If you’ve been paying attention to SXSW this year, then you for sure have heard all the hype behind Gang of Youths. And if you already heard all the hype about Gang of Youths, that means you probably already had a ticket in hand for their show at 7th Street Entry. When I first heard about this show, I was excited. Apparently, the Twin Cities was excited too and sold out the 7th Street Entry which being the slacker that I am, I failed to get a ticket. So, the only thing I could think to do was pray to the lord of rock and roll; and to my surprise, Lemmy heard my cries and granted me entry to the Entry. Oh boy… Sold-out shows at the Entry means being stuck in that front corner for the whole night with no wiggle room. I love these shows! Especially with bands like Gang of Youths which is a band that keep rising in popularity. Their 2017 “Go Farther in Lightness” helped that US popularity rise and put that rocket on their backs and they haven’t looked back since.
Typical Minnesota spring meant that the weather would drop to single digits. And in other typical Minnesota fashion, that means there was a delay in the doors which were supposed to be at 8:00 but didn’t open till at least 8:15. In cold weather time, the extra 15 minutes is an eternity. But I knew that by the end of the night, I would be wishing for this cold. I was right. On the plus side of the extra wait time, everyone in line got to meet a gentleman walking by named Abraham. Abraham was born 50 years ago and the next day was his birthday and he wanted the world to know this. He was so excited to have made it to 51. Abraham, if by chance you are reading this, Happy Birthday and I hope to be as happy as you at 51. And now… On to the show.
First up was Common Holly. The best I could describe her music was to imagine being in a room made of super-soft pillows and cute puppies running around everywhere and my grandma is there making warm chocolate chip cookies. That’s how I felt being in a room with this band. Brigitte Naggar, the mastermind behind Common Holly sings with such a soft whisper that even when her voice is elevated, and she is getting louder, it is still a whisper. The same could be said for her guitar playing. She is so gentle when strumming or fingerpicking her guitar. Even when she would turn up the energy and rock out a bit, she was still so gentle to that guitar.
Accompanying Naggar on stage is a drummer and a cello player and package that with Naggars soft voice, meaningful lyrics and soft guitar playing and you got yourself some excellent music. The debut album Playing House sounds even more beautiful once you see this band live. She is quirky, shy, charming and adorable. And on top of that, an extremely talented songwriter. I just felt like a better person standing there listening to her. I was happy, the crowd was happy. What more could anyone want?
Next up is New York City’s Public Access TV. Two guitars, one bass and drums. Nothing more, nothing less. I felt a hint of The Strokes when they first started their set with them being from New York City and their fashion sense and all, but the similarities quickly went away, and Public Access TV turned into their own band. Out on tour supporting their album “Street Safari” these guys have pop tendencies with rock and roll attitude. The energy these guys bring is obvious. Everyone was jumping up and down; the crowd, the band… Everyone! Frontman John Eatherly pulls everyone together.
Their music feels a tad nostalgic while feeling very forward at the same time. It is a weird time warp with these guys. It’s rock and roll and dancey all wrapped into one. “So what? Who Cares? Good Bye” sings Eatherly over and over in the song “Lost in the Game”. Well guess what? A sold out 7th Street Entry cares and we would love to have and see more of these guys again.
Finally hitting the stage is Australians Gang of Youths. I wasn’t at the show the last time they were in the Twin Cities but from what I heard, it was loosely attended. That is a high contrast to tonight’s sold-the-eff-out show at the Entry. IT IS PACKED IN HERE! We are all packed in like sardines. I’m posted up in the corner of the stage in front of keyboardist Jung Kim and I wouldn’t get to move till the show was over. Before they hit the stage guitarist Joji Malini came out to set up his guitar rig. Lights are still dim and people are waiting with bated breath. Once Malini strums his guitar, just to check it mind you, the crowd exploded and started singing along. The show hadn’t even started yet and we were already at a soundcheck singalong.
Before heading in, I was concerned how a band this big would manage to fit on the smallish stage at the Entry, but they filled the stage out perfectly with most of the real estate going to frontman David Le’aupepe which he commands and owns the stage. He obviously and well deserved his space.
The band starts by greeting the overflowing fans and begins the show with “Fear and Trembling”, the kick off track from the album “Go Farther in Lightness”. The song started at a snail pace and then kicked into an emotional full speed and there wasn’t one person in the room who wasn’t screaming along and worshipping at the alter of Le’aupepe. The whole crowd was in the palm of his hands.
“We are from Australia. It is so cold here in. I woke up today in St. Paul and I couldn’t feel anything below my lips” says Le’aupepe. “Ahh, it’s not that cold” retorts a member from the crowd in typical Minnesotan fashion. “Well.. I guess I’m just not that tough”. The band then cuts into the song “Heart is a Muscle” to yet again, another massive sing-a-long all while Le’aupepe pantomimes along to the lyrics in which he flexes his muscles at the part when he says the heart is a muscle.
Things got really serious and REALLY quiet for the song “Persevere”. Everyone exits the stage except Le’aupepe and just goes on to give everyone in the crowd goosebumps with his haunting solo performance. It was gripping, emotional and very driven and I’m pretty sure there was a couple of people in tears.
When Adam Levine sings “I’ve got moves like Jagger”, I’m pretty sure he got the idea from seeing a Gang of Youths show. Le’aupepe has and isn’t afraid to show the world that he for sure has moves like Mick Jagger. As he showed us all last night on the too hard to NOT to dance along to on “Let Me Down Easy”. The started the song, the dancing from Le’aupepe began but abruptly stopped. Le’aupepe stopped the song and was curious what day it was. He thought it was a Saturday night and not sure why the crowd was treating it like a Wednesday night due to the crowd not dancing along. When he riled up the crowed to dance, the kick right back into the song and now it wasn’t just a sing-a-long, but now it was a dance-a-long. Although I don’t think anyone could match the moves of Le’aupepe.
At this point, someone in the crowd had a little more alcohol than they could handle and did exactly what you are thinking they did. That loosened up the crowd a bit for the Entry staff to clean up and to have Le’aupepe joke, “Clean up on aisle six” before having the crowd give a huge hand to the entire staff of 7th Street.
“Ok, we are supposed to go into the back and do the whole encore thing but we’re not going to do that and just stay up here. Cool?” Le’paupepe asks. The crowd cheers and they kick straight into “Don’t Let Your Spirit Wane” and wrap the whole night up with “Say Yes to Life”. After the final song, the entire band took a bow and stuck around high-fiving and talking with the hordes of fans. Gang of Youths LOVES their fans.
The thing I like about Gang of Youths is the passion that they put forth into their music. The music they make is serious and toss in the deep lyrics and you have brilliant works of art.
Gang of Youths don’t give you the rock and roll show you want, they give you the rock and roll show you need.