In the start of October 2017, in Islington Assembly Hall, Oregon’s Youngblood Brass Band deliver the best in high octane performance. With hip hop and jazz rhythms that bring the brass band formula into truly epic proportions. What's interesting about this band is how they transpose elements of their records to facilitate a live setting, and this is what I’ve learned from watching them.
Their live success starts with how the band plays their format to their advantage. Like other bands such as the Renegade brass band or the recently spotlighted Hot 8, Youngblood follows a stylised band pattern, with trumpets, saxophones and trombones backed up by a three strong percussion section. However, the key to this band's particular bass backbone is a body sized monster tuba, called a sousaphone, which the first wielder in the band, Nat McIntosh, used to center “Youngblood” on bass songs that are crucial to their live performance. In concert and practice, the effect is immense, with drums and bass locked in, allowing the horns to soar over the top in melody and harmony.
What I've learned about live gigs is that personal energy from performers is what truly allows the audience to enjoy the night. With an active performer always being better than a DJ that stands in the booth and hits play. So when the snare player at the back run up to the front of the stage during one track and starts rapping, the energy in the room hits an all time high.
And just because this rapper acted as the band’s frontman doesn't mean they didn't leave space for each member of Youngblood to inject their own fire into the set, which they did through bone chilling solos almost every song. What's crucial is that the band never let this energy up, with the vibe in the entire room, that for an hour and a half these musicians played their lungs out and pushed more than sound out into the audience.
This isn't to say that this performance didn't have it's faults, I’m sure it did. But for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what they were; which is how a gig should be. For instance, when Jordan Rakei played the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire (the music was absolutely stellar) but for whatever reason, the lights kept the entire stage silhouetted; with harsh strip lights burning the eyes. Now I don’t want to sound picky, but if I’ve gone to see someone whose music I really enjoy, I prefer to literally see them as opposed to having to keep my head down and focus on the sound system, because that live interaction is what separates a live show to a record. And i guess it’s little things like lights, or the drunk 20-somethings stood beside you that want to mosh pit at a soul gig, that stick like chewing gum on memories. Yet, when I look back to Youngblood’s show, on what was a few weeks ago now, I’ve nothing but the bliss of resounding performance and great sound.
- Tiarnan Morrison