Last Wednesday night, a nearly sold out Fillmore welcomed lo-fi pop group Youth Lagoon to the stage for the very first time. Playing in such an iconic venue – where the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd all performed – one would think Youth Lagoon would come prepared to put on one of their best shows ever. Especially since this stop in SF was going to be one of their last before heading overseas for a month-long tour across Europe. But the lack of engagement from Trevor Powers (the lead singer of the group), as well as the dismissal of a few key songs, left many fans feeling dissatisfied. Remarks on the “ridiculously short encore” and clarifying questions such as “I didn’t miss any of the beginning, right?” were frequently heard as concert-goers filed out of the venue.
Powers started the show apologizing and admitting to the crowd that he felt sick. After theatrically taking a shot of honey to sooth his vocal chords, the group kicked into “No One Can Tell,” a song off their most recent album Savage Hills Ballroom.
Throughout the rest of the night, Youth Lagoon consistently alternated between playing songs off their three albums. A very clear distinction could be heard when the group played a song from The Year of Hibernation, their very first album, versus a song from Wondrous Bughouse or Savage Hills Ballroom.
The Year of Hibernation, which debuted in 2011, is filled with mellow keys and soft, conversational-style lyrics. The songs sound like they were recorded in a tiny bedroom, giving the listener a feeling of familiar intimacy. As soon as the lights dimmed and Powers sat down at the keyboard, the Fillmore crowd knew what to expect. Wondrous Bughouse and Savage Hills Ballroom are much more aggressive in nature, with layered drums and melodic precision. Powers and the group really showed off their diversity with this album, shifting away from the dream-like, hazy nature and moving more towards blunt force and kinetic sounds. This shift became extremely evident when Powers abandoned his mellow keyboard and started jerking and thrashing around on stage during the songs “Officer Telephone” and “Dropla.”
In between convulsive dancing, jumping up on speakers, and sipping hot toddies from a plastic cup, Powers almost never interacted with the audience or attempted much of connection. Having melodies filled with so much emotion and relatable lyrics, I was hoping for a little bit more of a back story. But instead, the songs at this show simply jumped from one to the next, much like my own Spotify playlist does. However, much like the vocals streaming through my headphones, Powers’ voice was just as sensitive and idiosyncratic in person. Even though he may not sound like a 26-year-old, his excellent ear for musical arrangement and kaleidoscopic blending of whistles and keyboards show the talent of a true, seasoned musician.
When the final song of the set was announced, and the famous “17” had yet to be played, the crowd was already antsy for an encore. After wrapping up and a quick ‘thank-you’ was muffled by Powers, Youth Lagoon slipped off stage. They barely had time to leave before the audience began its “one more song” chant. A surprisingly mellow crowd the whole night, this was the first time a large, collective outcry was heard.
Two minutes later, Youth Lagoon was back on, swigging beers and adjusting instruments. As the drums and chimes for the song “Mute” began, I felt the crowd settle in for another few rounds. But almost as quickly as it started, it was over. The one-song encore was complete. And “17” – the very song that put Youth Lagoon on the map, and made listeners reflect with nostalgia on their own youthful years – was never played.
I find it confusing when a band won’t play its most famous song. I respect Youth Lagoon’s individualistic style and talent, but why not give your fans and fellow music lovers what they want to hear? Was Powers trying to make a statement – that he won’t be controlled by his listeners and play their number one hit? Was he trying to push his newer, lesser-known music? Or was he actually just sick and tired and didn’t feel like continuing into a multi-song encore? Either way, I sensed a lot of disappointment leaving The Fillmore that night. I hope Youth Lagoon’s next visit to SF will be filled with some more audience-band interactivity and a lot more of The Year of Hibernation.
By Amanda Bungartz
Photo provided by Shore Fire Media