Concert Review: Baths/Young Fathers

Concert Review: Baths/Young Fathers

bathsAnticon is known for signing masses of artists from a dizzying number of genres. So a tour featuring two of the label’s most prominent groups is going to be weird – I just didn’t expect it to be this weird: L.A. electronic darling Baths and Scottish hyper-experimental hip-hop trio Young Fathers sharing the same bill. A show flipping from Young Fathers’ self-proclaimed “psychedelic hip-hop boy band” sound to Baths’ bubbly beats seemed insane. But this particular brand of insanity worked flawlessly.

California based producer P. Morris opened with booming bass balanced with atmospheric elements. His cloud-rap based sound was more of a DJ than anything else, but “Affairs” and unreleased track “Elephant Bones” displayed Morris’ beat crafting chops. After a brief break, Young Fathers instantly launched into Dead opener “No Way.” Along with Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and G. Hastings, Young Fathers added a drummer whose presence was immediately felt with the pummeling toms that kicked off the set. That drumming provided a strong foundation for the trio to attack the stage. They drew mostly from Dead with songs like “War” and “Low” crackling with energy. They’re as fantastically flexible live as they are in studio. Each member shifted from rapping and spoken word to singing without a pause. Massaquoi has a terrifying charisma in the same vein as Death Grips’ MC Ride and the crowd felt commanded to chant along to “This is war!” and “AK-47/ Take my brethren straight to heaven.” Even Baths’ fans, who dominated Wow Hall, got caught up in the pandemonium and joined in on the chorus of “Get Up” screaming “Get up and have a party!” like they had known the song for years. Young Fathers refused any stage banter and played a rapid succession of songs that left me exhausted and, I assumed, done for the night.

Thankfully, I was dead wrong. Will Wiesendfeld mostly culled from Obsidian, a dark album in studio, but live it became pitch black. Opening track “Miasma Sky” bounced along with help from overwhelming bass bursts, but it didn’t hint at the visceral vibe that would engulf the rest of the set. “Pheadra” was the first track that released Wiesenfeld’s scarier side. His charming boyish vocals turned into screeches and yells by the half-way point. He warped and twisted his already harsh voice into more nightmarish sounds that cut through the snapping percussion.

Other songs from Obsidian received rough treatment like the herky-jerky “No Past Lives,” but even atmospheric cuts from the bubbly Cerulean became dangerous beasts live. The hazy “Plea” turned into a head knocker as Wiesenfeld rapidly rushed from the mic to his piano to the mass of cables that held his sampling equipment. Cerulean’s biggest hit “Aminals” didn’t show up, but its lazy nostalgic vibe probably wouldn’t have done well in the set. Instead Baths went for “Lovely Bloodflow,” one of the few tracks from Cerulean that held hints of Obsidian’s darkness.

Outside of Wiesenfeld’s vocals, the glue of the set was the creeping low end. The title track from Baths’ new EP Ocean Death had a grinding and crawling bass that seeped up through his falsetto and the sparking percussion. Wiesenfeld’s touring partner Morgan Greenwood juggled a few musical duties, but he was much more than just a side player. About halfway through the set there was an intense three minute duet with Greenwood on guitar and Wiesenfeld manically tapping on his sampling gear.

Penultimate song “No Eyes” served as a perfect summation of the entire show. It started with snapping sampled drums and Wiesenfeld cooing over chipping piano, but it soon morphed into the set’s most emotional song. Unlike the lyrical studio-cut, he screamed the chorus of “Come and fuck me” like he was injected with an adrenaline shot, Pulp Fiction style. The crowd yelled along to Wiesenfeld’s wild eyed intensity which made him sound like the menacing frontman for a metal band, a far different Baths from the one that created Obsidian. I had been expecting to chill out during Baths, but instead I received another dose of pummeling. This weird double billing worked as a thrilling and completely draining experience that left me jittery and wanting more.

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