Like woodshedding wizard Bon Iver or the seafaring lovebirds of Tennis, Trevor Powers is a contemporary viral success whose rise to Internet-fame exemplifies the power of an attractive origin story. The 22-year-old songcrafter’s mythology is simple: Trevor grew up in Boise, loved and lost like any adolescent should, then wrote a series of sympathetically honest, undeniably catchy pop tunes about it in the claustrophobic comfort of his bedroom. Less than a year after signing to Fat Possum, Trevor’s blog-popular Youth Lagoon project is primed to open a string of sets with Death Cab For Cutie. In the meantime, Trevor’s headlining near 600-capacity venues like the Bowery Ballroom, which Youth Lagoon sold out months before its set Tuesday night.
Youth Lagoon was introduced by two acts, equally talented if not as Internet-famous as Trevor’s dreamy bedroom pop. Cemeteries, the spooky, shoegaze-y rock project of Buffalo native Kyle J. Reigle, started the show while the Bowery’s earlybird audience was still trading coats for beer downstairs. Despite the limited crowd, Reigle and his three touring cohorts delivered an excellent set that skillfully filled the Bowery’s echoing hall with spookily sustained guitar slides, galloping bass and melancholic vocal drones. The band’s Facebook page describes its style as “Sometimes slow, sometimes fast music influenced by other slow and fast music and old horror VHS tapes.” I’d add, “And perfect for dumping bodies in the town lake then crying about it softly to yourself.” Aesthetically cohesive and sonically tight, Cemeteries deserved a bigger audience than the one it was met with on Tuesday.
Mid-gig performer Dana Buoy was framed as a decidedly more Youth-Lagoon-y Youth Lagoon opener, starting the set by inviting the crowd to, “gather in a little closer and really feel the energy.” Composed of Akron/Family percussionist Dana Janssen and his hoodie-clad bassist, Justin (for whom the audience had to goad an introduction late in the set), the shimmery freak-folk duo prefaced Trevor’s set with 40 minutes of drum loops set to beachy guitar slides and neo-hippie harmonies. Select tracks proved too slow or softly delivered to break the crowd from conversations, but “Call To Be” was a confection of twitchy bongo loops and wordless choral yawps, perfect for a jaunt of shirtless dancing about a crackling bonfire. Because the Bowery Ballroom has strict rules about that sort of thing, the crowd instead contented itself with mild head-bobbing while Dana shuffled and grooved through the limited space behind his keyboard setup. Dana Buoy’s debut album, Summer Bodies, is due out in May.
Trevor and touring guitarist/longtime buddy Logan Hyde took a near-empty stage to wild ovation, Trevor behind a set of keyboard/drum machines to the right, Logan standing with a single guitar before a fountain of fog on the left. Despite the acclaim that preceded him, Trevor’s on-stage demeanor still reflects a regular, relatable kid plunged baseball-cap first into an exciting new element.
“So how many of you guys like Fig Newtons?” Trevor asked the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd packed into the Bowery Ballroom last night after opening the set with “Posters.” “How many of you have tried Fig Newmans? It’s a knock-off brand. They’re really convincing. It’s great.”
Throughout the set Trevor asked about local taco places, admitted his social anxiety in an awkward pause while Logan tuned up and told a sweet anecdote about waking up in the van “half-drugged on Dramamine” to see the Statue Of Liberty, thus confirming his love of New York. The crowd members adored it but not as much as they adored the near-perfect recreations of Youth Lagoon’s The Year Of Hibernation album, of which the duo played about 90 percent. Hooky favorites “Cannons” and “July” earned the greatest applause, and after the latter ended the main set a good chunk of the audience split before the encore, content in its consumption. Trevor retook the stage with a paper cup of coffee in hand to play “Montana,” a gently rippling track as spacious as its namesake state, before bidding a humble goodbye. Though his vocal work was as impeccably crisp and quirky as that on his album, Trevor Powers still exudes the sense that he’s not entirely comfortable in front of swooning sold-out crowds. And that’s exactly why crowds love him.