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Friday, April 6, 2012

Youth Lagoon @ Turner Hall Ballroom

April 5, 2012

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"I didn't know it was possible for a person to throw up 10 times," Youth Lagoon's Trevor Powers told the crowd at Turner Hall Ballroom Thursday night, apologizing for a case of food poisoning he'd picked up on the road. The 22-year-old didn't look well. Pale and slumped over his synthesizer, he kept his movements and between-song chatter to a minimum; it seemed to take all the energy he had just to make it through his songs.

Powers' malaise cut the show short—very short: He played just six songs, with no encore—but aside from the abbreviated set, it was hard to imagine that food-poisoned Youth Lagoon was all that different from perfectly healthy Youth Lagoon. Where a bedroom-pop project like Neon Indian can transform itself for the stage into a lively, full-band dance party, that sort of reinvention seems out of the question for a songwriter as introverted as Powers. Instead, Youth Lagoon's two-man live setup stays true to the small scale of their 2011 debut, The Year of Hibernation, an intimate album inspired by Powers' many anxieties and social phobias. The band's entire rig—a guitar and a couple of keyboards—could probably fit into a mid-size sedan, and the guitarist often seemed to be on stage as much to take some of the attention off of the crowd-shy singer as for his playing. Even if his meal had sat better with him, Powers wasn't going to be doing any onstage jump-kicks at this show.

Though the skimpy set left plenty of fans grumbling as they filtered down Turner Hall's lopsided stairs onto Fourth Street, six songs didn't feel unreasonable for a band touring behind just one eight-track album. And at least they sounded good. Powers sang with unexpected strength, revving his tiny, whimpering voice into a stirring yowl. If he ever sounded a little queasy, it was only because he always sings that way.

Where Youth Lagoon kept things deliberately small, their Brooklyn tour-mates Porcelain Raft demonstrated how much power a two-man lineup can muster. The duo's meaty indie-rock was proudly grandiose, colored with shades of U2, Oasis and Radiohead at their most sky-scraping. The West Bend quartet Blessed Feathers opened the night on a more rustic note with a convivial set of rickety, Neutral Milk Hotel-esque folk-pop.

Photo by CJ Foeckler
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