If I could stand on the rooftops, with a megaphone. If my voice could reach the ears of music fans who want more on stage, more on records. If I could, I would and I would yell the same thing I yelled one year ago. I would yell that Young Fathers are the best live act that you’ve never seen.
I would tell the world outside the United Kingdom-who-know-of-them that the Edinburgh-based, Mercury-Music-Prize-winning three-piece do exciting things. Things that move and compel you. Things that are bold and out of place. Dead won them the Prize, but 2015’s White Men Are Black Men Too won them more critical attention. It’s an edgier album, if that’s even possible, and continues to blend all the things! that make them confusing and electrifying: angry hip-hop, tender soul, crunchy alternative, muddy chants and wobbly loops. The sound can be challenging. Challenging is good. Challenging moves me.
Now imagine that on stage: double drums pounding out “War” cries or a wide-eyed Kayus Bankole getting right in the audience’s faces, melting them, during the times he’s not flailing and dancing. Alloysious Massaquoi’s voice was larger than the gods for “Old Rock n’ Roll” and smaller, more fragile at the start of “Dare Me”. G Hastings rapping and lunging, and oh so many feet in the room moving. Imagine “Shame” ending the set, all boisterious-like. And then we all stood there deaf and gobsmacked, hoping against hope for an encore. But there was no encore, Young Fathers left the stage and nothing on the table. They’d given it all.
That afternoon, we hung out. We chatted about “Voodoo In My Blood” – the collabo between Massive Attack and YF, with a video starring that uptight actress Rosamund Pike. Massaquoi said that the song – which began as a demo but became Massive – is growing on him now. Massive Attack songs always do, I’d wager. And how Rosamund’s performance in the video was so godsdamned intense I decided I liked her. We talked about home versus tour – Kayus would like to get back to Edinburgh, they’ve been on the road for nigh on a year – but he wants to tidy up his council flat first. Then we watched Kayus warm up, or maybe just goof off, dancing alone in the club at soundcheck, making a huge jump shot for the room’s massive glitter ball, and reaching it. Symbolic.
And we peeked around corners while they sat patiently for photos, projections on their faces, and flashes in their eyes. We laughed with them and hugged as if we were longtime friends. We were moved by their generosity of time, of spirit, and warmth, just as we are moved by the music. “For it to move you in some way is the best compliment anyone could say,” said Massaquoi in a note later. I stand by the compliment.
Go on, be moved. The Young Fathers are still on tour: http://www.young-fathers.com/. Consider this to be me, shouting from the rooftops. \m/
All photos are by Wayne Höecherl with Rob Seebacher. Thanks to Fortune Sound Club for letting us shoot and to Young Fathers for their faces. Please do not use photos without written permission.