5 Things I Think After Seeing My First Gang of Youths Concert

Three minutes.

That’s how long it took me to turn into emotional mush on Sunday as I enjoyed my first Gang of Youths concert at the BottleRock Festival in California. It was right in the middle of the first song, “Fear And Trembling,” when it hit me right in the heart that I was finally seeing this band and hearing the songs that got me through a really difficult period of personal struggle. I was recording the song for our YouTube channel so I kept the camera held high in one hand, while I looked down at the ground, shook my head and said a quick prayer of thanks that this moment had finally arrived. And then I looked up and sang as loud as I could … “So light it up!”

Since that show on Sunday, a million thoughts have been going around in my mind. Rather than try to write a traditional concert review, let me instead offer a recap by way of writing out some of those thoughts that keep circling around my brain. Here are five things I think after seeing my first GOY concert.

1) I really need to see a proper Gang of Youths show with Gang of Youths fans.

Everyone has asked me, “How was it??” And my answer has been the same each time: It was as great as I could’ve hoped considering it was a festival, and not a GOY show with their own crowd and all the normal luxuries that come with doing your own gigs. (Like having a soundcheck, for example. Each band member seemed to spend the first 2-3 songs motioning to their audio people for adjustments; I felt bad for them.) The crowd was way bigger than I expected, which was cool, but very few people seemed to be singing the songs — “The Heart Is A Muscle” was one exception, and maybe even “Deepest Sighs,” too. But no one knew “Keep Me In The Open,” “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane” and others. I really wanna see a show with an audience that knows all the songs. But this isn’t a complaint. I’d happily watch their next show with any crowd, who am I kidding?

2) Dave will become one of the best frontmen in music history.

I’ve seen almost 50 U2 shows, and Bono is a fantastic frontman. I’ve seen dozens of other singers and bands live — Van Halen, R.E.M., Muse, Coldplay, Adele, David Bowie, Collective Soul and so forth. None of the singers grabbed my attention the way Dave did on Sunday. He’s SO. DAMN. GOOD. I had to force myself not to stare at him for the whole hour. He was playing to the crowd, the on-stage cameras — just doing his damn thing. It was a beautiful sight to behold. During “Spirit Wane,” he sat on a speaker on the edge of the stage and told the story of the song through words and gestures as the rain fell. It was really powerful to watch. As the band grows and he continues to develop his skills (which are already remarkable), he’ll be able to hold stadium audiences in the palm of his hand. Count on it.

3) Donnie is an amazing drummer.

Look, they’re all excellent musicians and I kinda hate to single out one or two and leave the others behind, but Donnie deserves a special mention. I don’t know anything about the technical side of drumming, so if you’re expecting anything other than “because I said so” as my explanation for this thought, sorry. I just think he’s super-talented and it’s great to see his personality coming through — at one point Sunday, he seemed to be doing a dead-on impression of Animal from The Muppets and a little later, for reasons totally unknown to me, he was kissing or licking one of his cymbals as a song ended and I was laughing my ass off at all of it.

4) Jung is the nicest guy on Earth.

I was walking across the huge, open field by the stage where GOY would be playing in about 90 minutes, and all of a sudden I saw Jung walking alone right toward me. (To clarify, he was walking toward the backstage band area, but that also just happened to be in my direction. He wasn’t walking toward me like, “Oh, there’s Matt from Deepest Sighs. Imma go say hi.” Although that would’ve been cool.) As he approached, I kinda shouted, “No way!! Hi Jung!” We shook hands and I introduced myself, and he recognized the website and said it was really cool what we’re doing. We talked for about 5-10 minutes (about the Mumford tour and other stuff) and he’s just the nicest guy on earth.

(Related: After GOY’s show, I also met manager Kurt Bailey and his wife, Ash, and had conversations with each. Can confirm that they’re both also equally nice people! But they both agreed with me that Jung is the nicest guy on Earth, so he gets to keep that title on a 3-0 vote.)

5) It’s good to put the phone away when it matters.

I had a plan going into the show: I knew I needed to shoot some video and photos so that we could share the experience with our fellow fans here on DS, but I also wanted to make sure to be at full attention and in the moment when the band was playing my songs. “Deepest Sighs” and “Spirit Wane” were off-limits; no video, no photos, no phone at all during those two songs since they’re the most special ones to me. And they were beautiful. The hardest rain of the day started at the same time “Deepest Sighs” did, and I just let it wash over me. I got lost in my favorite song and sang at the top of my lungs. That song, you guys. And “Spirit Wane,” too. Those two songs. Just everything.

So there ya go. The show was fantastic. The band was fantastic. The rain was fantastic. And it was a festival. I can’t wait until I get to see a Gang of Youths show surrounded by Gang of Youths fans, all of us singing every word together and turning into emotional mush three minutes into the first song.

Reviews of MTV Unplugged: Live in Melbourne

We’ll collect reviews of the album here as we find them:

MTV Unplugged is an acoustic show of their best songs off their latest album. Although the stripped back version lacks loud guitars, there are so many complimentary components throughout the set.

Taylor Furby at The Creative Issue

The album includes intimate pre-song moments like Le’aupepe’s touching introduction to and performance of Persevere, which he did alone on-stage at his piano – a sombre, beautiful moment of unadulterated reflection. Still Unbeaten Life from 2016’s Let Me Be Clear EP may seem an obscure for a closing track given the band’s glittering back catalogue, but it was a stirring choice, closing the set full of kindness and hope.

Tim Lambert at Stack

By no means is their Unplugged performance disappointing; it just doesn’t live up to the highs that I know the band are capable of in not only a studio setting, but also a full live show experience.

Dylan Marshall at The AU Review

Moments of pain and trauma can be heard all throughout this album, as can moments of bliss and a sense of self. The talent of Le’aupepe, Malani, Kim, Max Dunn, and Donnie Borzestowski is unfathomable. Nothing can match this. I’m calling it. Gang of Youths are a perfect band.

Nathan Gunn at Beat Magazine