Unknown Memory Tour
Yung Lean & Sad Boys, Gravity Boys
Dec. 16, 2014
The Regency Ballroom, S.F.
If you had never heard Yung Lean’s recorded tracks but someone described to you that he’s an 18-year-old white rapper from Sweden who makes music based around a loose trope of being kinda sad, then you would be absolutely not surprised by the performance that took place on Tuesday. You would have witnessed a clan of bucket-hatted, post-pubescent kids hypemaning one another across a stage in front of a DJ, yelling “hyeauh” into the mic at an ungodly volume. You would have said to yourself, yes there is no surprise here, this checks out.
But to those who had heard and enjoyed his Soundcloud, vibed on his music videos, and were rooting for him as an unlikely hero, seeing him give a performance that would make J-Roc from Trailer Park Boys proud was a little jarring.
Yung Lean, as consumed through the safe, controlled environment of the Internet, is a cloud rap favorite. Trippy, spacey beats are overlaid with auto-tuned, drowsy vocals for an overall dreamy vibe. What happened at The Regency was so far from that, it was hard to believe it was the same artist.
Yung Lean’s recorded tracks played in the background as the Sad Boys paced back and forth before their modest audience, rapping occasionally but with an abrasiveness that made you wish they wouldn’t. The delivery was so off-key you wondered if they even knew their own songs. One of their mics wasn’t working at all, and halfway through the set, a sound tech turned on Lean’s auto-tune, which helped (not much, though). It’s kind of amazing that the recent video of T-Pain crooning beautifully, totally auto-tune free, had everyone floored, yet no one saw this coming.
The entire night was shrouded in confusion and questions, like: “Is this performance art?” And “Are they making fun of me?”And “What the actual fuck am I listening to?” The DJ who opened drew amazement from the crowd when he left stage for a full five minutes to reclaim the mic that had been confiscated from him by the management.
All these post-post-ironic rappers like Yung Lean and Spooky Black have been pegged as ironic acts or just kids fucking around with computers, and you want to be like, “nah, bruh, this is real music happening in this real moment,” but then this tall, cherub-faced guy lives up to those dismissals and disappoints in such a grandiose way.
You want to think it’s so cool and so youth-minded of this generation that a teenage Swedish kid can run with a trope of just being kinda sad and make dope music and get the recognition he deserves, but maybe the romance of that idea totally obscured the fact that this kid can’t sing and in fact doesn’t deserve the status he’s achieved. Although at least Spooky Black, who performed last month at The New Parish, can sing like an honest-to-God angel.
Luckily, this was one of those instances where it was so bad it was good. But really, that just means it’s bad overall, and a good attitude isn’t going to change that fact.