YOUTH LAGOON LIVE AT OXFORD ART FACTORY
Youth Lagoon has been one of my default go-to artists since I discovered his Year of Hibernation album in 2011 and his new track Worms is on heavy rotation at the moment. Youth Lagoon is the stage name of Trevor Powers who uses his alias to “document the trails of his mind through songs of minimalism and hypnotic ambiance”. I was resisting the urge to buy tickets to his show at Oxford Art Factory on top of seeing him at Laneway festival. Luckily I was given the opportunity to review his show.
I arrived to an already packed Oxford Art Factory, everyone eagerly awaiting Trevor Powers’ arrival. To my surprise Powers came out not just by himself but accompanied by a full band – bass, guitar, and drummer. Upon his first song I realised that seeing Youth Lagoon live is a very different listening experience to hearing his albums; the added backing band made for a louder, bolder Youth Lagoon that verged more on psychedelic rock than psychedelic dream pop. This translated extremely well for the many instrumental segments scattered amongst both his albums. Power’s vocals were sometimes lost amongst the noise but in a well-orchestrated way; Powers has often said that he never wants his lyrics to overwhelm his music and that he likes to retain a bit of mystery to his lyrics.
I was most curious about how Power’s would merge his Year of Hibernation songs with his Wondrous Bughouse album, whilst both incredible albums they are very different in sound and deal with very different concepts. The set started off with the sinister, haunting Attic Doctor before launching into the dreamy (despite the name) Sleep Paralysis, both from his sophomore album. When he played the opening lines of Cannons there was a definite change of atmosphere, the softer, nostalgic Youth Lagoon had come to the fore. His Year of Hibernation songs acted as a foil and provided almost an intermission to his heavier, psychedelic Wondrous Bughouse songs. In effect, the contrasting albums aided one another and rather became complementary.
A definite highlight of the night was the death-defying Dropla – the audience cheered as he started to play Dropla’s catchy piano riff. The many layers and moods of this song, as well as the long instrumental sections, worked in Youth Lagoon’s favour with the live band. Memories were made as the patrons of Oxford Art Factory repeated the words “you’ll never die” in unison.
Aside from uttering a “thank you” and a “goodnight everyone”, Powers appeared almost oblivious to the room filled with adoring fans and remained hunched over his keyboard for the entire performance. He seemed so far removed from the articulate interviewee he has been in the past. However this just added to the mystery; watching Youth Lagoon is agreeing to enter an alternate world for the duration of his set. On his final song he descended from his hunched-over-keyboard position to the ground as we all descended back to reality.
Words By Naomi Jane