On Friday, May 16th, those lucky enough to score tickets were treated to what was easily one of the best live concerts I’ve been to in months, acclaimed electronic producer Baths alongside Edinburgh’s own experimental hip-hop group Young Fathers at Seattle’s Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room. I was hyped as fuck for this show, and judging by the fact that they managed to sell the entire place out, I reckon the feeling was mutual amongst the entire crowd.
My friend and I arrived at the Neumos at around 8:00, about an hour before the show actually started, which was fortunately enough time to get a good spot before the crowd really started to pour in. In this time waiting I managed to do a bit of people-watching, and the crowd seemed to be lifted straight from the Silver Mt. Zion concert I attended on my sweet 16; guys wearing Tycho T-shirts, lots of plaid and flannel overshirts, and it seemed like just about one out of every three people was wearing Buddy Holly glasses. I loved it.
Before either of the touted main events took the stage, we were given a performance by an opener, one P. Morris. I’d never heard of him before, but I enjoyed his set. “His music was best described as post-dubstep and trip-hop-infused minimalist chillwave”, said Jess like the over-genrefying ‘tard that he is. The music presented was heavy on atmosphere, with a hefty amount of IDM beats and sounds. It almost reminded me of Jon Hopkins, albeit more laid back.
It wasn’t exactly the kind of music that provoked a high-octane and raucous live performance (we’ll get to that later), but P. Morris managed to sell it just fine. While he didn’t do any moving from his one spot behind his equipment, his Mirror B-esque movement and playful interaction with the crowd was nice. Then, in a move I’ve never seen before, he outright asked the crowd if they’d like the last song to be the one that’s more down-tempo and chill, or the one that’s more danceable and groovy. Ultimately, they decided on the upbeat track, which he said was named “Rashida Jones”, after the Parks and Recreation star, aka his “main bitch”. He seemed genuinely thrilled to be performing live for the crowd, especially considering it was his first ever performance in Seattle.
Up next was Young Fathers, whom I admittedly wasn’t a fan of before the show. I’d only ever listened to a portion of Tape One beforehand and didn’t really care for it. Of the two main events, I was excited for them the least.
To put it gently, their live show absolutely fucking blew me away. In terms of stage presence and overall showmanship, they were by and large the best and most entertaining group of the night, and one of the best I’ve ever seen. Their set started out with a slow build with only a single member coming out at first, playing nothing more than a cabasa, gradually getting more and more abrasive, until eventually all three members took to the stage.
From there, their performance was absolute madness. Whereas P. Morris’ stage presence was firm and collected to match his music, Young Fathers’ stage presence was an atomic bomb blast of energy, with hyperactive moving about the stage, tumultuous vocal delivery, and sick dance moves that made Geddan look like Thom Yorke. Throughout the majority of their set, they would peruse about the stage, shouting the lyrics into random audience members’ faces, one of which happened to be myself. Needless to say, it’s a concert experience I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Despite their eclectic interaction with the crowd in that respect, their vocal interaction was entirely nonexistent. The trio never spoke to the audience once; the closest was vocalist Kayus Bankole changing the lyrics of one of their songs to say “Seattle” instead of namedropping the original location. Usually at a show – especially one as frenetic as this one – speaking to the crowd is ideal and rather frequent, but Young Fathers made a strong case that you don’t need to do all that to be compelling. They sounded great, they performed amazingly, and they just completely blew the roof off the place; the entire audience was salivating over them just as much as I was. It was a wholly enlightening experience, and I think I can say it turned me into a Young Fathers fan. I really can’t praise their live performance enough.
After a somewhat extensive interlude, the main event Baths took to the stage – and with him a special guest, someone he simply referred to as “Morgan”, presumably to help him with the live production work. He opened his set properly with “Ocean Death” off of his EP of the same name, which came out only earlier this month. From there, he opted to perform more songs off of the Ocean Death EP, as well as dabbling a bit into some tracks off of 2013’s Obsidian.
Coming off of Young Fathers’ aforesaid adrenaline overdose, Baths’ set seemed far more reserved and laid back. Will spent the entirety of his set either sitting behind his synthesizer, at his MacBook, or moving around on one half of the stage whilst singing. Wiesenfeld had more vocal interaction with the crowd than either acts before him, which I was expecting and anticipating, after seeing what a force of personality he is through means of the Internet.
Baths’ concert was great, and he sounded great, though I was a tad disappointed not to hear anything off of his debut album Cerulean, which is one my personal favourite albums of its kind. Save for the couple extemporaneous songs performed all on live equipment, every song performed was off of the releases that proceeded Cerulean, which was fine; it just would’ve been nice to have gotten a mix. One thing that I didn’t really realise before hearing him perform live was how varied Baths’ music is as a whole. Some songs sounded like a one-man Sunny Day in Glasgow, while others reminded me of the works of Lorde.
For me, the most enjoyable parts of Wiesenfeld’s set were when he and his special guest would take to the computers and MIDI controllers only to ad-lib some tunes on the fly. They would take varying sounds – him humming into the microphone, for instance – and remix it live into these great pieces that wouldn’t sound out of place on an IDM album. My personal favourite was the second one they performed, which was a glitch-hoppy dance track reminiscent of Machinedrum, which was probably the highlight of his performance to me.
They capped off their concert with a cliffhanger, to which they walked off stage, though it was pretty obvious they were coming back for an encore, and so they did, following it up with an Obsidian track. Afterwards, Baths straightforwardly announced to the crowd that that was all they had, and thanked them all for coming out, and for selling the place out. It was a great way to end an overall amazing night.
All in all, Baths and Young Fathers’ stop at the Neumos was absolutely splendid. Everybody sounded great, the performers’ stage presence was outstanding, and the night as a whole was one I won’t soon forget. If you have the opportunity to see any of these artists live in concert (especially Young Fathers), go to their show if you can. I can guarantee you won’t regret it.
Below is a gallery of photos taken of the concert. All photo credit goes to Dan Tice.