all words: Jesse Young
Why? Why are you taking a photo right now?
These are the questions I find myself asking whenever I’m at shows these days. Every yahoo with an iPhone now feels the compulsion to ceaselessly document their concert-going experience, and to do so really badly. Seriously, these dudes inevitably come away with overexposed, blurry messes that barely resemble photographs. How do I know this? Because said yahoos with cameraphones generally have to hold them up in front of your face to achieve their prized shot.
The 9:30 Club last night was full of unnecessary picture-taking for Young the Giant’s headlining set (I (sadly) missed most of opener Grouplove because of a nap which spun wildly out of control). They’re a sunny guitar rock outfit from Southern California and, from what I’ve read, are all collectively about fifteen years old. Everyone in the band is crispy dressed in the kind of fitted jeans and chic footwear that subtly (but firmly) declare I’m in a band.
Young the Giant play indie pop that’s musically idiosyncratic enough to hold the interest of music snobs while still retaining enough commercial appeal to get (what’s left of) radio airtime. Vocalist Sameer Gadhia is the focal point of the band’s live show, an ADHD- medication advertisement come to life, flailing a tambourine and hurtling his compact frame into his micstand. He’s also a big fan of toying with his voice electronically, employing two microphones side-by-side so he can loop or sustain a vocal line into one mic while continuing to sing into the other. It’s a neat, though slightly-overused, trick – after the tenth wordless vocal refrain of the evening, it began to grow a tad tiresome.
This is a musically nimble band – their sparse, unhurried arrangements bespeak a pretty substantial musical confidence (no wailing guitar solos or crunchy power chords to be found here, kids). Their occasional use of a string quartet nicely sweetened their sound, achieving a classy, collegiate-rock affect not unlike that of Ra Ra Riot. The band is currently road-testing new songs for a yet-to-be-recorded album slated for the spring of 2012 (or so they say), and new tunes like “What You Get” are amiable and appealing.
However, there’s a certain predictable blandness to the band’s sound. Young the Giant feels very post-Vampire Weekend, what with their angular vocal melodies and self-consciously quirky drumbeats. In their funkier, more propulsive moments, the band makes for a crack dance-rock outfit, but for the most part, their material settles into middling makeout-friendly lull – it’s pleasant and tuneful, but not terribly arresting. They’d benefit from a push towards the slightly dumber and more obvious elements of the genre – clearer riffs and bigger hooks. Still, for a bunch of guys who are young enough to be my children (jk you guys!), they put on a lively, rollicking show.