By Aly Comingore
Better than... a Wednesday night in Boise, Idaho.
Most who turned out for Youth Lagoon's sold-out show at the Echo on Wednesday came wondering: how would the band's much-lauded debut record hold up on stage? It was, after all, only the Idaho act's second stop in Los Angeles, and first at a legit venue space.
For the unacquainted, Youth Lagoon started as a solo project for reclusive and anxiety-ridden kiddum Trevor Powers, and his longtime bud Logan Hyde plays guitar for live shows. The band's lone album Year of Hibernation, released in September, is a creation all Powers' own. Written mostly in his bedroom as a way of dealing with his debilitating "weird mind things," Hibernation is extremely introspective. Thanks to a twinkling collection of keyboard sounds, a healthy smattering of vocal layering, and a whole lot of heart, he pulls it off.
In concert, Youth Lagoon goes mostly effects-free, swapping effects pedals for an organic approach. Last night's stark setup included Hyde's guitar, amp, and lone pedal, and Powers' minimalist two-keyboard stack.
Stripped of Hibernation's atmospherics, Powers' high-pitched, wavering voice sat front and center, growing from insistent to downright abrasive throughout the set. It worked.
On record as in person, Powers emanates a child-like naïveté, unabashedly knocking out lyrics like: "When I was seventeen my mother said to me, don't stop imagining; the day that you do is that day that you die." Hunched over his Yamaha, eyes squeezed tight, he spent the majority of Wednesday's set stretching to hit the high notes, and endearing himself with each cracked attempt.
Part of the appeal lies in Powers' orchestrations. He layers keys and guitars with a handful of loops and electronic drums to create a nervous soundscape. Onstage, the effect is punchy enough to nod your head to, but frantic enough to leave you a little on edge.
Unfortunately, the band's setup also drew attention to Hibernation's faults; mainly, that Powers prefers to deliver a quiet vocal intro before allowing the drums and guitar to kick in, on nearly every song. (Opener Young Magic also had a repetitive song structure, a quirky take on Yeasayer-style tribal-drum-and-bass electropop.)
But it's a small gripe. The folks engaged in eyes-closed, head-down grooving, after all, didn't seem to mind one bit.
The Crowd: Dudes with feelings.
Personal Bias: I may or may not have sobbed, openly, in public, to Powers' album... more than once.
Random Notebook Dump: The post-show meet and greet session consisted of more bromantic hugging than I've seen in the past year total.
Set list below.
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