Tycho takes Variety Playhouse on a Vision Quest
It’s been a few years since I got to see Tycho in Atlanta. The last time I saw him he was performing in Hell at The Masquerade and had just formed his full band, a change from his previous performances as a solo artist. I suppose it’s inappropriate to call Tycho “him” anymore, as it has always been a project rather than an individual, and has simply grown from a one-man show to a 4-piece. That said, the soul of Tycho lies in one man, Scott Hansen, a graphic designer turned musician who takes full control of every aspect of the project, from the music to the merch and rich visual design that accompanies the sounds.
This was the first show at Variety Playhouse since they completed their renovations that lasted all Summer. The space isn’t much different in layout than before, but the bar has been improved, and the whole space has a much more open, expansive feel to it. A sold-out show, the place was packed, and security had to stand guard in the aisles to prevent people from entering the floor once it was at capacity. I actually thought they were a bit over-protective on this issue, but I suppose no venue wants to anger the fire marshall on their first night back in business.
Once the music began, everyone settled into place and very few people moved around throughout the show. Everyone was transfixed on the stage and backdrop of visuals. The music was mellow and smooth through the whole performance, but it was good to hear the band play on a really big sound system, as they were able to push a lot more bass and dynamic range than I had heard previously, and even more than I expected from them. Scott only spoke to the audience a few times throughout the show, and all the musicians mostly seemed withdrawn into the magic of their instruments. I heard people in the crowd say things like “this is one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen”, and certainly everyone had a good time, though most people kept quiet except to cheer in between songs.
Tycho’s visuals are like some sort of Californian dream. Mixed imagery of the deserts of the American West, surfers riding Pacific waves, and sun-tanned girls fade in and out with very clever double exposure techniques and paint swirling patterns. It’s constantly changing and unique to each track, but his aesthetic is so coordinated and connected, there’s really nobody like him in the industry. He wrote about his process around the artwork on his latest album in this intriguing piece. His visuals are so beautiful that I would be happy to watch them without any music, but with the instrumental accompaniment, they elevate the show to a psychedelic quality, and I felt transported to the inside of Hansen's mind, despite only having had one drink through the whole show.
Tycho briefly left the stage near the end of their performance only to come back out for an encore of some of their older hits. I personally find encores to be annoying and more about ego than the audience, but everyone seemed happy to shout and scream for them during the brief intermission. As if this verbal affirmation wasn’t enough, as we left, the merch booth was crowded with people clamoring for Tycho gear. As an independent artist, it’s impressive to see this kind of outpouring of love from any fanbase, especially for a west coast artist playing in Atlanta. My feeling is that Tycho has managed to build a strong brand through consistency and authenticity, and that the band still has a very bright future ahead.
Photos by Sam Lawrence for Bullet Music.