Fuzz at the Cave, 10/19/13

Fuzz at the Cave, 10/19/13
Photo by Erik Hess

With CCR Headcleaner
The Cave, Carleton College, Northfield
Saturday, October 19, 2013

It's confirmed: Bay Area garage rock titan Ty Segall's many talents include drum kit hero. Fronting his psychedelic rock trio with an onomatopoetic name Fuzz, the prolific instigator wielded the sticks like he wanted to poke Don Henley's eyes out. With guitarist Charles Moothart and bassist Roland Cosio providing harmonic acrobatics and driving force, the guys laid into the group's self-titled debut to the delight of a small, wiry crowd at the Cave. 

See Also: Slideshow: Fuzz at the Cave, 10/19/13

And no, the Cave isn't a DIY basement in Whittier -- though the BYOB policy and the bands carrying their gear through the same entrance we walked through did make it feel that way. The 86-year-old 150-capacity venue with a compact stage is located in the bottom of a Carleton College dorm. It just underwent a major renovation last year, so the paint on the walls looked awfully fresh. Booking more sweaty shows like Fuzz will help restore the venue's grittiness, but in the mean time, the upgrades to the bathrooms, the bar, and the stage all make for a better concert experience. 

Fuzz at the Cave, 10/19/13
Fuzz at the Cave, 10/19/13
Photos by Erik Hess

Once they'd tweaked their monitor preferences sufficiently, Segall launched into one of several short, bizarre speeches he'd deliver throughout. Statements like "The future is shrouded in mystery," and "We are all made of flesh," took us a little further into the psyche of Fuzz -- even if the yells from the amped up crowd were content to just rock already. Everyone got their wish.

Blending the blues-tinged guitar heroics of Jimi Hendrix and Cream with the dark abandon of Black Sabbath, Fuzz spent an hour putting on an exhibition that would make Guitar Center employees drool. Segall sang passionately while exploding on his drums, but the draw of Fuzz was its dirty, sludgy, hair-swinging fury. Moothart, who is a familiar character in Segall's other live configurations, proved himself as a throwback axeman who executed every bit of his parts with precision -- and even bits of showy vibrato. While there was a punk attitude in "This Time I Got a Reason," his interplay with Cosio's blown-out bass was always locked in tight.

Segall, wearing a Neil Young shirt, made sure that things stayed away from anything resembling a jam band experience. While Fuzz's album has plenty of exploratory moments, the deviations from the source material were minor. The Nirvana redone as stoner rock appeal of "What's in My Head?" got the fervent crowd -- who had already had a few surfers scraping the low ceiling -- really thrashing and throwing air drums. Quite nasty stuff, actually.  
One of the smartest songs in Fuzz's fairly homogenous aesthetic is "Loose Sutures," and it played perfectly to the elbow-throwing audience near the end of the set. With its multiple fake endings, the dramatic tension got thick. Moothart looked like a man possessed through his complex passages, though forgive the reviewer for averting his eyes as it was impossible not to just bang one's head. The displays of skill were passed to Segall and Cosio over the course of these moments, and the loud/fast quotient hit its peak for the night.  

Fuzz at the Cave, 10/19/13
Fuzz at the Cave, 10/19/13
Fuzz at the Cave, 10/19/13
Photos by Erik Hess

Somehow, "One" managed to tighten the noose even further to close things out. Ted Nugent was grinning somewhere. While there's an obvious draw to this group because Segall has become a deserved Pitchfork darling, he was wise to construct the night strictly as a Fuzz outing. He never left the kit or broke character, and thus avoided anyone egging him to dip into the brilliant back catalog he's assembled. His gift for packing pop hooks deep into the fracas of his material means there will come a day when a Jack White-level audience will come courting. But there's clearly some left-of-center stuff he wants to get to first.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: This trip -- as opposed to a much-shorter drive to see them at Turf Club Sunday -- was equally about seeing what Ty Segall could bring behind the kit and about reliving my brief stint as a Cave employee in the fall of 2003. While I own and enjoy a large portion of his back catalog, I'll admit that by the end of a busy 2012, it was beginning to look like Ty Segall painted himself into an artistic corner. So he glided out on the cloud of Fuzz.

Opener: CCR Headcleaner were four shaggy dudes from San Francisco who play noise rock that dips into psychedelia and drone. One of them re-upped his impressive coif with some aerosol hair spray mid-set.

The Crowd: College kids who brought their own beverages. Some Twin Cities diehards, and four dudes from Winnipeg that come down to the area to see shows on a regular basis. Everyone came to bounce around.

Random Detail: Two fellas from Asia Security were in the house, but nothing got even remotely out of hand -- aside from the shredding onstage.

Overheard: "Fuzz is here. I'm gonna go drink a fucking Budweiser."

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