After releasing my favorite album of 2012, I have really been looking forward to finally seeing WHY? live. I’ve only been a fan for about a year now, but they have quickly become one of my all-time favorite artists. WHY? emerged in 2004 released their fourth album Mumps, Etc… on October 9th, 2012.
I was brand new to Dream Tiger and Astronautalis, but they have both gained an avid new fan after their performances. Dream Tiger is Liz Wolf, a woman of many, many talents. She also happens to be WHY?’s keyboardist, and married to Josiah Wolf, Yoni’s brother and drummer of WHY?. She may be small and soft spoken, but when she sings, something much more intense comes out. Her music reminded me of a sort of mix between Mirah, Lykke Li, and sometimes Chelsea Wolfe. Through the fog, colored lights, and the kind of bass that rumbled through your feet and into your chest, her songs about independence and rebirth pull you into into her own personal world.
Astronautalis is Minneapolis-based Andy Bothwell. I didn’t know what to expect when he hopped onstage, but I was immediately blown away. He’s a rapper of his own kind. Macklemore meets post-hardcore. He’s aggressive, yet somehow still welcoming. I was also really impressed with how easily he connected to the crowd. He seemed completely at home and genuine, like he was hanging out with this giant crowd of people instead of performing in front of them. His lyrics are both philosophical and narrative, in the most poetic sense. At some point in the middle of the set, he stopped and asked the audience for topics to freestyle. People yelled out different things, but he settled on love, John Steinbeck, and not enough hotdogs. Then I watched in awe as he rapped for over five minutes, pulling each subject together into a single story.
By the time WHY? came onstage, the place was packed and you could feel the energy humming throughout the entire room. They opened with Waterlines, from their most recent album Mumps Etc…, and Yoni paced the stage, locking eyes with the room. When they went into “These Few Presidents” next, it was clear this was a crowd favorite. I got chills as the music paused and everyone sang that one special line every fan knows, “Even thought I haven’t seen you in years, yours is a funeral I’d fly to from anywhere.” They played songs from every album, but Alopecia seemed to get the most hype. They didn’t play their new single, “Sod In The Seed,” but they played several other newer songs including “Jonathan’s Hope,” “Kevin’s Cancer,” and “White English.” For the longtime fans, we got to hear “Yo Yo Bye Bye” and “Waterfalls” from debut album Elephant Eyelash as well as “January Twenty Something” from the follow up, Eskimo Snow. They did indeed do an encore, ending the night with “Good Friday,” a smooth string of low spoken confessions and clever rhymes. I didn’t want it to end but it was the perfect closing note.
Yoni would pace and dance around and run in circles in his own peculiar way, but it was his frequent interactions with his brother Josiah that were the most fun to watch. The drums were placed on the sides of the stage instead of the back, so everyone seemed just seemed more together, sharing the spotlight. The whole band was a blast to watch, and I think it was because you can tell how connected they are. The sound was spot on, and with some songs, I think I actually prefer them live. Now they’ve headed down the west coast and are on their way through Texas to end their tour, but I’m already ready to see them again.