Youth Lagoon at Red Palace
Trevor Powers of Youth Lagoon lived up to the hype, delivering a confident and moving performance to a sold out crowd of about200 people at the Red Palace in DC on Sunday night. The 22 year old from Boise, Idaho, coupled with a touring guitarist, performed for a little over an hour in an intimate setting surrounded by diffused red lamps at the front of the stage that gave just enough light to make out the silhouettes of the duo. The set was fluid and polished with Powers playing every song from his recently released debut album The Year of Hibernation. It’s hard to believe that only a year ago the young and talented multi-instrumentalist was unsigned and sitting in a lecture hall completing his undergraduate degree. Towards the end of his senior year, he released a few tracks on his Bandcamp website and was quickly signed to a two album deal with Fat Possum Records. Just to give you a perspective of the talent within Fat Possum, the Black Keys, Andrew Bird, Band of Horses, and the Walkmen are all featured artists under this powerhouse label. There’s a familiar trend these days with bedroom synth-pop solo projects exploding on the scene without warning, but there seems to be something different about Powers and his music that makes one feel this is just the beginning to his story.
Take a listen to any of the tracks on his debut LP and you will hear the fragile vocals that sound as if they are a room away mixed loosely with minimal synthesizers, a flowing keyboard, and clean guitar riffs in the foreground. The reverberated and seemingly timid vocals were exaggerated with a double recording method Powers created by first recording the vocals dry, without music, and playing them into an empty four car garage with recording equipment capturing them for a second time. This gives the vocals on the album a hollow feel but blends nicely with his technical keyboard compositions and catchy guitar licks. There is a consistency throughout the album, with several tracks full of self-reflection and childhood nostalgia with memories ranging from the posters on his bedroom wall to swimming in lakes near his family’s campground.
Powers opened the show with the track “The Hunt.” The song set the tone for the evening with a slow beginning of soft vocals and piano that gradually built in all directions to fill the room with a full band sound of percussion, guitar and keys, combining with Powers voice that cut through the mix with power and confidence. Unlike the album that almost attempts to hide Powers’ voice, the live performance emphasizes and celebrates his ability as a singer. The second track played, “Posters,” is my favorite on the LP. It seems to give the most insight into who Trevor Powers actually is. It identifies his motivation and struggle in life with lyrics like “I took it on myself / to find out why / I’m the way I am / but I can’t find a conclusion” and ending with line “you make friends quickly / but not me.” Although the thoughts may seem simple and cliche, the way he delivers them gives him value – his timing and intangible musical balance just seems to work. The next track played, “Seventeen,” is another example of Powers’ nostalgia for his teenage years and the influence his family has had on his life with the chorus line “my mother said to me, ‘Don’t stop imagining, the day that you do is the day that you die.’” Powers has admitted in numerous interviews that he’s struggled with extreme anxiety his entire life and a lot of his lyrics express this reality. Although you couldn’t tell with his presence on stage – a seeming cool wit about him, joking around with the crowd in between songs and performing each song methodically. Powers continued the set with the tracks “Cannons,” “Bobby.” and “Montana” in diligent fashion. He only paused to acknowledge and give credit to his close friend Tyler T Williams for the production of the “Montana” video which unsurprisingly blends beautifully with the track and captures Powers expression of love, loss and letting go. The set continued with the track “Afternoon,” the first track that really put Youth Lagoon on the map when it began showing up on every indie blog across the country and was played on repeat on Sirius XMU. The track immediately grabs your attention and stays with you well after it’s over. Don’t be surprised if it shows up on a commercial or movie soundtrack in the near future. You can watch a live recording from this show below. The show concluded with the track “July” and an encore performance of “Daydream,” which is the most upbeat track of the LP. It was a perfect sign off from Powers that left the entire crowd in applause with everyone feeling more than satisfied. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday night. If you can’t catch Youth Lagoon on tour this winter, be sure to look for them on the docket for the major musical festivals next year and make sure to follow them on Facebook.