catch them live. You will thank me for this later.
If you are interested in checking out some of the actual footage from the Oh Sees SMMR BMMR show as well as Sic Alps, Eat Skull, Ty Segall and others, a person by the name of ZachsBooks has uploaded a breadth of lo-fi footage from the show at the following You Tube link:
For recommendations on the Oh Sees recordings, you can't go wrong with 2008's The Masters Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In or the band's latest record on In the Red Records called Help.
I am posting a couple of my favorite tracks from these aforementioned records for your listening pleasure. I would love to hear if anyone has the actual recording of this SMMR BMMR set, or any other Oh Sees live recordings out there.
From: The Master's Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In [Tomlab Records, 2008]
From: Help [In the Red Records, 2009]
Until next time...