By Thalia Stopa
The Commodore Ballroom
September 24, 2017
Disguised in a colourful rubber Halloween mask of a tiger, opener Arrington de Dionyso paraded to centre stage with his saxophone case hoisted above his head – “This Saxophone Kills Fascist” scrawled on the side. The Olympia, Washington-based experimental musician shoved two microphones into his maw and unleashed a stream of guttural throat singing that had everyone within earshot questioning the authenticity of what they were witnessing. No one seemed to be convinced that what was happening was humanly possible. Surely it was a pre-recorded track…??? In actuality what were hearing was testament to both the venue’s acoustics and especially the incredible talent of de Dionyso, who followed up his first trance-inducing number with an extended, gut-twisting saxophone solo, before revealing his personage. The entire, mind-altering set could have been no more than 30 minutes – which only seemed fair to the audience whose psyches couldn’t have handled any more of mindfuck so early in the night.
It was an unexpected but not unnatural segue for headliners Thee Oh Sees. Considering the majority demographic of the audience appeared to be barely-of-age, male skateboarders, the fluidity of what has become the “John Dwyer Band”, featuring an interchangeable cast of supporting musicians, is clearly not detrimental to their relevancy. The first and only time that I have seen TOS previously was about a decade ago at the Biltmore, as a newbie Burger Records et al. fangirl, and “Warm Slime” was an formative psych album for my garage rock phase development (along with Ty Segall’s “Melted” and the S/T Vivian Girls record).
I harbour very little guilt over the fact that I haven’t kept up with TOS’ prolific album output, nor do I think that it’s a necessity to appreciate and be martyred by their live performance. What their steady output of genre-bending recordings clearly does keep consistent is relevancy. I can’t relate to most of the throbbing mass of moshers who probably counted heavy-hitting and head-thrashing “Orc” (released this August) as their TOS introduction. But I sure as hell could surrender myself to the sweaty, Dwyer-led musical sacrilege for the night.Commodore Ballroom, Thee Oh Sees