Being there with Ty Segall - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Ty Segall is one of those “you just had to be there” acts; his songwriting ability and inhuman guitar skills are something to be seen with both eyeballs wide open. And with open ears and two feet planted on the ground, obviously, and Sunday night at Union Transfer the crowd checked off all three boxes.

The night began with an opening set by San Franciscan group Sharpie Smile, who has seemingly been plucked from the 60s art rock era and placed into this timeline. The band had a firm grasp on the genre, one that — by design — was a separation from Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison aesthetic and a progression to frenzying tempos, old church organ melodies and, well, playing instruments the “opposite” way people were used to. Cole Berliner’s guitar musings during “Predicament” would be a prime example. And frontperson / sometimes drummer Dylan Hadley’s vocal style perfectly captures that of Nico with a splash of Françiose Hardy.

Sharpie Smile | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

Ty Segall and his longtime bandmates were arranged in a half circle, and it felt as though we were witnessing musicians enjoying each other’s company and maybe riffing about it a little. It was also a practical setup: Segall and fellow guitarist / vocalist Emmett Kelly would float off in wailing and playful jams, even volleying from time to time, laughing at the quasi one-upmanship.Eyes on stage were glued to Segall most of the time, the band and the Union Transfer crowd alike, watching for subtle cues while stretching and keeping the jam going, expertly done by Ben Boye on synth.

Ty Segall is a song-making machine, and fans awaited their faves. As he jumped back in the catalog for “Breakfast Eggs” of 2016’s Emotional Mugger, a pit formed, ready or not.Similar fervor erupted during 2014’s “The Crawler” and 2012’s “You’re The Doctor.” And even though its vibe was dancey moreso than mosh-ready, Segall played 2010’s “Imaginary Persons” too.

Ty Segall | photo by Megan Matuzak for WXPN

Three Bells, dropped in January, is more mellow in contrast without losing the driving force of Segall’s evolving guitar playing, and the new album carried the setlist. “I Hear” featured Segall sweeping down the fretboard, mixing it up with walking bass from Mikal Cronin. “Denée,” a dream-like song stretching close to six minutes, only featured a single lyric: its title.

Regardless of which Ty Segall the Union Transfer crowd came for, he and the band displayed their evolving experiments with psychedelia, friendship and top-tier musicianship.

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