After ignoring Boston for close to a decade while NYC shows were not so unusual, Providence native son via SF > LA John Dwyer has brought his ferocious, multi-headed garage/psych/neo-jam outfit to town on a fairly routine schedule these last few years. After closing shop for a brief time when Dwyer moved from San Francisco to the city of angels, he started afresh and regrouped with the current bass/two drummer lineup, though keyboards have been added once again. The brute force of the dual drummer lineup is close to being on par with the current high water mark, but I thought that it took some of the nuance away from the Oh Sees’ sound. Bringing in Tomas Dolas on keys helps color the frenetic groove to just the right level, and the last few records (basically from Orc onwards, when he dropped the “Thee” from the band name) show Dwyer moving into new sonic territories.
In his familiar striped shirt and cut-off jeans, he still commands the band from his stage-right position, the four of them often looking over for visual cues as to when to swerve into a new lane or to slam on the brakes. Face Stabber takes the familiar OCS template and dresses up the edges a bit more, but it’s the live show where the command of the band really shines. Dwyer has quietly turned into one of the more facile and flexible guitarists, smoothly switching from frantic barre chord bashing to finger picking, plectrum in mouth, like he’s playing a bass. His high-pitched, not-quite-falsetto vocals still help drive the music forward, but it’s the turbo-charged engine of the full band that got the crowd moving all night. Bonus punk rock points for the occasional beer toss.
Fellow LA compadres Prettiest Eyes have been the steady tour partner for this run across the States, and they were a somewhat unusual trio of keyboards, bass and drums with Spanish sprinkled in small doses. The large black hat and bolo tie on Marcos Rodriguez belied a formality that was nowhere present in his playing, tongue out a la Jordan and occasionally banging his head stock on the stage floor or on the keyboards. Pachy Garcia was the nominal leader of the trio, but was pretty active for a drummer and refused to be chained down to his stool, while looking like a latin version of Prince. Snappy dressers and high energy output was a good sell for the band, and they definitely won some new fans tonight. Oceans Of The Moon didn’t fare quite as well, with guitarist Rick Pelletier’s off-putting smarm. He’s got ties Dwyer via Landed, the band they were both in before Pelletier went on to join Six Finger Satellite, and the faint pulse of that band was heard in the herky-jerky synth grooves that dribbled out, but it wasn’t enough to really captivate.
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Primarily based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tim Bugbee is no stranger to traveling throughout the country or overseas to capture the best live music photos.