By Joseph Gray //
Adrian Younge is a dreamer. The Los Angeles-bred composer and multi-instrumentalist, however, is a fantasizer with an insane workman-like approach to match, with the result being a rare know-how that makes his raw, vintage music fit to score a climatic Pam Grier roundhouse kick from the 70’s still sound refreshing today. An ageless pallet, colored with everything from psychedelic classics to bulldozing funk, was on full display last Tuesday for Younge’s first hometown show of the year.
“I didn’t know it was going to be this hot in here,” quipped Younge, whose bow tie would become unhinged like much of his sleek, prom-like attire as he moved between bass guitar, piano and saxophone in his lightly-tinted glasses and velvet, gold-tipped shoes. Nevertheless, a diligent Younge and his equally chic band, Venice Dawn, would manage to create dauntless cool in the sweltering Del Monte Speakeasy next door to Venice Beach.
Younge followed easygoing ballads from vocalist Joey Dosik and a special DJ set by No I.D. as part of Red Bull’s Sound Select series. No I.D., the legendary Chicago producer and Def Jam EVP, set the tone for the night with countless goodies for all of the cratediggers in attendance. Seamlessly transporting the crowd through a Studio 54-meets-Blaxploitation vortex, featuring everything from Jean Carn’s and Dexter Wansel’s cool jazz to the reggae funk of Third World, he handed Younge and company a swaying crowd that was ready to groove.
Backed by an accomplished band equipped with flutes, Italian-influenced garb and guitarists savoring wine, beer and crowd-pleasing dance moves, Younge was more than happy to oblige with the whistling bass of “Panic Struck” from his joint project with Souls of Mischief as well as “Sirens”, his menacing 2012 hit that hip-hop mogul Jay Z sampled a year later on his Magna Carta Holy Grail track “Picasso Baby”. These delightful appetizers surrounded Younge’s latest studio album Something About April II, the evening’s main course of theatrical love.
“Sittin’ by the radio, the sky is crying” pleaded Venice Dawn’s talented vocal leader Loren Oden, who simultaneously petitioned us to expose our feelings and ears to the aesthetics of April II‘s special sound. These songs, arranged by Younge, gently transitioned from a gritty backdrop to daydreaming warmth before tangling in punishing, futuristic strings and drums, with the odyssey leaving the jam-packed venue as excited as they were appreciative of these handcrafted melodies.
“Memories of War”, coupled with “Psalms”, provided the scene for everything that makes April II a badass record, with Younge and his sweat-drenched bandmates doubled over to the ground by the end of his hour-long set. Greatness demands a lot, and Younge seems hell-bent on doing everything possible to ensure his genius analog vision remains intact.