Last night, Berkley’s nerd-hop group Why? wrapped up this year’s musical showcases for Northside Festival at Europa in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. With support from Sarah Jaffe, the show was a reminder of how many genres of music one line-up can span.
Although falling under the singer-songwriter category, Sarah Jaffe’s live music is better suited for those drawn to the garage rock aesthetic. During the soundcheck, Jaffe repeatedly asked for more reverb, foreshadowing the raw, aggressive style that was about to permeate her set. The singer’s voice, reminiscent of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O, perfectly complemented the extensive range of styles present in her songs. Jaffe’s set took the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions, journeying from soft-romantic and lulling melodies to distortion-saturated power chords. Although a majority of the audience remained stone-faced for the duration of the set, sudden cheers and shouts for more revealed the crowd’s satisfaction with Jaffe’s move into garage territory.
Before Why? could follow suit, they faced technical difficulties as a result of beer spilled on top of their sound system. For a little over an hour, the crowd attempted to console their impatience with the imminence of the tongue-in-cheek humor of Why?’s lyrics. Why? took the stage after midnight, silencing the few angry hollers demanding the group begin its set. Frontman Yoni Wolf, clad in his signature trucker hat, moved to the center of the stage in a hunched over, comedic manner, appearing slightly disengaged as he thanked the crowd for its “patience.” As soon as Why? began its set, all was forgiven.
Amidst the clanky xylophone and keyboard riffs, Wolf’s demeanor and mannerisms onstage, as well as the child-like, schoolboy humor in the song lyrics, it was hard to imagine anyone at the show being over the age of 25. The crowd relished Wolf’s mannerisms and wordplay technique, responding to the vocalist by rapping with him and imitating his movements. Many were bent over, bursting with laughter at Wolf’s antics, like his awkward semi-jerk dancing and rhymes akin to “I’m not a ladies man, I’m a landmine/Filming my own fake death/Under an ’88 Cavalier I go” from “The Vowels, Pt. 2.”
The real magic of the show seemed to lie in the performance ritual between Why?’s two percussionists. Keeping in time with a drummer is hard enough, but blocking two drummers together seems like a catastrophic idea. Nonetheless, with two trapsets and various percussion instruments, the fast-paced flailing of wooden drum sticks provided a engaging sight alongside Why?’s melodic rhythms.
Although the fans appeared increasingly exhausted as the night progressed, their dedication gave them the energy for a much-deserved encore. Having left the stage and main room of Europa, Why? swiftly returned to grace the audience with one last, gut-busting jam: “Good Friday.” Wolf spat his lines about “White boys/Who only look at black and Puerto Rican porno.” Seeing Wolf and his creeping demeanor one final time was all that was needed to top off a remarkable show.
Photos by Suyi Tay.