Beneath Saturday’s glowing full moon, Ty Segall took Portland on a fucked-up tour of the human subconscious in the same manner that fictitious chocolatier Willy Wonka led his Chocolate River boat ride. Dressed in a studded denim suit à la Justin Timberlake at the 2001 American Music Awards, Segall sifted through the sludge of primal desires, fears, and insecurities with the help of his super-supergroup of Muggers: Mikal Cronin (bass and sax), the Cairo Gang’s Emmett Kelly (guitar), Kyle Thomas AKA King Tuff (guitar), and Wand’s Cory Hanson (synth) and Evan Burrows (drums). The sold-out Aladdin Theater proved to be an imperfect venue for this particular show, since the seats were half filled, but the pit was massive and spilled into the aisles as the crowd melted into a rippling gelatinous substance. Segall and his Muggers almost exclusively played material off their just-released album Emotional Mugger, with a few older favorites towards the end like “Thank God For Sinners” off 2012’s Twins as well as “Feel” and “The Singer” off 2014’s Manipulator.
Emotional Mugger makes a lot more sense performed live—the experimental arrangements unfolded gracefully and Segall’s onstage character “Sloppo” explained some of the album’s bizarreness. I am filled with regret for calling the release a “lemon” after my first listen. However, it’s still pretty unclear what exactly constitutes “emotional mugging.” Whatever it is, it’s as complicated and twisted as the human mind. Segall began his set wearing a hideous baby mask and suckling a pacifier. He painted a tableau of chaos as he vacillated between man and baby, donning the mask and crying “Mommy! Why’d you leave me, Mommy?” This whimpering baby act contrasted sharply against the dark sexuality that candy-coats each song on Emotional Mugger. Segall stared menacingly into individual audience member’s eyes. He spat in his palm, letting it dangle dangerously above the heads of his fans. He spat on the ground. He spat on himself. Saliva was definitely a big theme. It was revolting, but you just couldn’t look away.
At one point Ty brought his real life, lookalike sister on stage before pushing her into the loving embrace of the crowd (which she surfed into the horizon). Perplexed security guards stood mouths agape at the churning mosh pit, unable to wrangle a rotating cast of stage-diving crowd surfers. In between songs Ty paused and pointed to Cronin, repeating “Our bass player LOVES eggs” at least five times. It was nightmarish, but a dream come true.