Irish Rock Band, Whenyoung Crush Their First U.S. Show At Mercury Lounge
BY ISABELLE BEAUCHAMP
Red lights rise as the three members of Irish rock band whenyoung burst onto stage. They glow with excitement as they find their place on stage, instruments in hand.
Band member Niall Burns grins into the crowd and strums his guitar, the electricity radiating from the strings and out of the speakers. The lights dim and vocalist Aoife Power steps up to the microphone, her bleach blonde hair turning pink from the stage lights. She looks behind to drummer Andrew Flood and nods her head. He grips his sticks and slams them into the drums, and the first bars of “Pretty Pure” begin with a bang.
Whenyoung has had one hell of a year. After gaining traction in the music industry during 2017 with their two tracks “Actor” and “Silverchair,” the band’s career has taken off. Their unique sound and youth-infused lyrics caught the attention of many; they’ve played festivals, supported the likes of Declan Mckenna and Superfood, and even performed at Shane MacGowan’s birthday party among artists like Sinéad O'Connor and Bono.
The band hasn’t slowed down either –– last Thursday, March 7th, they played the first show of their American tour in NYC at the Mercury Lounge. “We’re obsessed with New York,” says Niall Burns backstage before the show. “Some of our biggest influences are New York artists like Patti Smith and Blondie, so to be here is really exciting.”
Their excitement is evident and the band’s energy is infectious. It’s nearly impossible not to nod your head to the beat of the drum. Each member fits together on stage like pieces of a puzzle: Niall Burns makes use of every corner of the stage, jumping around every space he can as his fingers fly effortlessly over the guitar strings. Vocalist Aoife Power’s distinct dreamy voice shoots through the speakers and infuses the room as she plays her guitar, and Andrew Flood’s skilled drumming acts as the heartbeat of the songs.
The best-friends-turned-band met in Limerick, Ireland as teenagers and officially formed in London where they started to shape their sound. While initially the band was created as a means to be creative with people they were already comfortable with –– moving to one of the biggest cities in the world can be intimidating — it quickly became something the trio wanted to pursue professionally. “Our sound has changed a lot — in the beginning, it was very lo-fi,” Aoife Power explains (“Unintentionally lo-fi,” Burns laughs). But over time and with practice, they started to evolve it into something more refined. Andrew Flood elaborates as he nods his head. “We improved our sound and learned how to work together much better, making it easier to preconceive and execute what kind of sound we want.”
It’s clear the band works well together — even though they’re far from home, they move comfortably on stage and interact with ease. Their energy seems to be strengthened by each other; during guitar riffs Burns and Power move closer together as they play in synch. And even though he may be closer to the back than the front, drummer Flood’s presence on stage is still powerful. He hypes up the crowd in between songs. “How are you doing New York City?” Flood yells into his microphone with his drumsticks above his head. The crowd yells in response, and one audience member screams “we love Ireland!” He grins and hits his drums. “That’s what I like to hear!”
While performing live may be one of the most difficult skills to master for even seasoned bands, whenyoung seems to have the formula down. “Performance is important to us,” Flood explains. “It’s the way for the audience to have a tangible experience with the music — it’s all about the connection between us, the audience, and the song.” Burns nods his head. “It’s where the songs come to life – people may know a song from a recording, but when you play it live, it’s different. It may be more raw or more emotional than a recorded track.” He’s right. It’s clear in their performance that songs like the “Sleeper” and “The Others” take on a different life on the stage. The emotion is much more prevalent in Power’s voice — each word comes out of her mouth with such organic precision that it’s impossible not to feel something.
As the band announces that they are about to play their last song, there is a moment of stillness when Power takes a breath and Burns wipes his forehead. Power leans into the microphone and thanks the crowd for their support. “Thank you all so much for coming. We’re so excited to be here and can’t wait to come back again!” The crowd responds with cheers as the dreamy first bars from “Given Up” — the title track from their new EP — ignite and then the stillness is gone.
The band gives their final song everything they have, and the lights dim as Burns plays one final chord. “Goodnight New York!” Power yells into the microphone. The trio makes their way off stage grinning and talking to audience members. The first electric show of their tour has ended.
Whenyoung releases their debut album in the next couple of months (“I can’t say when,” Power hints during the show, “But it’ll be soon!”). In the meantime, make sure to check them out on their U.S. tour and stream “Given Up.”
Lead Image Credit: Isabelle Beauchamp / Blended