Gang of Youths has been making the rounds on Radio X in the UK this week and last week, drumming up interest in the band’s mini-residency at Islington Assembly Hall (that starts on Wednesday) and telling some interesting stories along the way.
One of those stories came up on Radio X’s Evening Show, when host Gordon Smart asked Max and Dave to talk about Gang of Youths’ worst live gig. There wasn’t much hesitancy as Max started talking about “Bad Taco Night,” with Dave chiming in to add more details.
As the story goes, it was a gig in Los Angeles with a lot of music industry-types in attendance, which made for a bad atmosphere from the start. There were sound problems. The industry folks just stood and stared at the band, or talked to each other, then eventually started leaving one-by-one. And after the show, the band went out for Mexican food “and that sucked” too, as Max said.
On the bright side, as Dave explained, that show ended up being a “turning point” for GOY and taught the band a valuable lesson:
“It was the worst gig ever, but it actually taught me the most about being in a band, and what is actually important and not, y’know? And it’s taken us more than half a decade, like seven years, to get to any kind of point internationally, but it feels like maybe that was a turning point for us, because of our attitude. It was one of the most profound lessons I’ve ever learned. I think for Maxy, too.”
You can listen to the segment below. Max talks first, then Dave, and host Gordon Smart jumps in, as well.
If I had to guess, Max and Dave are referring to one or both of the shows that Gang of Youths played in Los Angeles at the Moroccan Lounge — May 20 and May 21, 2018. I’m basing that on the fact industry analyst Bob Lefsetz flew in for the shows, and in his write-up he talks about various radio reps and festival scouts being there. Ian Cohen of Stereogum was also there and wrote that it felt “like an industry showcase.”
If you’re unable to listen to the audio, I’ve done my best to transcribe the conversation. That’s posted below.
Max: We have a gig we all call within the band, Bad Taco Night. It was in Los Angeles, in a place called —
Dave: — which, Los Angeles, for a lot of people, is a joyous, wonderful place filled with magical rainbows and fairies and movie directors, and then if you’re in the music industry just starting out, is a place where dreams go to die. It is a vacuum, a soulless void filled with people who are going to chow down on every dream you have in your heart.
That was at that stage, and now? L.A.’s great. But back then, it was bleak. Sorry, continue mate.
Max: Oh, it was just like we always … this group, it’s like running out of a trench or playing a game of football. Like, it’s always all heart. And I think that’s the only time we’ve all collectively got off [stage] and just thought, Man, we sucked tonight. It was just garbage.
Dave: The upper echelons of the Los Angeles music fraternity were there and they kinda started trickling out. [laughs]
Max: [laughs] It was the worst show to (???). Like, everybody — all the bookers. And I think we went out for Mexican, and then that sucked. So that’s why we call it Bad Taco Night.
Gordon Smart: What was so bad about it, like musically?
Dave: It was just paralyzingly stale inside the room. The sound was terrible. Like, Guy was screwing up. And playing in front of music industry types when you’re like a little band and you think that they’re gonna save your life? That’s real intimidating, so when they give you absolutely nothing in return? When it’s a sea of white faces just staring at you, drinking, talking and then leaving one by one? It’s pretty heartbreaking.
And so, like, we learned a valuable lesson a few years ago and now we’re the most light and easy, free, not-jaded people on the planet, ’cause I think we forgot how to care about that stuff. And it was actually … it was the worst gig ever, but it actually taught me the most about being in a band, and what is actually important and not, y’know? And it’s taken us more than half a decade, like seven years, to get to any kind of point internationally, but it feels like maybe that was a turning point for us, because of our attitude. It was one of the most profound lessons I’ve ever learned. I think for Maxy, too.
Max: Yeah, it was definitely like the only time everybody’s got off, and we spent like a day, like no one talking. It was like we’d lost a really important match. That’s how it felt.