October 16, 2019 at The Sinclair
Oh Sees (formerly Thee Oh Sees, OCS, The Ohsees, and The Oh Sees) played to a full house at one of Cambridge’s most popular venues and transformed an average weeknight into a headbanging evening of amicable mosh pits and neck injuries. Two months after the release of their most recent album Face Stabber, Oh Sees have shown that even after 20+ years of activity, they are still loved enough by the Boston area to sell out a Wednesday night show.
L.A. dwellers Prettiest Eyes blessed the stage first wearing black turtlenecks, sporting bolo ties, and dripping with a mysterious aura that silenced the room. Momentarily stunned by the three piece that resembled an Arizonian Manson Family, a growing crowd eagerly awaited to hear what was going to come of the unusual combination of only drums, bass, and keyboard. The trio opened with the song “en Español,” which according to frontman/drummer Pachy García is “about impeaching the President.” Prettiest Eyes were not there to cause a political stir, but rather to speak their minds and have a damn fun time doing so.
The initially still crowd appeared to be on the same page as the front half began to jump and show inklings of a mosh pit, a considerable feat for an opening act. The band then presented a set that blended experimental punk with aggressive psychedelia and even new-wave popiness at times. Their unusual yet intriguing brand of sound was largely constructed by keyboardist Paco Casanova, whose effects pedalboard, filled with delays and noise generators, gave him the appearance of a musical Willy Wonka by the way he experimented with such poise and enjoyment. Their set was truly a mixed bag; one song would be a slow, mysterious seduction and the next would be an explosion of almost unintelligible sounds, very similar to the night’s headliners.
After Prettiest Eyes had disappeared with smiles and “thank you”s, Oh Sees promptly began to set up their own equipment. The band’s stage plot was stunning in itself with two twin drum sets front and center and lead singer/guitarist John Dwyer’s rig humbly set up on the far left of the stage. Although the group did not appear to be fully set up, drummers Paul Quattrone and Dan Rincon started a triumphant beat in perfect unison that lead into a short lyric-less jam. This warranted a hearty applause, but Dwyer then admitted they were only doing an impromptu soundcheck as they had just arrived from Canada after oversleeping. He then dove head-first into “I Come From the Mountain” which had the crowd laughing with childlike excitement, followed by the chaotic “The Static God.”
Although Oh Sees have a knack for extended jams and switching up song forms, their live sound almost perfectly emulated the one constructed in the studio. This was largely due to Dwyer’s signature screaming glass guitar and his tendency to engulf the entire microphone head in his mouth when yelling. His undying energy while wearing his unusually signature grey shorts and a striped red shirt gave him the appearance of an adult Charlie Brown having a temper tantrum. Dwyer’s goblin-like aggression on classic Oh Sees stompers like “Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster” and “The Dream” was balanced by a quick and polite “thank you” after each song, followed immediately by band members turning their watchful eyes as they waited for a command from the frontman as to what the next song would be.
This boisterous aggression and passion was shared by the whole band as each member was profusely sweating by the third song, especially drummers Quattrone and Rincon. The way in which they orchestrated cooperative drum beats and fills in such unison, while keeping a consistent energy for over an hour, showed that being a drummer for Oh Sees is equivalent to having a gym membership and using it daily. There were multiple instances throughout the show where the grooving dexterity from both drummers cohered with the natural rhythm of the mosh pit of passionate fans below that created a true sense of musical allure; the stars aligned in the realm of performance.
The quintet ended the evening with an extended jam version of “Encrypted Bounce” which realistically felt to be nearly fifteen minutes. It was a frankly strange selection to close the set with given that the track is not extremely popular in the band’s discography. Nevertheless, transitions in the song from quiet experimental moments into built-up head banging snippets kept the crowd on its toes until the final moments of the night.
After the band had expended every last ounce of energy on the jam and said goodnight, it seemed almost comical when about thirty passionate fans stayed and requested an encore while the crowd thinned out. Understandably, they were quickly shut down as the lights came on and Oh Sees’ sweat-drenched equipment was packed away.