The city lights of DC shifted between striations and blurs outside the foggy window, and my only wish was that the cab could drive even faster into the dizzying bustle of the U Street/Cardozo neighborhood on a Thursday night. I was half-wheezing with a sore throat, armed with cough drops, throat spray and the remnants of tea in my system. It was 9:15 pm, fifteen minutes after when the show was supposed to start, and my roommate Alex and I were scrambling to reach DC9, hoping we could even catch a fraction of Youth Lagoon‘s set as they opened for Gardens & Villa.
It was my first time back at the newly reopened DC9 in nearly a year, the last time seeing my home state favorites The Octopus Project last October. Everything was exactly as I remember it from before: grungy yet warm atmosphere, bustling downstairs bar, low lights, cramped stairwell, killer rooftop patio. We got to the staircase and the line to get into the show was almost overwhelming. Yet somehow, someway, the elements aligned themselves. We finally reached the upstairs to find ourselves in the front row right up against the stage, Youth Lagoon just then setting up for their show.
The rapidly rising project Youth Lagoon is the sonic brainchild of Boise, Idaho native Trevor Powers, the stage name a mere prologue to the dreamy, ambient soundscapes that permeate his sound. Barely 22, Powers possesses a maturity in his vocals well beyond his years, his aching, honest voice reminding me of a younger version of The Tallest Man on Earth. With Powers on the keyboard and a fellow friend on guitar, his voice carried over the lush instrumentation. Clad in an adorable tiger sweatshirt, proudly displaying his Idaho tattoo, Powers made friendly conversation with the crowd (“So many people are looking at me at once!” he grinned, blushing into the microphone). The band began the set with “Posters,” the first track from the debut album The Year of Hibernation. It was followed by “Cannons” and my personal favorite “Afternoon,” then proceeded to play nearly through the entirety of the album in order, ending with the beautiful, swelling track “July.”
While lucid dream-like and atmospheric, the melodies were consistent and precise while maintaining an air of fresh spontaneity. Sounds of whistling, sleigh bells, a consistently infectious drum machine and ample echoes of nostalgia made the set absolutely breathtaking.
The experience of seeing Youth Lagoon live washed the last wave of the fading summer over me, leaving in my mind a series of nostalgic images: sickly sweet cherry popsicles and poolside afternoons, parting with your first crush, sitting on a splintering porch and listening to the cicadas lull you to sleep. Well-deserved rave reviews from the likes of Consequence of Sound and a Best New Music nod from Pitchfork for The Year Of Hibernation reflect the simple truth: something great is in store for Trevor Powers besides the distant farmlands of Idaho.
– Paula Mejia, cohost of Sit Back and Dream, Fridays 2-4 pm EST