LIVE: Thee Oh Sees, Hawthorne Theater, Portland, OR

Oh SeesThee Oh Sees // Photo Credit: Jordan Portlock

By Jordan Portlock

Editor’s note: Mr. Portlock is nothing if not precocious, and as such, he’s included a visual companion. You can see a snippet of what you missed right HERE.

Party Dreams at the Cocaine Sock Hop
A little context to the reader: before seeing Thee Oh Sees this past week, I had very little exposure to the group. I knew “The Dream” and that it has graced many a rampage in Grand Theft Auto V over the past months and had gotten a chance to really sit down with the group’s most recent work, this year’s brilliant Floating Coffin, but that was pretty much it. Interestingly, most write-ups I’ve looked at on the band seem to always suggest that these writers have been there since day one. Kudos to them but keep in mind that I am a relatively new convert when reading this.
And oh boy am I a convert. After two solid but difficult to differentiate opening acts (one of which’s Iggy Pop copping frontman I may or may not have shared an offstage kiss with…), I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I did notice is that in the 15-20 minutes leading up to Thee Oh Sees’ set the crowd appeared to grow exponentially both in size and variety of person. What type of person would attend a show by this band? An impressive cross-section of music-goer, to be perfectly honest. I can’t think of one label that wasn’t represented in some notable capacity.
The crowd was obviously there FOR Thee Oh Sees. Opening with Floating Coffin‘s “I Came From the Mountain” the energy shook up from the ground floor into a frenzy by John Dwyer and company’s first “Woo!” & trebled out guitar burst. This energy translated into album follower, “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster” which justifiably opened up a pit on its crushing riff’s first run-through.
There is something to be said for the amount of crowd movement (particularly compared to the lack of movement displayed for the opening bands) during Thee Oh Sees’ set. Less mosh pit and more cocaine sock hop, the crowd didn’t stop squirming until the band concluded their encore. Thee Oh Sees even managed to maintain an impressive average of one crowd surf per song. Suffice it to say, the kids were into it.
The climax of crowd energy hit during “The Dream” which followed a pattern found throughout the set of stretching the songs out to their psychedelic peak long past what their recordings might imply. It was at this point that the shirts came off and the crowd went into full-on party mode. Interestingly enough, this is what I took most from the set was that it felt like an exciting hybrid of rock show and party.
Consider me converted. Not that I was ever resistant, but for whatever reason Thee Oh Sees had proved too elusive for me to pin down. Maybe that’s part of their charm, having their own little world for people to discover where everyone is invited (yes, even the shirtless bros…) and everybody has fun. Beautiful, no? Two busted thumbs WAY up.
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