Ty Segall’s Indie Experiment Continues With Teragram, Warsaw Residencies
Anthony Pidgeon / Redferns – A “Righteous” Fest
Segall has prioritized indie fests throughout his career. Here, he performs with his Freedom Band at Oregon’s Pickathon Festival on August 5, 2017.
A simple philosophy guides Ty Segall’s career.
“I’ve had the rule of working with friends or people that I feel like want to be friends,” the 32-year-old garage-rocker tells Pollstar. “When you have that rule, you can’t really go wrong.”
That ethos and other old-fashioned values – unparalleled work ethic and loyalty among them – have served the prolific California musician well as he has built a deep catalog and a passionate following over the last decade. Despite the music industry’s corporate drift, Segall has managed to conduct business on his own terms.
Part of that is because, literally, Segall manages himself. Despite close relationships with his label, Drag City, and his agency, Panache Booking, Segall calls the shots, which lets him stick to important standards, from foregoing corporate-sponsored events to ensuring he exclusively plays “righteous” venues and festivals.
It also allows for unorthodox touring strategies, like the 10-show and five-show residencies Segall has plotted this year at Los Angeles’ Teragram Ballroom and Brooklyn’s Warsaw, where every gig will include a top-to-bottom reading of his new album First Taste, due Aug. 2, and a full-album rendition of a record from his discography, drawing on a rotation comprised of 2010’s Melted, 2011’s Goodbye Bread, 2014’s Manipulator and 2016’s Emotional Mugger. (Segall shared another new First Taste song, “Ice Plant,” today.)
Still, Segall hasn’t achieved his independent vision entirely alone. One key associate has been Panache owner and self-described Segall “co-pilot” Michelle Cable. “She really wants to push my career in the best possible way, while still adhering to my rules,” Segall says of the agent who has booked “99.9%” of his gigs since 2009. “It’s a really awesome relationship and there’s just a lot of trust there.”
Emma McIntyre / Getty Images for FYF – FYF Fuzz
Segall brings his blistering garage-rock to FYF Fest, in his hometown of Los Angeles, on July 23, 2017.
In fact, when Panache, whose 78-artist booking roster also includes Mac DeMarco and added riot grrrl legends Bikini Kill in January, launched a management arm in 2012, Segall was its first client. The arrangement primarily stemmed from logistics: As a boutique agent, Cable’s responsibilities already surpass a typical agent’s, and she books Segall’s numerous side projects, such as Fuzz, GØGGS and The C.I.A., as well as frequent Segall collaborators Oh Sees, Mikal Cronin and White Fence.
“It helps when one person is organizing the schedule and the logistics so that things don’t get double-booked and overlap,” Cable says. When it comes to consequential decisions, “we do it together, because he is fiercely very opinionated on how he does everything and has stayed very true to his beliefs.”
After a decade with Segall, Cable knows those opinions well. “Ty is really like family and I feel like I really understand what he’s looking for when he goes out on the road,” she says, citing criteria including keeping ticket prices low, pursuing all-ages shows and curating aesthetically similar support acts.
“There’s a lot of things that go into the equation,” Segall says. “It’s all about what’s going to make the show good and make people happy. If you start playing these giant places that have no soul, then it’s not going to be the best show and people might not be into it. … It’s gotta be booked by rad people and the people gotta be nice and it’s gotta not be a giant corporate thing.”
Besides Panache’s clearest benefit – that it allows a degree of agent-artist connection that larger agencies rarely do – Segall and Cable both cite more subtle pluses, from the ability to book shows not based on bottom line alone to the leeway to avoid supporting tours.
“Sometimes a support tour works really well and you end up walking away with fans, but a lot of the time you don’t,” Cable says. Segall is more blunt: As a client at a larger agency, “maybe you could get a tour opening up for John Mayer or something like that, but that’s not my priority.”
As with some of Panache’s clients, Segall has had to balance his independent inclinations with the reality of growing popularity. The agency, Cable explains, works “with a lot of bands that are pretty independent and have that DIY ethos, but also have now grown to where it’s good for them to have somebody that can help them navigate through a more commercial world.”
Cable points to Segall’s first headlining gig at 1,400-capacity Manhattan institution Webster Hall as a significant moment in his career.
“It was a really big accomplishment because it was the biggest venue he’d played,” she says of the May 2012 concert. “For him, it was a big step into new territory, because he’d been playing venues like [indie New York clubs] Death By Audio and Cake Shop. … I [helped] encourage him to break out of that comfort zone and go into spaces that were larger, a little more intimidating and definitely a little more commercial.”
Segall sold out the room, then still unaffiliated with AEG, and grossed $21,593. Webster Hall has since been a lucrative stomping ground for him: Two of his three highest Pollstar Boxoffice reports are two-night stands at the venue, where he grossed $52,602 and $63,019 in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
While many clubs, including Webster Hall, are now affiliated with Live Nation or AEG, enduring relationships with venues and local promoters can offset the taboo of “selling out.”
“It’s funny now,” says Cable, “because certain promoters we work with I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, now they’re at Live Nation’ or ‘They’re at AEG.’ Most of the promoters that I work with and that he’s worked with have been absorbed by a bigger company – probably because they’re just really good at what they do.”
Regardless of corporate affiliation, promoters who Segall and Cable have worked with for years “always get the show, because we have history and, when the venue makes sense, we like to have loyalty,” she says. Ultimately, Panache helps artists like Segall find the balance between making a living in the modern touring world and staying “true to how they want to do things.”
Chelsea Guglielmino / Getty Images – Desert Daze
Segall performs at another indie fest, California
That’s where Segall’s creative live strategy for this year comes in. Instead of traversing the country this summer and fall, Segall has just 15 U.S. shows booked – at Teragram Ballroom, every Friday from July 26 to Sept. 27, and at Warsaw, every night from Oct. 1 to 5.
“Selfishly, the idea came about because I wanted to spend the summer at home,” says Segall, who has lived in L.A. since 2013. (Born and raised in Laguna Beach, Calif., Segall gained notoriety as part of San Francisco’s garage-rock revival in the late ‘00s.) After spending a decade of summers on the road, Segall thought, “What’s a way that we could still play shows, still work, while staying at home?”
About a year ago, conversations between Cable and Teragram’s in-house promoter Scott Simoneaux, who had discussed the concept with Teragram owner Michael Swier, yielded the idea of a Segall residency.
“He’s the mayor of Teragram,” says Simoneaux, who has worked as the venue’s talent buyer since its mid-2015 opening. “He’s done the most shows here, he’s probably the most beloved artist by the venue and every time he plays here it’s the best show.”
Segall, who even recorded his Steve Albini-produced 2019 live album, Deforming Lobes, at the 625-capacity Teragram, embraced the idea. “The people who work there are just so, so nice,” he says. “We have a really great relationship. It’s like the coffee shop down the street. You show up and you’re like, ‘What’s up, man? I’ll take the usual!’ to the monitor engineer.”
Warsaw, the 1,000-capacity venue housed in the Polish National Home community center in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, was a natural East Coast counterpart, given Segall’s admiration for the venue – the musician giddily talks about doing shots and munching pierogies with its staff when he’s played there previously – and its connection to Swier, who books the room through his Live Nation-affiliated Mercury East Presents and booked Segall shows at another of his venues, Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom, earlier this decade.
The residency format, Cable says, allows Segall “to chill and get good sleep, see friends and then also have a more intimate experience” than if he were to play only one night at a much larger room. And Segall adds that multiple nights at a smaller venue can yield a bigger payday than a single night at a bigger one; should these 15 U.S. shows sell out, he’ll play to a total of 11,250 fans.
“It’s a pretty risky idea, but it’s going to be really fun,” says Segall, who calls preparing five albums’ worth of songs “pretty psycho.”
Segall’s independence has afforded him the freedom to pursue unusual ideas like his 2019 residencies – and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m working with my family,” he says. “How could I not work with them?”