On Sept. 6, Ty Segall and the Freedom Band took their venture into Emotional Mugger at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles, playing their second and final rendition of the album in full, alongside Segall’s latest full-length LP, First Taste. It’s been a madhouse frenzy throughout all of the Mugger shows but this week, the Teragram was treated to a crunchy, thick and juicy circus of sound.
The night kicked off with The Orange Man as support, who until the day of the show, was revealed to be none other than Kyle Thomas, most commonly known as King Tuff. A former Mugger, the reveal was exciting, as it foreshadowed what could be a highly anticipated cameo appearance from Thomas during the Emotional Mugger set; many fans speculated this could bring back members of the Mugger lineup since the announcement of the performances. The first night of Mugger saw the Freedom Band roll through the album without any special guest performers; however, knowing King Tuff was in the house meant that this show might be the night there’d be a walk-on guest, in addition to the current lineup of Freedom players.
The Orange Man started his set with two synthesizer keyboards in front of him, a low, deep moog-esque cascading organ slowly playing what eventually revealed to be the melody to “The Fool on the Hill” by The Beatles. A minute or so into the synthesizer tone washing its way through the ballroom, Thomas began singing in a ketamine-dipped chopped-and-screwed low toned voice, delivering a five minute cover of the track. Immediately upon ending the song, a looping demented, deteriorating cursed state fair festival “Obla-Di-Obla-Da” ditty played for about two minutes. During which, Thomas introduced his friend “The Orange Man” (actually Nicole Lawrence, a local guitarist who has played with King Tuff), setting up his throne of tones for his next song. The Obla-Death finally decayed into itself, a slow drum machine beat began and after a prelude of baby cries, a police siren played rhythmically along with the beat, until Thomas began singing, in the same deep tone: “When I get to the bottom, I get back to the top of the slide,” and so a thirty-five minute Beatles cover set began.
The set was slow and silly but soothing… the right type of weird to set an appropriate tone for the messy kitchen sink that is Emotional Mugger. Thomas bounced between synths and guitar, ripping out incredible abstract solos that reminded everyone in the room that they were, in fact, watching a King Tuff solo act, but truly stuck to his character– evil “Obla-Di-Obla-Da” that played between every song, every song which was over five minutes and all sung in the low tone voice filter. Clad in an orange jumpsuit, sunglasses and a large orange earflap hat, The Orange Man was the most unique opening act the residency has seen.
Onto First Taste: the performances of this record are getting sharper and sharper. Every element is in its place, every member is on their queues and in their lanes so well and organically at this point, that it’s beginning to turn into a set that allows for more experimenting and deviating into moments where the band can jam out and have visible fun.
This week, we got the finest transition into “Taste” yet, with an electric and explosive feedback-play-turned-dissonance preluding the drum intro that kicks the whole album off into high gear. The introductions and solos in songs like “Ice Plant,” “The Fall,” “Radio” and “Self Esteem” all sound better than ever, and have moments where, for those who have been to several of these performances, there are clear elements that have evolved and grown into a dynamic thrilling performance of an album that may sound even more impressive in person than it does on the record.
Then, Emotional Mugger arrived, and as it does every week, the warm red-orange glow of the lights and orange-bulb work lights on stage go off and a cool blue washed over the stage, a call to action for the sweaty teenagers in the middle of the crowd ready to whirlpool into action. And whirlpool they did. From the first jagged beats that kick off “Squealer,” the crowd on a new life, actualized into an amoeba of angst and catharsis. The album, of course, rips live, and with Shannon Lay and Mikal Cronin on consistent double bass duties, the low end and rhythmic ends of this record stand out, especially in contrast to Melted or Goodbye Stranger, that follow much more conventional song structures and rhythmic patterns.
Emotional Mugger was a huge step for Ty Segall as an artist. It came out in 2016, two years after Ty’s magnificent double-LP Manipulator, which featured the most clear and coagulated compositions of Segall’s career until that point, blending the lo-fi, bluesy garage elements of his beginnings with access to a higher fidelity sound, more tape, more instruments and more time to really get his ideas clearly articulated within a much higher production value than before. Mugger is Segall embracing being at that level of production, and running amok with friends and collaborators Cory Hanson and Evan Burrows of Wand, Kyle Thomas of King Tuff, and Freedom players Cronin and Emmett Kelly to create a jagged, aggressive concept album about addiction in the eyes of a crack baby named Sloppo obsessed with candy. The album was credited to “The Muggers” instead of just Ty Segall and was toured as such, extensively. The KEXP session for this tour became infamous within both the KEXP and Ty Segall online fan communities, so there is a certain significance to this album being revisited, given Ty has seemed to take the next step in his career further from the Mugger era in the last two years.
The album does not disappoint. The musical range that the Freedom band is exhibiting during this residency is breathtaking, as they have managed to emulate the distinctly different eras in Ty’s musical history that are being revisited, and are being revved up to sound louder, thicker and sharper than ever. Being an album full of untraditionally spastic keyboard and synth parts, Ben Boye plays through the parts as if he wrote them. Lay, trained in garage punk thrash-dom, has Cronin matched for speed and loudness on the bass and GØGGS and Fuzz trained Charles Moothart had no problem keeping up with the jagged, complex parts that Mugger interweaves through.
Surely enough, the Teragram got its celebrity cameo, with Kyle Thomas of King Tuff returning to play lead guitar on “Candy Sam,” where Segall moved to his drum kit to play the first track of the residency with double drums from an earlier album, which leaves one to think whether we’ll see more double drums during the Manipulator shows. “Squealer Two” was performed slick and funky, bringing the show to its cooldown, followed by an impressive abstract performance of the anti-composition sound collage “W.U.O.T.W.S.” from the record. The album closes with “The Magazine,” a slow-burning wind-down in contrast from the rest of the album, but not without it’s freak-outs, seeing Ty use a drumstick to strike his guitar à la Sonic Youth to pay tribute to the studio version of the track itself. Something truly noticeable to this week rather than last is that Ty seemed to be having more fun than at any show previous, going into insane solos and testing his band with added measures and false starts to create a beautiful chaotic orchestra that he seems oh so happy to be conducting.
For the encore, Ty prefaced their first track by announcing that “this is a live debut, first time… ever,’ before breaking out a crisp rendition of “Who’s Producing You” from Manipulator, filled with a blissfully chaotic solo exchange ending that anyone would guess has been played plenty times before.
They then played through another Manipulator debut, “Mister Main,” this one seeming a little bit more like a debut at first, with the double bass plus Emmet guitar combo of the riff feeling a bit disjointed at first, but quickly picked up and truly sounding amazing, with Mikal and Shannon also providing falsetto back up harmonies that really shone through, as the song is significantly more stripped back than definitely anything off of Mugger.
They closed the night with a fierce performance of “She” which has proven to be a great set closer during the residency, and with a seemingly training ground encore, Ty bid a farewell to Emotional Mugger until his New York performance of the record, and sights are now set to the last three shows of the ten-week stint, performing Manipulator in full.
Photos by Adrian Vega Albela Osorio
Adrian Vega Albela Osorio is a 23-year-old multimedia artist from Mexico based in Los Angeles. His work focuses on documenting the contemporary underground psychedelic music scene in Los Angeles. Follow Adrian on Instagram @stripedbeatle.