young fathers @ the vic theatre


.“That’s what I’m talking about, this sh*t means something to me, man!”

If you’re well-versed in the nooks and crannies of internet culture, you might’ve missed out on the “old man crying meme” or the infamous “Michigan fan crying meme.” For context, in a nutshell, after an upset victory over Ohio State in November 202, a Michigan fan’s tearful reaction posted to social media quickly became an internet sensation, transcending sports and resonating across various fandoms.

I mention this because if there’s anyone in the music realm whose sentiment mirrors that of the Michigan fan for me, it’s Young Fathers.

Needless to say, when Young Fathers announced their Chicago show for their Heavy Heavy tour last year, I knew I’d be there. A Mercury-Prize-winning Scottish trio comprising Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and Graham ‘G’ Hastings, Young Fathers has continued to defy categorization and their live shows are nothing short of that. Despite the postponement of their North American tour to sync up with Coachella, the anticipation ran high, and their eventual performance at Chicago’s Vic Theatre exceeded all expectations.

Photo by Cole Kincart

I’ve had a rather unique relationship with Young Father’s music since highschool, mostly due to somewhat questionable access to the pretentious Pitchfork reviews at just 15 years old. In all honestly, spending my eighth-grade free periods immersing myself in the latest critiques is a vivid memory I still cherish. That said, that’s when I stumbled upon the review of Young Fathers’ third studio album. Like any typical suburban white boy dipping his toes into rap music (anything vaguely reminiscent of Childish Gambino, if we’re being honest), I was intrigued by their blend of indie, R&B, and hip-hop. But more on genres later. Initially chaotic, their sound resonated with a sense of “otherness and outsiderness” that I admired as I navigated my way through a new state and the angst-ridden years of high school.

As my high school years unfolded, I found myself delving deeper into the intricacies of their second studio album, “White Men Are Black Men Too.” One track, in particular, became quite anthemic, dominating my senior year playlists. Looking back, it bears echoes of a TV on the Radio album, yet there’s an undeniable authenticity to Young Fathers’ sound. The cries and shouts woven throughout the choruses evoked a profound sense of triumphant self-reliance and resilience. Their sound felt deeply urgent and profoundly intrinsic.

Photo by Cole Kincart

When they started releasing a handful of tracks from their fourth studio album, I knew we were in for something special. “Heavy Heavy” dropped in February 2023 to instant critical acclaim. Despite their reputation for being “unclassifiable” or masters of “mistakeology,” the album was remarkably concise and cohesive.

As the year ended, I proudly crowned “Heavy Heavy” as my top album of 2023.

On record, Young Fathers push the boundaries of sonic exploration, and this ethos is magnified in their live performances. Their latest album is filled with unwavering commands and spiritually dense lyrics, offering a transformative experience akin to a primal response of fight-or-flight. Amidst the monotony of tech school life as an engineering student, “Heavy Heavy” emerged as a lifeline in 2023, offering a beacon of hope and anthemic resilience.


Photo by Cole Kincart

While the drum beat was crucial on the record, it took on an even more vital role during the live show. The driving rhythms served as the heartbeat of the performance, with the drummer standing tall throughout, acting as a guiding light for the other members on stage.

What I love about Young Fathers is their ability to unify while also asserting their independence. Despite the saying that “three’s a crowd,” the trio knows how to work together seamlessly, as demonstrated on stage. Their individually forceful yet unified presence grounded the performance, captivating the audience from the moment they stepped on stage.

For me, the show hit its stride in the back half, where they performed a majority of their latest album. Tracks like “Geronimo” resonated deeply, with poignant lyrics encapsulating a sense of divine anticipation and the struggle for survival. Classics like “Toy” and “Shame” were also on the setlist, though it’s hard to top our own version of “Shame” from that unforgettable video. A true highlight was “Only God Knows,” with the crowd favorite callback, “Only God knows, you don’t need him!” Despite the irony, there’s a deeply spiritual undercurrent to Young Fathers’ music that resonates profoundly.

Photo by Cole Kincart

There’s something about Young Fathers’ sound that evokes a sense of multiplicity—multiple rhythms, tones, and perspectives simultaneously. It’s reminiscent of Arthur Jafa’s concept of “polyventiality,” where music becomes “an impulse to deal with multiplicities: multiple rhythms, multiple tones, multiple perspectives simultaneously.”

In the words of Massaquoi, Young Fathers’ music is “undeniably steeped in humanity”. Their ability to reconnect with each other while creating something special that resonates deeply with their audience is evident whether you experience them live or through their albums.

It’s in moments like these where “this shi*t means something to me, man”

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