My infatuation with Youth Lagoon is easy to explain. Youth Lagoon brainchild Trevor Powers and I have a lot in common. Like Powers, I’m an anxious kid who grew up in the scenic, laid back city of Boise, Id. The piano pop prodigy and I have our differences, though. For instance, I didn’t make one of 2011’s most surprising and heartfelt albums, The Year Of Hibernation (Fat Possum).
It was an evening of firsts at the Bottom of the Hill on Tuesday. The sold-out show marked the kick off of Youth Lagoon’s first national headlining tour. It was also Powers’ first time performing in San Francisco. With the way fans eagerly rushed the stage long before Powers appeared, you’d think he was a hometown hero. A hush fell over the audience as the shaggy-haired boy wonder laid out the tender leading notes of “Cannons.” Then the thunderclap of the drum machine kicked in, setting the crowd in motion and giving rise to appreciative hoots and hollers.
This became the pattern of Powers’ set; transfixing us with fragile, emotional delivery then compelling us to dance with his effervescent bedroom beats. The highly personal nature of Powers’ music was intensified by his remarkably candid song introductions. I got a little verklempt when he revealed that “Bobby” was about his older brother easing his struggles with anxiety.
The Year Of Hibernation’s haunting guitar loops were skillfully re-created by Powers’ friend Logan Hyde. The duo’s entrancing rendition of “Daydream” was another first, as it had never before been performed for an audience. Seconds after closing with “July” and stepping offstage, the sheepish Powers returned for what seemed like an unplanned solo encore of his album’s bonus track, “Ghost To Me.”
Opener: Also making its San Francisco debut was Australian trio Young Magic. The group pulled off an occult vibe by placing lit candles on stage, layering lots of spooky, howling vocals, and rattling the venue with so much bass that my vision blurred. Though the spanking new group performed a super short set, it was enough catch my interest. I’m hereby pronouncing Young Magic a band to watch.