In all honesty, when my roommate asked me if I wanted to see Young the Giant in concert with her, I wasn’t too stoked. I love going to alternative concerts, especially bands that are not as popular as they once were. But I’ve never listened to Young the Giant beyond their hits, and based on those I didn’t think this was going to be anything to rave about. Boy, was I wrong.
20 Monroe Live, a new venue in Grand Rapids, MI, consisted of a general admission pit and a high mezzanine. The stage’s backdrop was a simple black and grey mountain, the same outline of the mountain that appears on Young the Giant’s Home of the Strange album cover. The small flags printed on the album cover also came to life where six of them hung on either side of the stage.
After much waiting, and with absolutely no warning, Kanye’s “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” blasted through the venue as opener Lewis Del Mar strutted out on stage to a roaring welcome. I was lost, because I never even heard of these guys, but they walked out to fucking Kanye, so I had faith.
The moment Danny Miller, lead singer and guitarist of the band, sang the lyrics, “Can you please / Sit the fuck down,” the crowd, including myself, went crazy. And with the rest of the set, the audience seemed to sing along.
The experimental alternative band chose to perform most of their album in a screamo style. As someone who knows nothing about screamo nor Lewis Del Mar, I was still highly impressed. Although I was later told the group is not screamo at all, I was interested in listening to their original album.
Cross-pollinating acoustic instruments, like the guitar, woodblocks and sleigh bells, with an electric sound, like heavy bass, keyboard and electric guitar, Lewis Del Mar provided a new sound for the audience. They were the definition of “a great opener,” and immediately took the the spotlight for the night.
With that, I had high expectations for Young the Giant.
The band walked out to fog machines and bright lights, reflected from the stage and the audience. Opening with “Jungle Youth,” one of the less popular songs off Home of the Strange, the energy held at the top, like a rollercoaster — but it never dropped. In other words, it was uneventful.
Still, the band picked it up with crowd favorites “Something To Believe In” and “Titus Was Born,” which involved a lot of sweet harmonies from the band members.
And yes, right in the middle of their set, they played the song that made them famous: “Cough Syrup.” I almost wish they didn’t play it, hoping the band would move on from the trite hit. But they did, and although it might have bugged me, I still sang along.
They kept going with some older material, including “Mind over Matter” and “Apartment,” and the crowd raved over these hits, feeding into a comradery for audience members.
With a mix of high falsetto riffs from lead singer Sameer in “Mr. Know-It-All” and a deep, ’80s groove bass in “Elsewhere,” the band began to pick up the intensity, or at least kept it varied.
One of the highlights of the entire show was when Sameer whipped out the ukulele, introducing the nostalgic and mystical “Art Exhibit.”
With a single spotlight on him, Sameer said: “This song is about how memories warp and change.” It allowed the crowd to relate to his nostalgia, especially as the set background turned into a simple starry night sky.
The band returned with the second half of their upbeat set, including “Amerika” and “Silvertounge,” which were accompanied by intense technicolor lighting and a sequin jacket worn by Sameer.
And of course, the band couldn’t leave their concert without their hit “My Body,” which I will admit, I was less moody about. There was a type of refreshing freedom and adolescence that came with it, allowing me to wrap my arms around my roommates as we belted the lyrics to the song of our early teens.
There were elements to Young the Giant’s concert that were lackluster. But their sound, their combination of different instruments and their diverse set list proved my pre-notioned ideas wrong. They are unique, and they are truly embedded within their own category of music.