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If you know anything about the Los Angeles music scene, you know The Troubadour. Maybe you’ve attended a concert there, or maybe you just know of its legacy. Regardless, you’re familiar with that big black sign emblazoned with white letters that serves as a doormat to the bulk of Santa Monica Boulevard and a trademark of one of the most notorious performance halls in the United States. With a long list that includes Elton John, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Lily Allen, Hall and Oates, Buffalo Springfield, James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson and Lana Del Rey, countless impacting artists have made their live L.A. and/or U.S. debuts at the venue since it opened in 1957. Thousands more, including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Radiohead, The Byrds, Rage Against The Machine, Coldplay and Red Hot Chili Peppers have graced its stage throughout their careers to ingrain their names into a piece of music history.
The newest addition to the Troubadour’s archives is 22-year-old singer-songwriter, producer and musician Trevor Powers. This past Thursday, Powers, who is better known as Youth Lagoon, performed his second L.A. headlining show there. You would think that any indie artist who released his first album less than seven months ago would be a bit nervous walking down the same stairs onto the same surface on which so many legends tapped the microphone, stomped their feet, strummed their guitars and played the keys before him. But the young Boise, Idaho native handled things as if he had no idea just who his name was about to be aligned with.
The sold-out show kicked off around 8 p.m. with beach pop artist Jeans Wilder, followed by a set from Italian indie rocker Porcelain Raft. When 10 p.m. came around, the crowd was attentive and ready. After a few minutes of setting up, Powers came back down those wooden stairs, back onto the famous stage, and put his mouth to the metal. With the assistance of careening electric guitar chords provided by his friend and tour guitarist Logan Hyde, Powers kept the crowd moving with his signature beautiful keys and clapping hi-hats. But most notable was what was emitting through the microphone.
If you’ve listened to The Year of Hibernation, the critically acclaimed debut album from Youth Lagoon, chances are you’ve ventured to Google to find out exactly what he’s saying on it. Although drenched with the natural, sometimes overbearing reverb of his friend’s garage walls, the delicacy and range of Powers’ voice still shines through on the LP even when many of his lyrics don’t. But his live performances put his vocal prowess in an echelon to be reckoned with. Even though his words at The Troubadour weren’t quite as comprehensible as on his impressive Sirius XMU in-studio rendition of John Denver’s “Goodbye Again,” the immensity of lyrics such as, “When I was 17, my mother said to me, ‘don’t stop imagining, the day that you do is the day that you die,’” filled the already packed room and had lips working in simultaneous motion.
Had Powers divulged into his lifelong bout with anxiety at the end of his set, the audience would have called him a liar. In between songs he was flirtatious, responding back to the random things people shouted at him from throughout the venue. He told of his “fetish” for hats after a fan professed love for the shiny one sitting on top of his bushy hair, and he even had a humorous conversation with a complete stranger in which he remarked that the fellow was a “good guy.”
All the while, Powers sipped on beer and hashed out song after song with tremendous passion as if he was living the story behind each one at that exact moment at which he was singing it. Watching him close his eyes and face his head down toward the keyboard was almost like peeking in a window, catching a glimpse of a private moment. But there were no holds barred to the stories of love, adolescence, trials and tribulations that he was telling. It was an unobstructed flow of communication from heart to microphone to ears. If Powers was hibernating when he wrote the songs, one thing is for certain: it’s spring now.