Since I am about to see Youth Lagoon again, I wanted to repost the review of his show at the First Unitarian Church, two years ago. in exactly two weeks, he will play at a larger place, the Henry Fonda theater. His music occupies a special niche in my mind and his obsession with death haunting all his meandrous and wondrous songs is not something to be missed.
On Friday night, Trevor Powers, aka Youth Lagoon, looked like a mad scientist, a young alchemist in front of his electronic keyboard, often bent over the machine, not looking too concerned by the audience until he took the mic, moved away from his spot and directly talked to us, asking how many people were actually attending services at this church. Since all he was getting from the audience was a complete silence – surprise, Youth Lagoon fans are not the religious kind? – he gave us a little speech on how no one was talking in LA, ‘each time I am in an elevator in LA and try to talk, it doesn’t work!’ People were laughing and still not responding, so he asked us if we were planning to sit down for the whole show. He was playing with a full band inside the First Unitarian Church, and the place had rows of seats, like a normal church. A curious place for rock shows, although I am not sure Powers’ music could be qualified of rock, but certainly the right one for Youth Lagoon’s luminous music, bugging in every direction.
Opening with ‘Attic Doctor’ and its waltz-circus ambiance, Trevor Powers seemed absorbed by his music, with his head surrounded by curly hair bathing in multicolor lights, he was looking so young and so skinny under his oversized shirt. After two albums, there is still something so unexpected about him, a young man with an unassuming appearance making pure and pastoral songs, exploding in cascade, blossoming melody over melody, while exploring their curious universe with a rare beauty. I had instantaneously liked his song ‘July’ of his previous album ‘the Year of Hibernation’ when I heard it for the first time, and the songs off his new album ‘Wondrous Bughouse’ are all dealing with a bigger, fuller, and bolder sound, which was totally well-served by the full band playing with him on stage. The music was bursting, exploding like the violent lights flashing in the back of the stage and blinding the crowd’s eyes, sometimes looking like a lighting storm while the stage décor was matching a sailing boat lost at sea.
His voice sounded more powerful and nasal than on the record and many of the songs were blasting like little symphony inside the church hall. During ‘Sleep Paralysis’ Trevor was beating his keyboard very hard and after the song’s Brian-Wilson-esque-Smile detour, Trevor moved away from the piano to sing, all-lungs-out ‘I have been lost too many times to be free’… at this moment he was intensively living his music, but I must say this feeling lasted during the entire night, whenever he was playing his bucolic pure-morning-sunrise-kind-of songs or some more spacey experimental ones. I don’t think he played a lot of songs, may be ten in total, but he was often stretching them into some victorious and frightening freak-out with luminous choruses.
After telling people to stand up and get to the front with the ‘morbid invitation’, ‘This is our time, and we never know if it will be our last’, he played the marvelous ‘Dropla’, the song that goes on repeat with ‘you’ll never die’ building a mantra turning into frightening triumph… as I don’t exactly know if fear of death can be overcome with a booming psychedelic sound, which was blasting its full effect in this high-ceiling place. But one thing is certain, the sonic window that Trevor Powers has opened over his buoyant inner world will never die.
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