It’s only a few weeks into the year and Ty Segall just performed what will likely go down as one of San Diego’s best shows of 2016.
Kicking off his North American tour at the Belly Up on Jan. 13, the 90-minute set was frenetic, bizarre and completely entertaining from start to finish.
After quality performances from local psych-rockers Wild Wild Wets and L.A.'s CFM (featuring Charles Moothart from the Ty Segall Band and Fuzz), Segall and his new five-piece ensemble took the stage at 10:30 p.m. Well, at least the band did. And Segall has assembled quite the cast this time around.
A line-up of garage rock all-stars, The Muggers are King Tuff (Kyle Thomas), longtime Segall collaborator and songwriter Mikal Cronin, Wand’s Cory Hanson and Evan Burrows, and Emmett Kelly of the Cairo Gang.
The sold-out crowd was primed for the show, and let the band know it when Segall finally hit the stage. Dressed in a denim vest, shirt, and pants - with plenty of bedazzling and a Barbie-head bolo tie, no less - the singer first roared into the microphone wearing a creepy baby mask.
This wasn’t such a surprise, as the prolific rocker’s new album, “Emotional Mugger,” is being promoted with creepy baby masks as its central imagery. And it ended up being a running theme throughout the show as well.
Whether lying in a fetal position on stage, strangely pantomiming the sucking of his own thumb, or relegating in-between-song banter to baby-themed gibberish and made-up anecdotes involving babies, it was impossible to miss the thesis of the evening.
But the baby mask only made a couple of brief appearances, and it really didn’t matter if the minute or two between songs were spent listening to a low-talking librarian read from an encyclopedia. This night was all about the infectious madness and feral energy of the music.
New songs/old songs, it didn’t matter. The band played nearly all of “Emotional Mugger,” and its songs were received with the same enthusiasm as favorites like 2012’s “Thank God for the Sinners” and 2014’s “Feel.”
Despite the signs forbidding both stage diving and “slam dancing,” there were plenty of both - some by Segall himself. Standing on a sea of hands or nonchalantly rolling into the crowd as though it were his living room couch, the dynamic front man never let the capacity crowd get complacent.
Segall’s ever-present guitar is now absent (Thomas and Cronin handle that assignment in this band), so fans can expect even more antics from the singer as the tour continues for the next three months.
At its best, rock ‘n’ roll is driving, deafening and nearly out of control. The Muggers have that in spades. But it’s impossible to know how long these six humans will tour together. Segall is one of the most prolific musicians working. So, see them now if you can. Beer will be thrown, stage divers will dive, and it’ll all relate to babies somehow. A good time is sure to be had by all.
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.