Youth Lagoon Will Never Die

From the atmospheric ambient music that played before the show to Youth Lagoon’s encore of his defining song “Seventeen,” so many pieces worked in harmony this Saturday to create a near-perfect concert experience. It was a triumphant show for Trevor Powers, the musician behind Youth Lagoon, as he continued his first tour under the Youth Lagoon name since retiring the project in 2016. It was also an exceptional introduction to the opener Urika’s Bedroom, a band that has so far has only released one official single on streaming services. I went in as a casual Youth Lagoon fan that only discovered his work with the release of his latest album Heaven Is a Junkyard and left fully converted to the cult of Trevor Powers.

I arrived at Trees obscenely early and made my way to the front of the venue, which at that point was occupied mostly by millennial-gen z cusp men with mullets and ironic handlebar mustaches. I guess these are my fellow cult members. I had a few conversations with other people in the crowd—including a guy from Denton who looked startlingly similar to Jason Lee in My Name Is Earl—who described being really into Youth Lagoon back in high school during the release of his first albums The Year of Hibernation and Wondrous Bughouse. There was a tangible sense of excitement like seeing an old friend for the first time in a while.

Although the opening set started off on a slightly sour note as it took Urika’s Bedroom an extra half hour after the show’s official start to get on stage, they quickly won the crowd’s forgiveness for the unexpected delay with a thirty-five minute set that ranged from chill shoegaze to grittier, hard rock. During the set, the band’s frontman, Tchad Cousins, demonstrated his incredible musicality and stage presence. The set also gave me my first opportunity to really take in Trees as it was my first visit to the venue. I was immediately impressed by the impressive lighting and the sound design, which were a cut above many other venues in Dallas (not to pit queens against each other).

After a thirty minute gap between sets, the main event started as Powers took his spot on stage behind the keyboard. He was joined by Cousins on bass and Logan Hyde intermittently alternating between guitar and drums. The show kicked off with an excellent performance of “Rabbit,” the opening track on Heaven Is a Junkyard. After presumably deeply embarrassing one of his friends by making the entire audience sing “Happy Birthday” to him, Powers continued to play cuts from Heaven including my personal favorite, “Prizefighter.”

I’m rarely someone who likes to proselytize about the superiority of live performances over recorded versions, but there was something really magical about hearing these songs live. Even though the technical differences were marginal, the live performances just offered an extra fullness to the songs. A lot of the greatness of the live versions came from Hyde’s performance on both guitar and drums. His drum solos on “Trapeze Artist” and “Little Devil from the Country,” and his guitar solo on “Montana” are all in competition for my favorite musical moment of the concert. Cousins was also great on the bass, putting his years-long experience as a touring musician to use. Obviously, seeing Powers in the flesh also elevated each song. Audience members were hanging onto his every word and mannerism as he demonstrated an effortless coolness even while playing deeply personal songs he wrote in his teens and early twenties. 

The night came to a perfect close as Powers performed his final song “Mercury,” with an extended outro full of extra distorted synths and fuzzy guitar. After leaving the stage and then completing the requisite game of adult peek-a-boo, the band returned to perform their encore songs. The crowd immediately perked up as Powers played the opening notes of “Seventeen.” As the song went on, Power’s vocals mixed with the wistful voices of the audience members that grew up alongside him and his music. The night officially ended as the band performed “Dropla,” concluding with a fury of drums, bass, synths, and Powers singing to the audience “You’ll never die, you’ll never die.” If these are the sort of promises my new cult makes and this is the sort of musical experience it offers, I happily swear my life to it.