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Live Review and Photos: Yuck and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, July 31, 2011, The Satellite – Los Angeles, CA

All photos by Kevin Corazza

I think young bands should tour together more often. For the past three weeks label-mates Yuck and Unknown Mortal Orchestra have been traversing North America as one, playing venues and enthralling crowds with their youthful rock. When Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s singer Ruban Nielson mentioned that this was the last night of their tour together and that “it’s been three weeks, but it’s gone by really fast,” there was a definite hint of sadness in his voice. Yuck themselves mentioned the fact that it was the end of the Yuck/UMO tour at least a few times, too. And when UMO joined them onstage there was a clear bond between the two bands, which is always a wonderful thing to see.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Unknown Mortal Orchestra are currently on tour supporting their debut self-titled album, and their opening set at The Satellite featured all songs from it. Unfortunately Nielson’s vocals were more or less inaudible for the entire set, but the music was still enjoyable. Jake Portrait on bass and Julien Ehrlich on drums consistently laid down nice grooves, with the former rocking forwards and back while the latter had a childish grin throughout. Nielson got to show off his guitar skills, particularly on “Thought Ballune.” While Unknown Mortal Orchestra may not have a commanding stage presence yet, you can certainly see that they are totally involved in their music while playing on stage, and sometimes that’s just as enjoyable to watch as a hyperactive band.

I’ll be honest, before Yuck started playing I wasn’t really looking forward to it; it was the end of a busy weekend and I was tired, and starting to feel the early signals of a headache kicking in. A rock concert was the last place I wanted to be. Yuck kicked off their set with two of their loudest songs, a double-header of “The Wall” and “Holing Out,” coming flying out of the gate. You’d think this would be the last thing I wanted, but something about the way Max Bloom’s squealing guitar caressed my ears, and the jangle-pop guitar lines from Dan Blumberg just put an instant smile upon my face. They then slowed things down with “Suicide Policeman,” and completed the three-song cycle of two fast, one slow that they would repeat with great success throughout the night. By the time the band kicked into their catchiest song, “Georgia,” the whole crowd seemed to be in high spirits. The band even took the time to dig into their shallow catalogue to play b-side “Milkshake,” which pleased many fans in attendance.

Sonically, Yuck are much more dynamic live than they seem to be on record, helped mostly through Max Bloom’s more-than-competent grasp of how to create interesting sonic textures through varying consistencies of feedback. This may be Yuck’s first album, but they are an accomplished live band by now. I have seen them open for Modest Mouse and play to huge crowds in foreign countries. Their leader, Dan Blumberg, is particularly impressive; I’ve seen him play to an adoring Reading Festival crowd with his old band Cajun Dance Party and play a solo show on piano to a theater audience – he’s a natural performer in an introverted style. Even though Yuck have been touring all year, he still seems as passionate as ever; he staggers around the stage, seemingly lost in an ejaculation of noise, just about making it back to the microphone in time to sing his next line.

The band seemed in high spirits, joking with the audience and talking about their friendship with Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The veracity of these words was made evident when, for the closing, colossal “Rubber,” they were joined by the band, who found something to hit, or, in the case of Julian Portrait, give the song some extra thud by adding a secondary bass.

Yuck were, somewhat unexpectedly, the perfect band to go and see on a Sunday evening. Through their louder songs they helped the crowd to exhaust their final energy stores of the weekend with a burst of excitement, while at the same time helping them wind down and prepare for the week with their slower songs. If anybody deserves a break from touring it’s Yuck, but they’ll be back in America in September, and you’d be best advised to see them.

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