Unlike plenty of other artists today, Ty Segall knows how to keep his fans interested: He’s got a new album in the pipe every few months, he tours relentlessly, and when he comes through Chicago, he usually plays The Empty Bottle. Segall knows it’s more fun to hear scorching garage rock at a hole-in-the-wall which sells $2.50 Hamm’s than at many of our town’s tonier venues, even if he could pack those as well. On Saturday, Segall sold out both the early and late shows.
Both sets featured the Segall-approved Ex-Cult, a young punk quintet from Memphis who made short work of winning over the early crowd. Ex-Cult’s take on punk is short, fast, and loud, guided by singer Chris Shaw’s guttural bark. The quintet’s sound is informed by the tightly wound drive that powered 1980s hardcore, but without being quite so unforgiving. This show was apparently the Ex-Cult’s first in Chicago, but you wouldn’t know it from their tight playing.
For the first show of the night, Segall and his usual band (Mikal Cronin on bass, Emily Rose Epstein on drums, Charlie Mootheart on guitar) focused heavily on Segall’s third album of 2012, Twins. Like the record, the quartet opened with the sludgy paean to hedonism, “Thank God for Sinners,” allowing Segall to display his considerable guitar chops. The band then kicked into an abbreviated version of the frenetic “You’re the Doctor,” also from Twins. Though it’s all rock and roll, Segall’s output ranges from pop-informed psych to '70s hard rock to fried garage rock. Accordingly, his early set on Saturday highlighted his particular talent for writing across the unnecessary barriers between rock subgenres.
Segall also threw in a number of songs from his most sinister record of 2012, the aptly named Slaughterhouse. These songs aren’t any less rollicking than his other material, but there’s less harmonizing and more use of dark minor keys. To his credit though, “Wave Goodbye” and other songs from Slaughterhouse did not sound overly oppressive like they sometimes can on the record.
The only downside of the night was the set’s length. After “Inside Your Heart,” Segall and company ended the night with a few minutes of feedback and gave no encore. But I suppose if you’re playing two sets of careening garage rock back-to-back, you have to make some adjustments to the set’s length. Still, it was clear that the crowd at the early show wanted more.