Trevor Powers aka Youth Lagoon. Photo Courtesy: Force Field PR
It was a sold-out show at Kilby Court. As I arrived, the venue was near capacity with many fans still walking towards the entrance. There was barely room for me to get in the door and all I could see were bodies in front of me. But what I could hear was industrial sounding with punishing bass and a deep, moaning voice channeling Joy Division’s deceased frontman Ian Curtis. The strangest part was that as I was walking past the glass window at Kilby, I could see the drummer and vocalist smiling. When their music began, it was captivating, but nothing that brought a quick smile to my face. There were two drummers, each on one side of the vocalist with the one guitarist slightly in front of the vocalist. It was a strange arrangement. As the song came to a close, the vocalist shouted piercing woops into the microphone. Sadly, I had only caught Night Sweats’ closing song. Fortunately they’re a local band, so I’ll be sure to catch their full set next time around.
When I first saw Trevor Powers aka Youth Lagoon play, it was last year at the Urban Lounge. At the time, he was a quiet performer with only his drum machine and keyboard and one guitarist. That was a beautiful performance. This time the live group had expanded to a drummer, two guitarists, and Powers with two keyboards and several synth controls. He wore a paisley, hippie robe-style top with beads underneath and he was much more confident in his demeanor. His guitarist asked the guy next to me to keep his foot on the fog machine. “Lets get this place foggy,” he said. As they began their first song, he kept pulling up his pant leg to show his sock that had a marijuana leaf print all over it. “I love this shit,” he said. If you like haunted houses and Halloween, then I imagine you would’ve thoroughly enjoyed this show. Smoke had filled the room and lights were flashing. As they began playing tracks from the new album, Wondrous Bughouse, out on March 5, a very “Psycho” feeling was cast over me. The synths were creaky with warped vocal samples and it was loud. Hearing Power’s new material was a trippy experience. It was almost like an art exhibit because there seemed to be much more observing than enjoying taking place in the crowd. I don’t think the audience of mostly under 21 fans, who probably fell in love with Power’s first album of lo-fi bedroom pop, were prepared for the strange sound. There was a great feeling of anxiety that came from hearing those songs live.
Three songs into the set the lead guitarist broke a guitar string. Powers then gently asked, “Does anyone have a guitar?” Someone in the crowd ran out to their trunk and donated a guitar he was hoping to sell. While he was gone, Powers let the mic be passed around the room while different fans asked questions. It was an unusual experience. One person asked Powers why he wasn’t wearing a hat. Powers responded, “I don’t always wear hats. Alright, pass the mic back.” The first song Powers played from his first album was “Cannons.” As soon as the entirely different, pop sound of that song began, the first genuine cheers from the audience were heard. Regardless of what album the songs came from, it was clear that Powers loves playing his music. I watched him get into a trance-like bounce several times as he pounded away on his keyboard. As the band played “Third Dystopia,” a synth-calypso sound emanated from all the noise, and watching the band groove together during the song was very cool.
The closing number was “Daisyphobia,” which is the closing song on the new album. By this time, my feet were aching from a long show with few high points, a few mishaps and many weird songs. “Daisyphobia” is almost entirely instrumental and my favorite part of the show was hearing it as the outro to their performance. It was extremely spacy and completely channeled a Dark Side of the Moon–Pink Floyd sound for me. It was for those few minutes that I could no longer feel my feet ache as I closed my eyes to the lofty sounds. After the show, Powers tried to smoke a cigarette outside, but was swarmed by young fans asking for pictures. That’s what you get at an all-ages show with one of the most interesting up-and-coming indie artists performing. Overall, it was a bizarre show, but the highlights made the show well-worth attending.