Katie and I headed to Nottingham yesterday to catch Why? at the Bodega Social. For me, they were one of the highlights of ATP VS The Fans last year, so it was a real treat to see them in an intimate venue. The set was drawn entirely from the new record Alopecia and its predecessor Elephant Eyelash, which ranks as one of my most listened to albums of the decade so far.
What really struck me live was how the songs were transformed by the rough-and-ready percussion – they gave the songs an emotional rawness, reminiscent of Yoni Wolf’s earlier lo-fi solo work, and the flawless rhythmic conversation on drums between the brothers Wolf was a real spectacle. The visceral cracks of the drumming was lightened by glockenspiel and keys.
At times however, we got the feeling they didn’t want to be there with Yoni’s delivery even dryer and cynical than on the dark, broody Alopecia. Oddly, this didn’t detract from the performance, instead delivering a different take on several songs. The soaring, ornamented indie-pop of Elephant Eyelash standout ‘Gemini (Birthday Song)’ was replaced with a deadpan lyrical flow, rendering the lyrics in a harsher light. They closed with the slightly disturbing ‘Good Friday’; a perfect example of what the band do best – fusing stunning hip-pop melodies to dark lyrical content, focused on the humiliation and betrayal involved in relationships and growing up: “sucking dick for drink tickets / at the free bar at my cousin’s bat mitzvah / cutting the punch line and it ain’t no joke / devoid of all hope circus mirrors and pot smoke”.
Support came from Anticon labelmate SJ Esau, whose crazy loops and samples made him sound like a full band, was an interesting cacophony, even when watched from the back of the room. I’ll definitely have to check out some of his records.
For a sample of Why? at their most stripped down, check out this version of ‘Good Friday’ from the tour-only Alopecia Demos.
Stream: Good Friday
Why? – ‘Gemini (Birthday Song)’ (Fan video)