Young the Giant Shines at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Young the Giant’s Santa Barbara Bowl debut creates an unforgettable night
Joywave, Coldwar Kids, Young the Giant. It really doesn’t get too much better than this. On Friday, August 25th, the Santa Barbara Bowl was ignited with three of the finest bands an indie/alternative rock fan could ask for at one of the most breathtaking outdoor venues in Southern California.
The concert began early for us, as we had tickets to the full Young the Giant VIP experience (oooh so special). We were led to a small area outside, enclosed by oak trees with a small stage area set up. Everyone cheered as the quintet walked down and begin playing “Art Exhibit” which was an incredible song to hear a live acoustic version of. The outdoor acoustic set was similar to the bands popular Out in the Open series on YouTube. Every lyric out of lead vocalist Sameer Gadhia’s mouth was filled with a natural aptitude of expression and emotion. After the song, a Q&A was lead with some interesting questions. To name a few, someone asked Sameer if he would return to Stanford while an overzealous girl asked lead guitarist Eric Cannata about future wedding plans and if YTG would ever play at a wedding. But the band all had a good chuckle and said that the best question they’d been asked was “Where was the best food?” The VIP event ended with the band performing “Apartment” and a group photo.
On to the Main Stage – Joywave marched out, led by Daniel Armbruster and his one of a kind mustache. The quirky Rochester, NY band uses sarcasm and witty lines in their lyrics, but also on their equipment. Their new album “Content” (pronounced ken ‘tent) uses sub notes to dictate obvious pieces of equipment, such as “^this is a drum set” on the drums and “^this is a box for the road” on amp equipment. Joywave can write whatever they want on anything because Ambruster’s live vocals and the band’s performance were outstanding – something I was skeptical about due to the high level of synth used in their music. The band opened with “Now” – a heavy hitter from their first studio album “How Do You Feel Now?” followed by “It’s a Trip!” and “Little Lies You’re Told” from their sophomore studio album. The band finished strong with their most well-known song “Tongues,” which everyone seemed pleasantly surprised to recognize. On the last line of the chorus, the crowd sang along and Armbruster’s face lit up with eyes wide as he shouted out “YES!”
Cold War Kids were up next in the lineup, opening with a strong reverb guitar riff in “Can We Hang On” from their latest album LA Divine, and picked up the pace with “Miracle Mile.” The Long Beach, California natives illuminated the stage as singer Nathan Willett serenaded the crowd with his soulful voice. Bass player Matt Maust smoothly glided across the stage with swagger while hitting every note, occasionally stopping to take a Polaroid picture to capture the fleeting moments. Matt took a moment to show his appreciation to the Santa Barbara bowl by telling the story of climbing up to the hill behind the bowl to watch Radiohead. This was his first appearance back at the bowl since that night of mischief and magic. The crowd sang along as the kids covered Rhianna’s “Love on the Brain” with a bluesy twist.
As the sun set over the ocean, a new sun began to rise on the stage. A rush of excitement swept the crowd as the beginning notes of “Amerika” commenced and Sameer, Jacob, Eric, Payan, and Francois emerged in colorful smocks. In the VIP Q&A, Gadhia talked about the importance of creating a “larger than life” presence on the stage. The entire band brought the stage to life with dancing, crowd interaction, visuals and more. YTG went straight into “Something to Believe In,” off of Home of the Strange and then led into “I Got” and “Anagram” from their self-titled album.
When lead guitarist Eric Cannata strummed notes from their most well-known song “Cough Syrup” the crowd went crazy – maybe a little too much so. A fan somehow was able to make her way up onto the stage and throw her arm around Sameer, singing along in the second verse. Tour manager Chris was able to pick her up and take her off stage, but she managed to wriggle free and dance back over to Sameer. It took about three security guards to force her off the stage kicking. The crowd’s jaws dropped and the look on the band members faces was priceless. However, they carried on the show as professionals, not even hinting that the incident might’ve shaken them up one bit.
As the crowd roared for an encore, Young the Giant delightfully succumbed. Their tour manager helped Sameer into his signature gleaming jacket seen from the first “Home of the Strange” tour and gave him a pat on the shoulders as a proud father would. The band finished off strong with “Jungle Youth,” “Silvertongue” and “My Body” which I’m certain the entire audience danced in unison to.
Vocals, instrumentals, lyricism, stage presence, meaning, and emotion. Young the Giant has got it all. If you haven’t seen them perform live, there’s still a chance! They have a show at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine CA on October 5th.
The outdoor summer concert season is nearing its end! Find upcoming shows at the Santa Barbara Bowl here.
Written by Danica Wolf
Photos by Sarah Penrose