Live Review: Gang of Youths with StereoRiots at DC9, Washington, DC – 10th June 2016

By on Tuesday, 14th June 2016 at 2:00 pm

Sure, I might be thousands of miles away from something happening. But when you hear a band in Australia has been selling out tour dates left and right and well outside their home base city, you’d be a fool of a music editor not to sit up and take notice. Last year, the Sydney-based rock five-piece Gang of Youths – lead vocalist and guitarist David Leaupepe, lead guitarist Joji Malani, guitarist/keyboardist Jung Kim, bassist Max Dunn and drummer Donnie Borzestowski – released their multi-ARIA-nominated debut album ‘The Positions’. From there, they’ve cemented a fan following that, based on the fan reaction in DC Friday night, has reached far beyond Oz.

The opener for their early DC9 to usher in the weekend was StereoRiots. They’re a local indie rock band with a weighty synth presence. Lead vocalist and guitarist Wahid Hashime has a unique voice, somewhere between the comically fun pop of Rivers Cuomo and the shouty extended style adopted by Rod Stewart. If you think about this in your head, combining his voice with synths is pretty unusual, and not what you might expect as a headliner for Gang of Youths. Still, their set was an enjoyable one. Full of energy and fun vibes, the young band were eager to get the audience on their side.

Stereoriots Washington, DC, at DC9, 10 June 2016

A good friend from Sydney had clued me in to Gang of Youths’ Springsteen vibes. Normally, such a pronouncement would lead me to inwardly groan; that kind of music is Carrie’s specialty, not mine. However, the superlatives going around this band have been numerous enough to interest me enough to see them. As I was sat downstairs waiting for the 2nd floor venue portion of DC9 to open up, I could hear the band soundchecking. Yup, definitely Springsteen…

Frontman David Leaupepe is a man who has been through a lot and he hasn’t even made it to the quarter of a century mark yet. According to this article from Rolling Stone Australia, Gang of Youths began initially as a cathartic, artistic exercise for Leaupepe to exorcise his personal demons: a crumbling marriage, his wife’s cancer treatment and a spiral downward into alcoholism. Luckily for Leaupepe, he had friends Dunn, Kim and Malani to make music with, giving him an outlet and the resulting window into a young life marred trials and tragedy has now resonated with so many Aussies.

Three years ago this month, Leaupepe tried to kill himself, and the incident is chronicled in their song ‘Magnolia’. Although these days he may be making jokes about suicide, boy, can he emote – through that growly, Boss-like powerful voice of his – to express that period of his life that caused him so much pain. Funny, silly, and yet offering up a frequent arse wiggle, Leaupepe is also a charismatic frontman, with his curls naturally conjuring up the heydays of Michael Hutchence. A solo moment on ‘Knuckle White Dry’, recounting a difficult car ride back from hospital, was another set highlight.

Gang of Youths Washington, DC, at DC9, 10 June 2016

While the early set time for this DC9 show did Gang of Youths no favours – they would have had a bigger crowd if their set time had moved at least 2 hours later – those who chose to turn up for the gig were obviously massive fans. They were singing and shouting along to Leaupepe’s words on ‘The Positions’, fists in the air. Even though most bands these days are made up of folks who were friends first, there is something different with these guys who haven’t really been together all that long in the grand scheme of things. They play as one tight unit on song like ‘Vital Signs’ and ‘Poison Drum’, clearly enjoying each other’s company. It wasn’t hard to imagine from their performance Friday night that with the right promotion here and in the UK, Gang of Youths could be the next biggest Australian rock success story. One day soon, all their hard work and sacrifice will be worth it.

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2 Responses

11:24 pm
23rd November 2019

[…] saw Aussies Gang of Youths live last summer here in DC, and they didn’t disappoint. I’m really pleased to hear that they will be releasing a […]

[…] Mary Chang reviews the show for ThereGoesThe […]

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