SAN FRANCISCO — The Bottom of the Hill stage was too small for Australian rockers Gang of Youths Tuesday. The quintet, led by enigmatic Dave Leaupepe, blasted off from the very first notes of their packed show at the small club. There may have only been a couple hundred people inside, but Gang of Youths treated the room as if it was Oracle Arena.
In a 12-song set that lasted under an hour, Leaupepe and co. wasted no time covering their short catalog, including cuts off their two albums, 2015’s The Positions and 2017’s Go Farther in Lightness. The band opened with a nearly six-minute rendition of “What Can I Do if the Fire Goes Out,” seemingly coming to a stop twice only to rev their engines and pick it back up again. The song, and many of the others that followed, were reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen, or the Gaslight Anthem, but as seen through the lenses of five Australians who really love the Killers.
Following “Fear And Trembling,” which, like the openers was from the newer album, Gang of Youths rocketed into single “The Heart is a Muscle,” with Leaupepe beating his chest and flexing his biceps. At other times, the frontman was swinging his guitar over the heads of the audience, the veins in his face pulsating.
It was not until halfway through the set, on “Persevere,” another newer track, that the band slowed down. Rich, reverb-laden guitar tones slowly built until the song’s pace echoed all of the other ones. The smooth move, from the build-up to the euphoria at the end, was straight from the Coldplay playbook.
Sardonic Connecticut rock band The Philistines Jr. opened the show. The band is helmed by Peter Katis, who is best known as a superstar producer. He’s worked with The National, Interpol, and Gang of Youths, among others. Since the late ’80s, he and his brother, Tarquin, have off and on performed together as The Philistines Jr., bouncing vocals back and forth about the most mundane of things, such as ’90s TV show Northern Exposure and each other’s lives.
For instance, one sample song title was: “If I Did Nothing But Train for Two Years, I Bet I Could Make the Olympics.” There was also a song called “Henry The Explorer,” about Tarquin Katis’ son, and “My Brother Tom, The Green Beret,” which was dedicated to the late Scott Hutchison, frontman of Frightened Rabbit, for whom the song was his favorite Philistines Jr. track. The band’s sound—and tone—varied from song to song, but overall, its ’90s alt rock tendencies created the impression of Weezer, if it were to be led by two Jonathan Coultons.
— Roman Gokhman