By Alex Sousa, Managing Editor, @TwoFistedSousa
It used to be that I would prepare for shows weeks in advance, exploring the back catalogue of whatever artist I was going to see. Then I would ride that post-show high for weeks afterwards, devoting more time listening to whatever musician I’d seen and reliving that concert experience, clinging on to the power and the passion of it for as long as I could.
Now, sometimes I worry that I don’t appreciate concerts like I used to; that maybe I’ve seen too many too frequently to adequately explore the depth they can offer. I don’t have the time to devote myself to a single artist like I used to. Now, at shows, my knees hurt when they never used to. I find myself farther and farther away from the stage, away from the pulsating nucleus of the mosh pit. The audiences get younger and younger as I get more and more annoyed by their lack of concert etiquette and experience. These days, many of my concerts are a search for that elusive gem that reminds me what it used to be like, and I try to feel that unyielding obsession that live gigs used to give me.
Wednesday night was a perfect night for a festival show. It was just muggy enough to remind the audience of the sacrifice being made to listen. That uncomfortable sweatiness is often the unquantifiable price of devotion. It smelled like booze and weed and body odor, only briefly blown away by a teasing breeze through Pioneer Park. Gratefully, to complete that perfect festival feel, were two great festival bands—Youth Lagoon and Grizzly Bear.
I had never seen Youth Lagoon perform before. In fact, until the March release of the bottom-heavy production “Wonderous Bughouse” earlier this year, Youth Lagoon wasn’t really even on my radar. But watching the wire-framed Trevor Powers—who essentially is Youth Lagoon—as the sounds of his pulsating subwoofer echoed off the walls of downtown Salt Lake, I couldn’t imagine experiencing that in any other venue.
Powers is engaging, even as he just stands—oddly—at his synthesizer like some sort of 23-year-old, dream-pop Bob Dylan. His vocals are haunting, however nasally they may be. And when he pointed out at audience members during the chorus of “Dropla” singing “You’ll never die, you’ll never die, you’ll never die, you’ll never die…” I almost hoped he would point at me, as if it mattered—as if he were some sort of indie-rock faith healer.
Grizzly Bear put on a different kind of show, steering away from the ambient fishbowl sound of Youth Lagoon and opting for a more classic gig. It’s the kind of show I love to watch, with nothing more elaborate than a few well-timed light cues. Grizzly Bear took the stage as musicians who were there to play music, and that is what they remained throughout. No pretense, no extravagance, just music—pure and simple.
Edward Droste is charismatic and believable—enough so that “Kate” from the audience threw her bra up on the stage with her name and phone number written on it. I always wonder, like so many others do, how much of what the artists say is genuine or if they tell every city they go to what an awesome time they had there. But with Droste, I believed him. When Droste said that he would tell all his friends that in Salt Lake “They know how to have a good time,” I felt like he would, and judging by the cheers, so did the audience.
It wasn’t until the encore that I realized sometime between that moment and Youth Lagoon’s melodic opening the sun had gone down. I had been so fully invested in the show, in the music, in claiming the experience for my own that the darkness hadn’t even registered. I would fall asleep that night listening to Grizzly Bear’s “Veckatimist” because it was all I wanted to listen to.