Trevor Powers spoke the truth. I was having a good time at this gig from the minute I got there - but then again, who wouldn’t enjoy a concert on a boat? The Thekla Nightclub has been moored on Bristol’s East Mud Dock since the 1990s. Seriously, it’s not some a club shaped like a boat, it literally is a converted 1950s cargo ship. In its time it’s welcomed the likes of Massive Attack, Portishead, Noah And The Whale and now Youth Lagoon, the dream-pop project of Idaho musician Trevor Powers. It’s a perfect backdrop. The Thekla is thick with mist the minute you step through the doors and the layout of the ship is so labyrinthine it feels like something you’d dream up (literally, there is no point trying to figure out the layout of the building because it makes no sense). It’s all very surreal and mystical, but then again, that’s exactly what Youth Lagoon’s music is like, so I guess it’s well-suited.
Support act Pixx bounded onto stage shortly after we arrived. Supporting bands can be a bit of a liability, can’t they, but Pixx - aka 19(!)-year-old Hannah Rodgers really held her own. She was incredibly sweet and genuinely humbled that people had arrived to come and watch her before the main event. But she had no need to be - both she and her accompanying band were fantastic. Pairing her Grimes-esque new-age aesthetic with an incredibly mature, lulling singing voice and ethereal, intricately arranged music really is quite something to watch live. Someone next to me murmured that she’s “very folktronica”; it’s floaty and haunting, with morphed instrumentals that make you feel like you’re underwater (fitting, really, seeing as we’re on the lower deck of a boat and thus genuinely underwater). Pixx’s beautifully melancholy opening set really added something to the evening, she gently stirred up the crowd enough to get everyone ready for the main event.
Half an hour later and the whole room (deck?) was packed out. The lights dimmed, people started mindlessly cheering at the fact the room was dark, and then Youth Lagoon bounded onto the stage. Powers cut a cool figure; he was dressed in a black and white kaleidoscope jumper, beer in hand. He took a second to energetically greet the crowd before plunging into No One Can Tell, off his Savage Hills Ballroom album.
It didn’t start out as the liveliest of audiences. Powers himself commented on how “respectful” everyone is, if that gives you an idea, but the energy and vigour he and his band exuded was infectious. Youth Lagoon was pulling out all the stops here, leaping from song to song with an energy even richer than that on his recorded material. He was playing all the fan-favourites, cherry-picking tracks from all three of his albums, from Highway Patrol State Gun to Cannons, the audience gave out approving yelps at the beginning of each new song.
Trevor Powers himself was clearly out to have a good time. Bristol evidently holds significance for him - he fondly referenced the fact that he was in Bristol “exactly a year ago” recording his last album. He (literally) jumped at any chance he could to leap around the stage, running up towards the audience so we all felt nice and included. It worked. By the time The Knower cames on, the energy in the room was electric. Props to his fantastic backing band - the drummer was giving so much energy that he had to slip off and get a drink when Powers played the mellower Doll’s Estate.
I was a tiny bit apprehensive arriving at this gig. Powers announced only a few days beforehand that he was ending his Youth Lagoon endeavours after he finishes up this Europe tour, and I wondered if the concert would be brooding and melancholic. Powers seemed to have gone completely the other way, though - clearly, this Savage Hills Ballroom tour is an opportunity to celebrate everything Youth Lagoon has achieved, not bemoan it. Youth Lagoon may be coming to a close, but it’s going out in style and, as the infectious energy of the gig has proved, Trevor Powers himself is only just getting started.