whenyoung are adopted as honorary Glaswegians at this jam-packed Tut’s gig.
After missing whenyoung’s set at TRNSMT this year, I was keen to catch them at King Tuts, ready for a night in what always feels like the epicentre of the Glasgow band scene.
Abbie Ozard, who’s supporting the band on their current UK tour, came up to the mic before audiences had noticed, but quickly got their attention with tracks like Growing Pains and Numb, combining a well-versed combination of pop/indie teen dream. Her tracks could offer backdrop to a film like ‘Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging’, with Abbie’s distinct accent and themes of young love permeating throughout her set. Abbie’s been releasing music since last year, and was clearly pretty new to the gig scene. She accidentally forgot that Scotland is in Britain, anxiously blurting, “I’ve never played a gig outside of the UK before”, to which her bandmates joined in the sympathetic laughter coming from the audience. But, importantly, her songs stood up in the venue, with folk singing along with Heartbreak Radio only seconds after hearing her singing it for the first time. Her stage presence was endearing, and with such good quality songs, I have no doubt she will be back up to the furthest outreaches of the UK again.
By the time we had gone for another drink and come back, the amount of people in the room had almost doubled. The crowds huddled and pushed forward anticipating the Irish band, when an automated repetitive “whenyoung” played with drums and distortion suddenly blasted through the room. This became one of my favourite tracks: Pretty Pure, articulating the delicate sensibility of the way young people, especially young women are viewed. But over the loud and euphoric alternative, Aoife Power’s audacious vocals rose above daring us to diminish her – “Don’t try to help me find a cure, don’t wanna be human anymore”. Power paced the stage, wrapping herself up in the microphone cord and playfully interacting with her bandmates. They’re clearly a band that has performed live with each-other hundreds of times.
One of the most unmistakable tenets of the band is their proud Irish heritage, as they come onto the stage and immediately begin, “Hi, we’re whenyoung, and we’re from Limerick”. They clearly reference the Cranberries in their music, as they possess a rich lyrical quality that joins in with the strong Irish tradition of good songwriting. Aoife describes “you’re grand” as a common phrase back home that is instead undermined in the message of their song of the same name, describing a struggle with mental health. The group also err into a dreampop soundscape with Never Let Go. Later they play The Future, written about the death of a friend, where a hopeful “alternate moment” is the message they proudly champion. “I think we’re a serious band but we just wanna have fun” is how Power describes whenyoung, before they begin The Others, a song inspired by the Grenfell tragedy in London.
I would say that it’s this contrast between the lighter, upbeat catchy music and the more serious lyrics that particularly characterises this band. Labour of Love was also beautifully described and sung on the night, paying testament to the people in your lives that care for you and love you, the spoken word part read as some kind of manifesto written for the jumping crowd.
The band’s recent album release was celebrated all night long, and their engagement with the music and the audience only elevated the night. There was a clear group of dedicated fans at the front, who waved drumsticks in the air and screamed the lyrics back as the floor rumbled. Moments of audience participation also added to the feeling that we were all in the show, band and crowd together, the opportunity of which is also something I particularly enjoy about a smaller venue like Tuts.
It felt like the Glasgow music scene wanted to adopt whenyoung as their own, as LUCIA, Walt Disco and The Ninth Wave were all called out by the musicians on stage, many of whom were there supporting the band. Such camaraderie continued by the band emphasising how much they love playing Glasgow, and Aoife proudly telling us that her mum is from Paisley. The band finished their set as loudly and proudly as they began and left the stage while applause continued. It seemed a bit strange that they didn’t return for an encore, since the audience definitely wanted one, and I personally would’ve loved to hear their Cranberries cover live. But, in the spirit of leaving us wanting more, whenyoung had left the stage for the night.