It is inarguable that the world is in constant, ceaseless change. It is also true that we often resist change, preferring to reside in our comfort zones until prodded out. One thing I have noticed over these decades as a dedicated music fan is, MAN, people HATE it when a beloved lineup of a favorite band goes through a radical change. The "new guys" always have it rough, trying to live up to recording and performance legacies that can be pretty daunting. It's not fair, but it's common.

Take Thee Oh Sees, the Hardest Working Band In Showbiz. The California garage psych combo, featuring frenetic lead vocalist/guitarist/mastermind John Dwyer, was long made up of Brigid Dawson on vocals and keyboards, Petey Dammit on bass, and Mike Shoun on drums, until a band "hiatus" was announced about a year ago. Fan lamentations were shouted to the sky, fearing a permanent dissolution. This did not quite happen, as the band released their album "Drop" early in 2014, and a new touring lineup was formed of Dwyer, Nick Murray (from the touring lineup of White Fence) on drums, and Tim Hellman on bass. What?? No sweet Brigid, no shreddy Petey, no steady Shoun? Well, no, because CHANGE, as we have discussed. Embracing the idea of change, I landed at the Crocodile in Seattle this past Monday excited and ready to see and hear what the TrĂ©s Oh Sees would bring.

My arrival timing was off, however, since I expected opener Jack Name (who also tours with White Fence) to start later in the evening. By the time I got there and set up my camera gear, his set was nearly finished. It was an unusual set-up, in near complete blue-hued darkness, with the musicians facing each other instead of the audience. I felt a bit like I was an unwanted guest, and had trouble connecting to the chilly, somber demeanor and synth-heavy sound. That said, perhaps if I had been there for the entire set I would have dug the groove. Punctuality is important, kids.

The all-ages, sold-out crowd at the Croc filled the floor with shiny faces and moshy bodies, ready to go Oh Sees mental. Lineup change or not, it was certain that Dwyer would bring his trademark manic energy to the set, and that drives everything. In near-constant motion, he held his guitar high on his chest, wielding it like an assault rifle, filling the room with a reverb-laden crunch. Immediately, the crowd began to release its own energy back, the center swirling and undulating like a hurricane sea, waves of arms and shoulders and heads crashing into each other, quite happily. 

I enjoyed the show immensely as well, straight through to the two-song encore. Dwyer, Murray, and Hellman did a damn fine gig, and if there were any jitters or mistakes, I sure didn't hear them. Here are the changes I noticed:

Vocals: It's all on Dwyer now. He's more than up to the challenge; however, since he sings in a higher register most of the time, I do miss the warmth and strength of Brigid doubling-up with him. It's a lot for one person to be heard over all that glorious noise.

Keys: Dwyer added a little synth here and there. Again, I liked the extra keys myself, but it's not critical to the live Oh Sees sound.

Bass: Hellman is the performance-opposite of Dammit -- reserved vs. high-energy. It wasn't easy for me to hear him specifically from where I was, but he did just fine. Also, in place of Petey's Doc Martins, Tim prefers the naked onstage foot. The More You Know!

Drums: I'm already familiar with Nick Murray's style, which is quite different from Shoun's but equally appealing. Shoun is crisp, precise, and no-nonsense, with clean and complex fills, making me almost sure he learned to play drums in school. Murray has a more relaxed feel reminiscent of mid- to late-'60s psychedelic drum styles -- more organic, you could say, and very comfortable in Dwyer's longer jams where his loping, rolling power propels the songs in a wholly different and interesting space.

Now is the time we enjoy The Fabulous Flying Hair Of John Dwyer! Click on the photos to enlarge and click on the Flickr set link for even more photos!

Long may any and all incarnations of Oh Sees reign. DO NOT MISS THIS BAND...well, ever!