At the Rialto Theatre Ty Segall did a stately pleasure-dome decree:
He burst forth onto stage wearing a baby mask, which was ironic because just as Orange Julius’ rhythm guitar began driving, the mosh pit felt just like a womb. Time slowed. I thought vaguely of waterslides. The prince of lo-fi, now leading a New York psych rock band frowned through his mask’s mouth-gap and gushed forth the sounds of Emotional Mugger (Drag City), his newest album/project.
“J’ADORE LE PETITE DEJEUNER,” Segall bellowed in his first address to the audience. “JE DETESTE L’HIVER. J’ADORE LE PETITE DEJEUNER. NOW GIVE ME MY EGGS!”
Meet the Muggers: there’s longtime Segall collaborator Mikal Cronin on the bass and bass sax, Kyle Thomas of King Tuff on the guitar and the orange jumpsuit (referred to above as Orange Julius), Emmett Kelly of The Cairo Gang also on guitar, and two members of the LA psych rock band Wand: Evan Burrows on the drumkit, and Cory Hanson on the keys/synths, occasionally adding a third guitar. You could bounce a quarter off that sound, so tight it was.
Emotional Mugger is pretty much a concept album; Segall fully immerses himself into the character identified in one video as Sloppo. But what is that concept? Let’s gather the facts:
His onstage persona is nearly illegible. “I LOVE MY CHILDREN,” he shouted to introduce another song, “I LOVE THEM MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD. THEY’RE MY CHILDREN.” He brandished a whip-like umbilical cord. It was weird. It was epic. You either didn’t get it or you didn’t care.
A quick visit to www.emotionalmugger.com will reveal an active 1-800 number. When called, a recording plays of Segall manically whispering:
You’ve reached the emotional mugger hotline. I’m itching to hear how I can fill the hole in your ego. Do you need a daddy? [Daddy!] do you need a baby? [baby noises} Do you have a child? Do you have a mother?!
Maybe in the depths of Ty Segall’s skull, there is an articulate message behind Emotional Mugger, and it is art. I don’t want to speculate about what that message is because… who cares? The wildest quality of the Muggers’ performance is its sheer force. Segall never drops his persona. He categorically denied requests for interviews during this tour and all other media installations have featured a masked, drooling Ty.
In full bandleader mode, Segall never picked up a guitar. Sometimes in a trance, sometimes crowd surfing, sometimes crowd … standing—a classic Segall move picked up from Iggy Pop—the Main Mugger put on a downright good show.
In another unexpected move, older folk littered the dance floor! Their silver hair shone under the ultraviolet. I worried for them as they were pushed towards the mosh pit by the weight of the crowd, so fragile they seemed.
The Muggers ran Emotional Mugger pretty much cover to cover if my memory serves me correctly. Later songs included “The Feels” and “The Singer,” both off Manipulator (Drag City 2014).
While the two nights that were originally scheduled at the Rialto turned into one night, the Muggers basked in Montreal love. “I wish I could have done that again yesterday,” I overheard in line for the coat check on the way out. Everything about the performance of the album that was recorded over a VHS and mailed to Pitchfork last November was awe-inspiring, or, emotion-mugging, I guess.