photo: harry sawyers
Sometimes when a studio album is so slow-paced, haunting, melodic, and just damn good, you wonder if the magic can still happen during a live show. Youth Lagoon, the band fronted by Boise, Idaho’s 23-year-old Trevor Powers, put out that kind of an album with Wondrous Bughouse earlier this year. And before you even got to the top of the stairs at the entrance of Metro last night, it was clear that the show would at the very least be loud.
It turned out that loudness was nicely balanced, paced between unrushed, dramatic pauses that created a spectacular, tantalizing effect. The group didn’t have that young band’s tendency to speed up the tempo. Instead, you heard these pretty interludes of keyboards, synthesizers and googly sci-fi warbles, which slowly built up to incredible booming crescendos. Then it backed off, let you recover, and built up again.
That said, even the droning parts were strong and intense. Those sections let Powers’ unusual nasal voice come through. His singing sounds strained and commanding at the same time, and there are moments when the artist behind the Bughouse album kind of sounds like a swarm of bugs himself. As for his look, on Wednesday night, it was a baggy sweater with the sleeves rolled way up, skinny blue pants with the legs also aggressively cuffed, big floppy shoes, and big floppy hair. He looked at times like a Muppet. A Muppet pounding on three synthesizers.
The mood of the show was really nice from the stage and in the crowd. It sounded like Powers said, between songs, that he’d like to see a Cubs game. He definitely blew kisses to the (young, white) crowd after the encore. And you got that feeling that some people were there watching their favorite band in the world—at the opening keyboard melodies on a “Raspberry Cane,” an audience member threw his heads back as if in a hallelujah.
The last song was “July,” off the first album, The Year of Hibernation. Like most of the nights songs, it built up to a staggering intensity (including Powers shoving the microphone to the ground in a kind of out-of-character stunt). But the four guys on stage, banging their instruments as hard as they could, still sounded pretty nice.
When it ended, it looked like just about everybody around me turned to the person next to them and said: “Wow.” On the stairs, on the walk to the exits, a girl moaned, “That was soo good. Soooo gooood!” Then, when we got outside, someone inevitably said, “They were better at Pitchfork.”
This seven-week-old performance for Pitchfork (the website, not the music festival) basically resembles what went on last night. And it’s shot a lot more professionally than anything I could have come up with on a crowded balcony. Enjoy.