Although it would be a much more dramatic way to start this review, saying "a sea of flannel enveloped the Middle East Downstairs last night" would be an exaggeration. But there were, for reals, kind of a lot of people wearing flannel huddled around the stage upon which a tuft of bushy black hair scrunched under a leather baseball cap lightly bopped back-and-fourth nearby an appropriately-flannel-clad guitarist with terrible posture. From my vantage point, perhaps 30 feet from the nexus, that was all I could see.
However, numerous sources – especially the dewy pop ruminations gushing from the sound system - confirmed that the tuft of hair was, in fact, the top of the head belonging to Trevor Powers, a.k.a YOUTH LAGOON (scope the totally badass feature from this week's PHX here). Dude needs to figure out a way he can stand up during his shows. Maybe commission someone to design a custom keytar for him?
But Powers is new at this whole "rock star" thing. A 40-minute headlining set sounds like a rip-off, but that’s about as much as could be realistically expected from an artist with one album, The Year of Hibernation on Fat Possum, that only came out about six months ago. A mere two years ago, as Powers imparted, he was unemployed and playing keyboard by Boise roadsides. Now, he regularly pulls at-capacity crowds, like this one, and predictably described the sensation as “surreal.”
Chalk it up to the alacity of an internet-fueled buzz cycle. Still, it’s kind of random how YL’s mews of day-dreamy nostalgia adorned with frosty keyboard melodies is already attracting knuckleheads like the bro who stood behind me and screamed “WHOOOOOOOO!!!! Tha TREVA-NATE-AH!” directly into my ear as Powers and company took the stage.
Here are some words that popped into my head, more-or-less verbatim:
“Jeez, I forgot how humid the Middle East Downstairs can get when it’s really crowded. At least they’ve been playing Darker My Love’s 2 between sets. That album’s awesome, omigawd.”
“Wow, LY sounds amazing, and it was smart to crank up the drum-loops and low-end for a little danceable zazz. Apart from that, they’ve got zero stage presence. God help them if they get tapped to perform on SNL anytime soon. But considering GWAR is the last concert that’s fresh in my memory, maybe my reference level for theatricality has been set a few notches too high…”
“Does it bother me that this comes dangerously close to easy listening, and I can’t envision anyone’s parents being offended by this?”
Then I realized that parents of anyone born between 1990 and 1994 were age-appropriate to be really into the decisively overstated likes of Guns ‘n Roses and Motley Crue, and therefore, YL would absolutely annoy the mums and dads of most of his fans. I was prepared to write a really snarky review until, during “17,” Powers sweetly advised, “Don’t stop imagining. The day that you do is the day that you die,” and my cynicism melted. That song is the new “Rainbow Connection.” Panning this show would be like being a dick to Kermit the Frog.