Let’s just make this clear: I am an unabashed fan of Yoni Wolf and the music created by the Why? team. While music reviewers may criticize his whiney voice or his tactless subjects, I will defend his brutal confessions anytime. Why? has a unique sound that doesn’t fit comfortably under a blanket term, and the unpredictability of their evolution is what keeps me going to their shows after all these years. In Yoni’s own words, “This is a new kind of blues”—and I dig it.
As Why? started setting up, I was surprised to see the band sharing the stage with quite a few newcomers: Sarah Winters performed as keyboardist and backup vocalist, Liz Wolf (wife of drummer Josiah Wolf) on the guitar and marimba, and Ben Sloan on the drums along with Josiah. While every performance I’ve seen thus far has included a different lineup, three core members (Josiah, Yoni and Doug McDiarmid) have stuck with it, and have a funky personality mix-up onstage that works well. While the chemistry between everyone this night was quality, I have to say that, in previous performances, I’ve preferred the less-is-more attitude. The added drum set didn’t really seem to add much as far as percussion is concerned, and was distracting from Josiah’s performance, which I’ve always been drawn to in the past.
No matter, though, because it isn’t hard to gather that the show isn’t really about them. The semi-circle set up in the background made plenty of room center-stage, making it clear that Yoni is in command of this game. This isn’t to say that the band adds nothing; one of Why?’s strengths is in their ability to mix indie, hip hop, pop or experimental instrumentation with well crafted lyrics. While the songs embody the attitude typical of a lot of affluent males as a pitiful, lonesome individual, the setup fit.
As Yoni started the night with a popular hit from Alopecia, “A Sky for Shoeing Horses Under,” the crowd was quick to warm up to Yoni’s voice that pays solid attention to rhythm and wordplay. Following the intro came a predictable performance of the new single “Sod in the Seed,” another showcase into the brain of the mastermind. These first two songs set a sort of pattern for the night, which bounced between songs from the Sod in the Seed EP, the upcoming LP, Mumps, etc., and from Alopecia. I was expecting to hear songs that I didn’t recognize, what with an upcoming LP release and all, but as an old fan, I was a little bummed that I only heard “Crushed Bones” from 2005’s “Elephant Eyelash,” and no songs from any of their other albums. I understand that you gotta do what you gotta do, and you gotta cater to the crowds, which probably means that you should play the songs from a more well acclaimed album, but come on, Yoni! I wanted to see some old hits! Even after yelling till my voice hurt for an encore of “Gemini,” their encore performance included a single from Sod in the Seed and yet another song from Alopecia.
Despite my strong desire to croon along to some oldies, this was still a pretty decent show. I was on my toes for some quintessential, inappropriate jabbering, and while avoiding disturbing comments about bestiality this time around, Yoni did manage to make an appropriate, but minor, stab at BYU. During one point in the night, he even admitted that the band was considering skipping over Salt Lake, and that he was so glad they decided not to. This, of course, hyped up the crowd. So while I’m really sorry that you’re lonely, Yoni, I’m grateful that you dragged your “feeble deranged fuck” out of your hiatus in order to admit your “first world curse” with funky, shameless tunes once again in the grace of Salt Lake City’s presence.