by Blair Stiles
Youth Lagoon | Porcelain Raft The Firebird April 3, 2012
Trevor Power's lucid dream Youth Lagoon became tactile a year ago, about when he put "July" on Bandcamp. Before the band's debut album came out, hype was already building on sites like Pitchfork, and when the album did come out, it premiered on Spin. The buzz hasn't faded; Youth Lagoon is thriving. It has aquired a following of prototypical indie kids, about 200 of whom came sailing in to the Firebird last night.
Bespectacled and bearded, the mass of well behaved guys and gals waiting patiently for openers Porcelain Raft to begin. Overheard in the crowd: "My parents suck! I have a curfew AND I'm 21!" Ouch. Get new parents, dear lass. Scheduled to perform at 8 p.m., Porcelain Raft didn't begin its set until 8:30, without much adieu. Walking onto the stage, collecting its instruments, Mauro Remiddi and his touring drummer came crashing into the droning "Drifting in and Out" from the debut full-length record, Strange Weekend. The Brooklyn-based duo, both clad in a blue collar button downs and brown jeans, played well for a crowd of fairly unreceptive Youth Lagoon fans. Mostly bobbing their heads and watching with glassy eyes, the crowd applauded politely after each track. Porcelain Raft waited until the third song to address the crowd, "Thanks so much. We're Porcelain Raft. Hope you enjoy the show."
The crowd seemed underwhelmed by Porcelain Raft's dizzying concoction of danceable mid-tempo beats and Remiddi's soaring vocals. Thankfully, apathy evaporated by the time Youth Lagoon's Trevor Powers sauntered onto the stage. At the 9:30 mark, using Mexican blankets as a skirt for his keyboard and micron synth, Powers sat down and immediately addressed the crowd with a speaking voice as cloying as his singing one, ("St. Louis, how are you?") before easing his way into "Posters."
Youth Lagoon's music is a complicated mix of bedroom-pop noise, sugar-sweet yelping vocals, and blues-y guitar hiding underneath synthetic beats. Finding a place between synth laden bedroom pop and tangible rhythm guitar, Idaho-born Youth Lagoon has successfully created a genre that sounds completely different live than it does on record. Sure, Powers' emotional delivery is equally believable live as it is on Year of Hibernation, an album focused thematically on Power's struggles with anxiety and a myriad of other uncomfortable emotions, but live the music seems uplifting and hopeful. The album itself is best suited for a overcast day in winter, Youth Lagoon live is far more appropriate for a coping heart in the balmy darkness of a summer night.
Even Power's stage banter is striking for its affable nature and wit, an aspect of Power's character that is denied on Year of Hibernation. When introducing handsome touring guitarist Logan Hyde, Powers had this to say, "I feel like we need to talk to you about something. Shall I break it to you easy? This is Logan." The rapport between Hyde and Powers was interesting to watch. Hyde spent the majority of a set watching Powers' hands. According to Hyde, Powers doesn't play with a set list -- a feat which is impressive since the set flowed quickly, without any disruptions or inconsistencies.
By far the biggest crowd pleaser of the night was "Seventeen". A track rooted in Powers's nightmarish daydreams of demons. Explaining in a retrospective, Powers ruminated on being told as a child to "use my imagination". With the crowd breaking into chorus with the cry "Oh," raising their arms and dancing, there was a feeling that this was a seminal track for the young audience. And it was the only track of the night that really got the kids going, which was unfortunate considering Youth Lagoon's prowess as a live act. Powers is emotionally involved as he sings, shutting his eyes from time to time, at several points he looking as though he could cry. Then as he would break from a verse and go barreling into his synth or keyboard, a hint of a smile would be crossing his face. This bipolar spectrum characterizes the translating of Year of Hibernation from audio LP to a living, breathing manifestation of Powers insecurites. Somehow an album so full of doubt and pain becomes a light live, as if the act of playing out his pain live is cathartic for Powers. A joy to watch perform, Powers is responsible for illuminating a room with a quiet enthusiam one obtains from believing what they are doing is right.
Notes and setlist are on the next page. Youth Lagoon Setlist: Posters Canons The Hunt Ghost to Me Daydream Bobby Seventeen July Encore: Montana
Personal Bias: Year of Hibernation is my requiste "Rainy Day" album. It's way suitable for a day spent inside reading and watching the downpour.
Random Detail: I spied four could-be members of Fleet Foxes. The bearded ones came out to play last night.
Overheard: "HOW DOES HE DO THAT?!" wailed an awestruck fan as Youth Lagoon vocalist Trevor Powers began singing in his incandescent yowl.