Written by Ace Ubas, Photos by Kelly Brown
Many seem to liken Manchester quartet WU LYF to that of a cult. WU LYF is really an acronym for World Unite! Lucifer Youth Foundation, their symbol is a cross, and they have developed a large following since the release of their critically acclaimed debut, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain. The sold-out show at the Troubadour on Tuesday night is a testament to their large following, especially in Los Angeles. The last time they played in the city was a mere four months ago and they managed to sell out that show as well.
Since their formation in the summer of 2008, vocalist Ellery Roberts, bassist Tom McClung, guitarist Evans Kati, and drummer Joe Manning decided to go with a DIY approach when releasing and producing their music. Describing their sound as â€œheavy pop,â€ they self-produced Go Tell Fire to the Mountain inside a church. And despite receiving contract offers from numerous record labels, they decided to release the album under their own label, LYF Recordings.
When seeing young bands that have generated a ridiculous amount of buzz in such a short amount of time, thereâ€™s always caution to be taken when seeing them in a live setting. An impressive debut album plus sky-rocketing popularity can equate to a live show that fails to meet such high expectations. Fortunately for WU LYF, they donâ€™t follow that formula as they put on one of the better shows of the year thatâ€™s just in time for Thanksgiving weekend.
Itâ€™s hard not to imagine a religious service going on when WU LYF came on since the stage was decorated with their giant cross logo, as well as the opening pipe-organ chords on set opener â€œL Y F.â€ It didnâ€™t take long for the crowd to get into the music as they immediately sang along with Robertsâ€™ incomprehensible vocals. This made me wonder if everyone legitimately knew the lyrics to every song or were they just following along to every noise Roberts made. Either way, his singing style is part of the appeal of this band and the main reason why the crowd was pumped up. There were moments where you could hear the lyrics with clarity such as on songs â€œSpitting Bloodâ€ and â€œDirt,â€ while keeping the gravelly delivery in the lines. The comparison to Tom Waits is as close as you can get to describing Robertsâ€™ voice. The only difference is that Roberts wears a cool denim jacket with the band logo and the word â€˜LYFâ€™ designed on the back.
The most impressive aspect of their live set was how their sound translated beautifully from the album, but itâ€™s ten times more dynamic. Theyâ€™re at their best when they lay down post-rock melodies on top of tribal percussion and funky bass lines. Songs like â€œCave Song,â€ â€œSummas Bliss,â€ and â€œConcrete Goldâ€ have that song structure, which make them sound more vast and expansive than they really are. These songs also highlight Kati as his guitar is heavily drenched in reverb, providing a dream-like atmosphere to the songs. Manning and McClung make one dangerous duo, providing the rhythmic backbone to the songs. Manningâ€™s furious beats are steady while McClungâ€™s bass are thick, giving the songs a sense of depth.
WU LYF ended the night with a two-song encore with the first being a cover by The Replacements entitled â€œSwinginâ€™ Party.â€ Throughout the night, McClung served as the backup vocalist to Roberts. On this particular song, Roberts exited the stage while McClung took over lead vocals, proving that he can be a capable frontman on his own. And after the chants of â€œWe Brosâ€ that left the tongues of an anxious crowd, the band finally complied as they called everyone in attendance their bros, a show of unity between performer and audience. The single proved to be the highlight of the night as Roberts jumped into the crowd a couple times, much to the delight of an already-moshing crowd.
For those who were unable to catch this show, they may have to wait awhile until WU LYF comes back to Los Angeles as Tuesday was the last night of their American tour. For those that were able to see what all the hype was about, they were all witnesses to one of the best shows of the year. This is a band you want to stick around with for years as this momentum that theyâ€™re carrying seems rather impossible to stop.
All photos courtesy of Kelly Brown. See more of her work at KellyBrownPhotographer.com