Now that Iʼm in bars surrounded by e-cigarette plumes rather than chain- ganging Marlboro smoke, observing bored chicks in matching spiked leather heels to their spiked leather jackets from H&M, and folks unlikely to be saturated in sweat in fear of ruining their makeup/clothes/hair, itʼs time to reassess my memories. I suppose Iʼm oldish now, and easily annoyed by open displays of the sophomoric cult of “fitting in.” This sort of fashionable dishonesty should not reflect the music on stage, yet often times it does when musicians care more about the presentation of their product, rather than the product itself.
Iʼm older, and with age comes nostalgia about how I was simultaneously lost in youth, and how lost I was in music. I (somehow) miss skanking, twisting a cold spoon on hickeys, passing out in a busy intersection, acquiring bruises on top of bruises, and returning home smelling of a distinct balance of sweat, vomit, rust, smoke, and rubber. But did this make music more earnest back in the good oleʼ days? I hope not. Perhaps, I find myself find myself seeking things which are…pure? No, I donʼt believe in purity, nor enlightenment. Maybe Iʼm searching for things which have less layers, less eruptions, less acne flare-ups associated with being so perpetually lost in time and place.
Yet seeing Ty Segall brought back such fuzzy, multicolored bruised memories for me, and perhaps it is because he does care more about his musical product than his presentation, and itʼs obvious. The guy is popping out albums like hipsters knit scarves, or drunks losing twenty dollar bills in cab rides. Reminiscent of garage grunge and 60ʼs psychedelics, his music is a rose-colored rash of movement, swerving back and forth between a scratchy, scissored guitar and thoughtful cooing.
Yet unlike the desperate aggression of grunge, there is a quality in Segall which is more earnest; his music is strung within a place of hope, rather than disgust. Heʼs warmer. That hot neck from a head-banging whiplash. That skinned knee from beach sand. That hurt-heart of yours, summoning you into a long “fuck it all” road-trip, screaming (quite literally to the crowd) “Waffle House is on me.” Even though you may slowly or painfully find a position to sleep in, such pains/pangs are worth it. Segallʼs bleary vocals and hatcheted anthems, such as “Thank God for Sinners” can help you through any mode of survival. Like a bag of grapes, he knows when to be both sour and sweet.
I find myself searching for honesty in music (as I hope we all do), and frequenting venues where I canʼt help but roll my eyes at bullshit covered in glitter, Segallʼs honesty is a fresh, brassy, dirt-knuckled breath of air where I can pull the lawnmower cord and hear some grit. I think Segallʼs honesty occurs through his obsessive songwriting and creating. Honesty, as we all know, is really just doing your own fucking thing, and honesty will never be self-indulgent. Not announcing it, or apologizing for it, or spray painting it on a church, or molding your hair with Aquanet, or being socially “quirky,” but doing your own thing which mostly occurs in invisibility, isolation, and the imagination of creating.
After the show, I ask Segall how he would define poetry. “Poetry is everything that is undefined. It doesn’t need a definition, and never should it have a definition.” So go. Rather than define yourself, try not to.