Bursting onstage at the Chapel in a flurry of blue lipstick and thick blue eyeshadow, POW’s guitarist and vocalist, Byron Blum, is nothing if not worthy of the attention he demands. It’s clear from the beginning, launching into “66,” that POW! — composed of Blum, Melissa Blue and Aaron Diko on synths, and new addition Justin Sullivan on drums — packs just as much of a punch as its name suggests.
“The name comes from a festival that happened in LA this one time called Party Out West,” Blum explained in an email interview with The Daily Californian. “It’s where Melissa and I first met.”
Opening each night for Thee Oh Sees’ much-awaited homecoming three-night residency, POW! is undeniably a part of that family now.
Once based in San Francisco, Thee Oh Sees’ frontman John Dwyer famously moved to Los Angeles in early 2014, putting the band on hiatus. In the press release for POW!’s Hi Tech Boom — released on Castle Face Records, which he co-owns — Dwyer characterizes his former home as “the graveyard SF” and features anti-tech sentiments such as “the Iphone is the new Styrofoam cup.”
Ironically enough, despite Dwyer’s vocal aversion to the tech world, there is a GoPro blinking from behind the band’s equipment during tonight’s show.
This week’s three-night residency at the Chapel is also a homecoming for POW!, as all four members live in the Mission/Western addition. When asked what his favorite part of playing in his hometown was, Blum replied, “F r I e n d z.”
POW! puts on a show heavy with synth outros and Blum’s improvised jamming, sounding kind of like what aliens crash landing into a punk show and the two groups deciding to jam together would sound like. Diko and Blue provide plenty of B-movie space sounds whirring behind Blum’s jangly, don’t-fuck-with-me guitar, and Blum’s and Sullivan’s synchronized moments of silence and heavy downbeats were impressive and strong when their timing was watertight.
Then Dwyer himself takes the stage, his “SONG” tattoo clearly visible above his red-and-white-striped tank.
The headlining act, Thee Oh Sees, is playing without a visible set list and without keyboardist and vocalist Brigid Dawson, who departed from the band around the time Thee Oh Sees departed from San Francisco in early 2014. Touring with their newest record, Mutilator Defeated At Last, the band currently consists of Dwyer, bassist Timothy Hellman and drummers Ryan Moutinho and Dan Rincon. Moutinho and Rincon are perfectly in time with each other throughout the entire set, and it’s hypnotic and incredible to watch synchronized beats roll out from the stage, layered under Dwyer’s and Hellman’s guitars.
Often unleashing howls and screams that the audience echoes back to him in appreciation, Dwyer’s sweat dripped rhythmically from his heavily-tattooed elbow, spraying the fans jumping around at his feet.
After a high-energy, high-decibel set, Thee Oh Sees ended with a nine-minute-long instrumental outro, building to a crescendo of squeals and reverb and drums and noise before Dwyer moved the drummers’ mics closer to the drums. Turning his back on the audience and fiddling with the amps, he layered levels of feedback and reverb. Then finally, finally, a drum solo brought the marathon set to a close.
Fans stuck around, stomping and chanting for an encore, but as it was 12:36 a.m., that seemed unlikely: It seemed as though Thee Oh Sees had had enough. But the band had months of absence to make up for, and Dwyer suddenly burst back onstage, explaining, “We weren’t going to do another, but …”
One song turned into two, 12:36 turned into 12:48, and finally, with arms like jelly, Thee Oh Sees called it a night.
“Well, we’re meant to have a sound curfew around 1 a.m.,” a bartender explained, watching fans stagger outside, “but tonight …” He trailed off, not needing to say that tonight was something different.
These aren’t normal weeknights — Thee Oh Sees has returned. San Francisco’s prodigal punk sons are back from Los Angeles, and they definitely didn’t leave any of their energy or sheer noise behind.
Thee Oh Sees will be playing its final night of residency at the Chapel on Thursday.
Contact Tyler Allen at [email protected].