Gangs of Youth came all the way from Australia to play for you, DC! Were you there?
Set among the hip, sold out crowd at Union Stage on March 24th, Gangs of Youth wowed many with their thoroughly energetic rock music, yet wending, contemplative lyrics. (Based on overhearing multiple exclamations from the sated crowd heading for the exit. I can agree.)
These five indie rockers learned a lot about life since forming out of high school in 2012, and their lyrics are full of lessons about heartbreak and loss and finding hope in the wreckage of dreams. David Le’aupepe on lead vocals (and songwriter) is a magnetic performer and while he did tell stories between songs, mostly the stories were contained in the flowing verses of the lyrics. If I’m being honest, Gangs of Youth probably has the most lyrics by any band ever.*
David kicked off the show with “Fear and Trembling” and my first thought was, ‘Whoa, he has the raspy voice of Neil Diamond.’
Later they played their latest single, “The Heart Is a Muscle” about trying to love, with lyrics like ‘I’m not looking for redemption nor some shallow kind of bliss, Lay me down and kiss me deeply, show me everything I missed’.
The rest of the band, now based in London, is Joji Malani (guitar), Max Dunn (bass), Jung Kim (keyboards, guitar), and Donnie Borzestowski (drums).
Gangs of Youth are touring for their second album, Go Farther In Lightness. All told, they played 14 songs over the evening, including 11 from the new album! The album has 16 songs.
Before they played “Persevere”, David told the story behind the song, about the loss of a friend’s child. It was a powerful moment of honesty and reflection from him, and this is where the set-up of the recently opened Union Stage is a bit mystifying to me. The bar is to the right and the whole section is well-lit, so maybe those people thought they had license to talk loudly? No. It was awkward and terrible that so many clueless people were talking over what was happening on stage, at a moment when the music couldn’t drown them out.
Next with “Let Me Down Easy” concertgoers on the left seemed a bit subdued, so David stopped the song and implored everyone to dance. And we wanted to and we did. This song was likely the highlight of the show, where they came off at their most rocking and alive.
They ended the main set with “The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows”, about lost youth and discovering life and love. It’s an atmospheric journey, and they played it with earnestness. Anyone that hadn’t been won over by their set, certainly was during this song. No one was talking.
They came back for three songs in the encore, and summed up the show with the song that answers ALL your questions, “Say Yes to Life”. Say yes to Gangs of Youth.
Be on the look out for their next show in DC. The first time only 20 people showed up; the third time should be your time.
Fear and Trembling
The Heart Is a Muscle
Keep Me in the Open
Let Me Down Easy
What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?
The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows
Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane
Go Farther in Lightness
Say Yes to Life
* Note: No actual research went into this claim, but the point is sometimes I was struck by how much was being said in contrast to the music around it. Lyrics done well are great, yet I typically enjoy songs more for their rhythm and melodies. That being said, I did enjoy the songs they performed.