Waiting in the packed out venue Stereo on Glasgow’s Renfield Lane for indie/alternative/hip-hop outfit WHY? to appear, you can’t help but be reminded of the accusations of ‘nerd rap’ levelled against Anticon’s/Tomlab’s collective of whiteboy rappers. Peppered among the standard indie crowd are clones of front man Yoni Wolf; guys with short curly hair, goatees and thick-rimmed glasses who’ve found something to model their identity on. But before the real Yoni Wolf can stand up, with his natural charisma and considerable musical ability, to remind us why this is so, we’re treated to a set from Yoni’s brother and WHY? drummer, Josiah Wolf and his first solo album Jet Lag.
How do my teeth look?
No easy feat to get on stage in a brimming Glasgow club late on a Thursday night to sing some wounded and bittersweet songs, but Josiah pulls it off. One-man-banding it with both hands on an acoustic guitar, one foot on a bass drum and the other on a high-hat with pebbles attached to it for an extra colourful jingle, Josiah immediately captivates. Sharing his brothers penchant for inventive but wistful wordplay, he croons ‘my apartment smells like divorce’ in an affecting tone of emotional restraint, confirming that his new album has been a case of art therapy for him. But it’s couch-time you’re happy to sit in on.
Soon enough the rest of the band join him, and immediately Yoni has the audience in his palm. “How do my teeth look?” he inquires as he bares his pearlies to the audience before the band plunge into a brief but brilliant set. Highlights include storming renditions of ‘A Sky for Shoeing Horses Under’ and fan-favourite ‘By Torpedo or Crohn’s’. Yoni is an excellent front man, dancing daftly and rapping with arresting intensity, interspersing it with flashes of risqué humour. If it’s true that the measure of a good gig is that it should be like hearing the songs again for the first time, WHY? pass with flying colours, leaving you reflecting on what makes their music so strong in the first place and why they have such an intense following; WHY? mix pathos and humour, indie and hip-hop, intelligence and absurdity to such stirring effect the rest of the competition can’t help but seem bland in comparison.
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