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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Review Thu Oct 22 2015

Youth Lagoon was the Phantom of Thalia Hall's Opera House

IMG_1419.JPGYouth Lagoon's Trevor Powers whirled around Thalia Hall's opera house as if he was possessed. Whenever his backing band would fall into a groove, Powers would run across the stage, scrambling to the front of the crowd, and even tossing a keyboard onto the ground.

As he conducted his band and conjured the audience, the performance felt more like an exorcism to let out his demons. The blue and pink lights blew across the fog onstage while Powers hammered out arpeggiated chords. In his childlike voice -- not unlike a male Kate Bush or Joanna Newsom -- he serenaded our ears off.

While he played the singles off of the recently released Savage Hills Ballroom, Youth Lagoon mixed in plenty of older songs. The group blended atmospheric tones before cathartically releasing into an instrumental breakdown or as Powers lilted out "ahs" and "ohs." He brought in favorites from his past records, including the poignant and wistful "July" off of his first record and the psychedelic "Dropla" off of Wondrous Bughouse.

But Powers didn't belt out the lyrics to "July" enough. Instead, listeners pulled out their smart phones and moved along to the chugging rhythm section. His studio version can break down a person into tears when he sings "If I'd never let go / Then only god knows where I would be know." When he ended the song, I was without a single tear on my face.

Youth Lagoon could have included their more off-kilter songs, like the whimsical "Attic Doctor," or songs that groove, like the chorus in "17." Considering how Youth Lagoon is a solo artist who works within the nuances that a studio can offer, it was curious to see how a full band behind him pounding along to his cathartic songs. But building up each song into a crescendo became formulaic and tiresome, even if executed well by masterful musicians.

Openers Moon King from Toronto fit the night's vibe well. Whereas Youth Lagoon may have taken his cues from the likes of Flaming Lips and MGMT, the dreamy Moon King fell out of a 1980's time capsule. The singer, who could not be seen without a smile, embodied the manic pixie dream boy stock character as he adorned a glittery hat and waltzed across the stage to lift up a mic stand.

But this seemed like a night without risks for both bands. The drummer in Moon King played consistently and propelled the band ahead, but he offered no fills, syncopation, or any added flavor. They could have played without the second guitarist, and little would have changed. And while Youth Lagoon exuded the physical energy on stage, the raw emotion had often left more to be desired.

Nonetheless, the audience earned an encore by stomping, hollering, and clapping for minutes on end. Some people parted away from the crowd before Youth Lagoon stepped back on the stage. Maybe Powers still had spirits to summon.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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