Monday, February 13, 2017

Gang of Youths at the Mercury Lounge

David Le'aupepe
Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist David Le'aupepe and his sister grew up as cultural outsiders in Sydney, Australia. He and his sister were mixed race (their father is Samoan, their mother is Caucasian), and the family belonged to a Messianic Jewish congregation (a fringe community of both Jews who subscribe to evangelical Christianity and Christians who adopt Jesus' Jewish identity). He bonded and banded with other church youth in 2012 to form a rock band, Gang of Youths, with musicians who shared his outsider identity in Australia: guitarist Joji Malani is a black man from Fiji; keyboardist Jung Kim is an Asian from Chicago, Illinois; bassist Maxwell Dunn is a white man from New Zealand; drummer Donnie Borzestowski of Polish descent is a newer addition. Gang of Youths in 2015 released its sole album to date, The Positions, which gained the band several awards nominations and sold-out tours in Australia. The band's most recent recording is the Let Me Be Clear EP, released on July 29, 2016.

On the first of two consecutive Monday night gigs at the Mercury Lounge, Gang of Youths may have found the stage too small. Throughout the show, Le'aupepe hastily paced back and forth across the stage but could only take a handful of steps before having to turn around and start again. For several songs, the audience was challenged to fix a gaze on him due to his unstoppable movement. Fortunately, he was able to push this energy through his music. Le'aupepe was a dynamic vocalist, singing muscularly a collection of soulful, melodic songs written from a place of pain, delivered with a mysterious Jim Morrison-like stage mystique. The band amplified Le'aupepe's crooning and hollering with intriguing arrangements that cleverly cascaded from sparse to wall-of-sound. Although the ultimate product was a series of radio-friendly rockers, the songs were rooted in an intense, bare-naked integrity that made the songs far more vital than typical pop fare. Given the opportunity to reach a wider audience, Gang of Youths may prove to become a fast-rising sensation.

Gang of Youth will perform at Rough Trade in Brooklyn on February 27. Visit Gang of Youths at www.gangofyouths.com.