I must have missed the “You must be this young to enter” signs when I walked into the Vogue Theatre to see Yung Lean, because, maybe not surprisingly, I was the only person there over 22-years-old.
While I arrived late, missing the opening acts Tommy Genesis and Thaiboy Digital, I walked into the theatre, full of teenagers dancing to Rihanna over the house speakers. A few minutes later all the music stopped. Everyone started chanting for Yung Lean. Not long after the chanting began, I heard a strange sound. Rather than a group of rappers coming on stage, some obnoxious, honky-tonk country music came over the P.A.. We thought it was a joke but it lasted a little too long for it to have been unintentional. The young crowd went with it, though — kids started to form little mosh pits to dance.
Finally Yung Sherman, producer and member of the Sad Boys Crew, rolled out first wearing a green bomber jacket, white tee, chain, and baseball hat. Following him and a huge roar from the crowd, Yung Lean and Bladee, both Sad Boys members, came running on stage. Yung Lean, a baby faced 19-year-old, was wearing a black metal tee, Adidas track pants, and had (fake) blood leaking from both his eyes.
While The New Yorker called his music “confessional rapping over airy, melancholy rap beats,” it didn’t take long to notice that this Swedish rapper has probably listened to his share of Bathory and Anti Cimex — both popular hardcore Swedish punk bands from the ‘80s. If you listen carefully, you can hear the influence they’ve had on Lean’s music. His instrumentals can have a similar style to the guitars in Swedish black metal — high pitched, distorted, and fast. And, if you follow him on Twitter, you might have noticed his recent Anti-Cimex post, paying tribute to the hardcore group that lots of punks still listen to today.
While the Sad Boys performed, the crowd — what looked like a mix between young goths and young jocks — couldn’t contain themselves. Most of what they played was from Yung Lean’s 2016 album Warlord, but when they played tracks from 2014’s Unknown Memory, people lost it. A few audience members tried climbing over the barriers but they were quickly escorted to the back — it almost felt like the security guards were babysitters, first and foremost . Some kids even tried to light up inside, but that too was curtailed as soon as it began.
Yung Lean’s set was about 15 tracks long, including two in their encore, but hearing the voices outside after the show, it seemed like everyone thought it was too short. The young crowd was still hyped and so was I. As I unlocked my bike to ride home, it looked like at least half of the teenagers were getting picked up in their parent’s cars. After all, this was a school night.