Words: Isabella Trimboli
Photos: Juliette Younger
If a punk shows’ success is measured in blood and bruises, then Saturday’s Thee Oh Sees show at Newtown Social Club was a very good show. Even I, reviewer, who stood on the sidelines making notes, plummeted to the floor, and our photographer now bears a fresh, bloody cut on her nose. But that was nothing compared to the sweaty camaraderie of fans who left the venue with battered bodies and ripped up band tees. There is nothing worse than apathy at a rock n roll show - and thankfully, Thee Oh Sees fans turned out to be the complete opposite. It’s this hysteric enthusiasm of their fans that has allowed the group to sell out the venue two nights in a row; in promotion of their 2015 record Mutilator Defeated At Last.
Sydney heavyweights Straight Arrows opened the night, playing a set of songs from their 2014 LP Rising. Whilst the crowd was of lacklustre enthusiasm, the band was not deterred - with songs Petrified and Make Up Your Mind performed with fervent vitality, as frontman Owen Penglis repeatedly thwacks the microphone into his face, and guitarist Al Grigg flails around the stage. Yet according to some, there’s still some room for improvement - with Penglis relaying a story from a recent show where he was told that “if [the band] practised real hard then maybe [they] could be the next Tame Impala.”
Thee Oh Sees' John Dwyer recruited an entirely new band for this tour, but from the second the group hit the stage, I certainly couldn’t tell - they sounded like a band who had been performing together for years. Each song was played with perfect precision, nothing ever loose or out of place. There wasn’t even a setlist on the stage - so well versed in their performance they didn’t need one.
Dwyer is the frontman of the group, yet he remained to the side of stage throughout the show, with two drummers - Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon - instead taking centre stage. It’s a subversive move from the band that pays off - the synchronicity they display is an incredible sight to behold and, sat front and centre of the stage, their genius can truly be appreciated by the audience.
Songs off Mutilator side well with the crowd, but it’s when the fans are treated to the 2011 album Carrion Crawler/The Dream that they truly lose it. While the band deliver a tight set, Dwyer and co hardly muster an utterance to the audience, with each song firing quickly after the next. And with the songs so stylistically alike, at places it felt like one big rousing garage punk howl - each track bleeding into the next.
They opted to end with an extended ‘jam’ version of Carrion Crawler that went about ten minutes too long and seemed somewhat self-indulgent. Though it seemed I was alone in this view, as the fans continued to flail and thrash until the band unplugged their gear.
There is no doubt that Thee Oh Sees are a highly skilled rock outfit that have amassed a very dedicated fanbase due to their own brand of psych garage punk. They are a well rehearsed live band and that certainly shows - but sometimes rock n roll is just a little more fun when it's off the cuff, impulsive and impromptu.