Minus the police-state security tactics and overpriced drinks, the El Rey Theatre is actually a pretty amazing place to catch a band. Besides, it’s all about the pregame anyway. San Francisco garage titans, Thee Oh Sees headlined this past Sunday. It was a who’s who of the burgeoning San Francisco garage scene as fellow Bay Area rockers Sic Alps and The Mallard joined along with L.A. locals Zig Zags.
John Dwyer was on hand to hawk Thee Oh Sees’ considerable arsenal of merch, which included limited edition prints of his artwork, iron-on patches and copies of their latest LP Putrefiers II. Judging by the empty boxes of t-shirts and stickers, the band cleaned up pretty well before fans flocked to the stage for The Mallard.
When she’s not slanging coffee or making art, Greer McGettrick is the principle songwriter and vocalist for The Mallard. She plays and sings with the feral beauty of Kim Deal. Her presence was one of fearless intensity Sunday evening and she shredded accordingly. The Mallard play a brand of discordant voodoo surf rock, Sonic Youth-acid-dropping into a killer swell. McGettrick was backed by a frenetic showing from an interchanging bassist/guitarist combo and some solid drumming. She restrung her guitar in about 30 seconds at one point and proceeded to play one handed while her other hand slapped the tambourine. These gals and guys definitely earned their spot on the bill.
Sic Alps put on a similarly energetic showing and singer Mike Donovan killed two stones by rocking a Dodger cap and an Oh Sees shirt. He had a cable malfunction during the beginning of one song, but soon remedied the situation by switching out his guitar and cable. The stunt felt a little staged, but still added to the theatric value of the set.
Most of the youngsters had muscled their way to the front of the stage for the start of Thee Oh Sees’ set. The El Rey has some great vantage points and excellent stage lighting made for some great shots of their raucous set. John Dwyer is getting older but hasn’t lost any of his unruly spunk. Mike Shoun is one of the best drummers in the business and more than deserved his mini drum solo. Bodies and feet swam on hands nearly every song and security seemed to relent after they realized they’d have to kick half the crowd out to get them to stop surfing. Even the older bystanders had worked up a sweat by the time they ended their epic set and everyone rushed out to greet the eager hot dog vendors. Sunday’s show proved San Francisco garage is still at the forefront after a 40-plus-year reign.
Words: Brian Noonan
Photography: Dominoe Farris-Gilbert
THEE OH SEES