The recent announcement that Phono del Sol 2017 headliner Thee Oh Sees will now be known as Oh Sees likely generated, at most, acknowledging nods from most music fans, unless, of course, you’re an Oh Sees super fan (like us), or happen to have just printed several thousand programs for an upcoming festival using the band’s old name (like us). But while dropping “Thee” might not be a big deal, the band’s new name offers another demarcating point to help navigate a remarkable two-decade run that has seen John Dwyer and bandmates release eighteen LPs and about a bazillion singles, EPs, and ephemera.
Orinoka Crash Suite began as a side project for Dwyer during the Pink and Brown/Coachwhips days, offering the musician an outlet to explore quieter psych and folk sounds. The early OCS albums functioned as a lab for sonic experimentation, yielding haunting gems like “Second Date,” from Songs About Death & Dying Vol. 3:
Over time, though, the project evolved into a proper band, getting louder and more direct in the process. The dynamite “It Killed Mom,” from Sucks Blood, from the rechristened “The Oh Sees,” is still lower-fi than subsequent releases, but its lurching garage rock stomp foreshadows the fiery rock and roll that would soon follow.
Over the past decade as “Thee Oh Sees,” the group’s live shows have become legendary, and its recorded output full of great albums produced at an astonishing pace. After demonstrating mastery of garage rock on classics like Help and Warm Slime, the band’s more recent recordings, including last year’s sprawling one-two punch of An Odd Entrances and A Weird Exits, have more fully embraced psychedelic terrain, although they can still shred and pummel without restraint. Speaking of pummeling: since moving to Los Angeles, Dwyer’s configured the group as a quartet with two drummers, taking full advantage of the heavy, rhythmic and hypnotic possibilities that two kits can afford.
Oh Sees may no longer be based in San Francisco, but the band and its legacy still feel indelibly linked to the city and its music scene. And it will be a thrill to have them return to Phono del Sol, where we can say with some certainty that they will absolutely destroy. Plus, we’ll probably get to hear some new songs from Orc, which comes out in August.
While you’re taking a listen to “The Static God,” from the new album, be sure to buy your tickets for Phono del Sol! You won’t want to miss it!