Oh Sees: Academy, Manchester

Oh Sees returned to Manchester for the first time since dropping “Thee” from their name. The cities’ Academy venue was fully packed with people eagerly awaiting yet another legendary performance from the Californian outfit. Before the main event they were treated to a support slot from The Peacers.

San Francisco based quartet The Peacers impressed the crowd with their energy and riffs. Their presence on this tour is potentially an act of nepotism, with their drummer being former Thee Oh Sees drummer Mike Shoun, but they proved themselves to be worthy of the honour. Their style was more than a little bit reminiscent of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, similarities could be drawn in every department of the band.

As soon as The Peacers set had finished then Oh Sees began setting up, it was one of the quickest turn-arounds I have ever seen, with the band eager to get started early in order to cram as much as possible in before the curfew kicked in. This earlier than anticipated start caught many of the audience out, with the first few bars of “Plastic Plant” provoking a mad rush from the bars back to the main room. From the moment they hammered out this opening track it was apparent that Oh Sees were intent on putting on a memorable show.

What then followed was two mesmeric hours packed with technical wizardry and invigorating riffs. Lead singer and guitarist John Dwyer was undoubtedly the star of the show with his energetic performance, blazing riffs and rasping vocals. Dwyer had stiff competition from the other three members of the band for the title of stand out performance. Dual drummers Dan Rincon and Paul Quattrone hammered out blistering routines, at times looking like the mirror image of each other as they played in perfect symmetry. They even finished their set with three drummers, as Mike Shoun returned to the stage to temporarily rejoin his former band for the performance of “Contraption/ Soul Desert”. Bassist Tim Hellman shook the room with his thunderous and electrifying bass lines, but Dwyer was definitely the main focus of everyone’s attention.

They turned each track into an odyssey of sound as they stretched out songs to incorporate more exploratory improvisation. They dragged out occasional breakdowns, teasing the crowd before the chorus thumped back in, sending the mosh pit crazy. It was a mosh pit that needed very little encouragement, flailing around in a constant sea of kinetic energy. They spoilt the fans with select cuts from right across their impressive and extensive back-catalogue, as well as throwing in some brand new material. Tracks like “Gelatinous Cube” and “Tidal Wave” received a huge reaction from the gathered mass of enthusiastic supporters. Performances from Oh Sees can prove to be pretty rare in this country but they certainly ensured that this one will live on in the audience’s memories until they eventually return to these shores.

*(main picture from Stylus, Leeds in 2016).