Why? at Gothic Theatre, 9/5/12

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After a great set from Why?, no one seemed to be in a hurry to leave the Gothic last night, so the band came back on stage for an encore. The rapid xylophone figure meant the band was going to play "A Sky For Shoeing Horses Under." Immediately the audience reacted like everyone had been hoping to hear the song all night, so much so that Yoni Wolf wouldn't even had to have opened his mouth because everybody knew the words.

See also: Yoni Wolf of Why? on bird people and making a mega stretch limo on a Kinkos copy machine

Before going into the final song of the night, Wolf said he was going to take a picture, and he kneeled down at the front of the stage with the audience to his back as another member of the band snapped the picture. Clearly, this had been a night to remember.

The show started off with four of the five members of this touring version of Why? coming on stage and playing the introduction to "Dirty Glass" for a short bit before Wolf himself came on stage in what looked like boxers and a T-shirt with a Concorde on the front. He really did look like he'd just rolled out of bed seconds before coming on stage, but once he got going, Wolf sure didn't perform like someone who just woke up.

The profane yet poignant "Good Friday" followed, and it became obvious most of the people at this show knew Why?'s material well as folks sang along with every word like Wolf had tapped into some universal experience or sentiment, despite being very detailed and seemingly confessional. Wolf's stream-of-consciousness style of lyrics walk that fine line between the dark and the overshare.

In doing so, whether these are stories from his actual life or not, he shines a light on dark corners of the psyche that we never share with people because the details are too embarrassing or generally unflattering. Wolf's distinct ability to articulate these remote corners of the everyday human experience is courageous. It shows the inherent humor in even our weakest moments -- the humor and the utter, universal normality of uncomfortable truths we experience daily.

This ability, as well as Wolf's, and the rest of Why?'s, talent for turning this all into something fun and celebratory is key to why the band has had a growing and loyal following since its inception. This audience certainly returned the joyfulness apparent in the members of the band, including Josiah Wolf, who smiled often from behind his drum set.

After "These Few Presidents," Yoni Wolf told the audience, "It's goddamned hard to breathe here. Is it just me? I don't know if it's the high elevation or the high elevation." For the latter two words he held fingers to his lips like he was holding a joint. That got a laugh from the audience. Later, Josiah Wolf commented, "Not to keep harping on the subject, but that wasn't dispensary grade. That was schwag." Yoni looked at him and asked, "Are you saying Colorado doesn't have the kind?" Then both of them laughed it off.

The performance of "The Hollows" was especially moving, and it must have got to more than a few people because a bunch of folks up front acted like they were seeing a hardcore show. So much so that Yoni Wolf commented on the violence and how they wanted to take things back to a chill place. Sure, the emotional currents of Why? are intense and stirring, but it sure never seems to be aimed at getting people's blood up.

Before "Crushed Bones," Wolf asked the audience how it was doing and the response must have been a little lackluster for his taste because he jokingly cajoled the audience with a little story. "Yeah, I had a fever earlier, and my friend said, 'I have tickets for the Why? concert. Do you wanna go?' We had some miso soup and rice, and now I'm okay. I said, 'How are you?'" This got people to cheer a lot louder.

The main set ended with the echoing last line of "Simeon's Dilemma," but this crowd definitely wanted more and Why? graciously came back on stage to perform "A Sky For Showing Horses Under," and when that song ended, Yoni Wolf looked at his band mates and asked, "Should we do one more?" before ending with "Gemini (Birthday Song)."


Personal Bias: I love the way Why? has stretched the boundaries of what hip-hop can be.

Random Detail: Ran into Franco Valentino of A. Tom Collins at the show.

By the Way: Why? has a full-length called Mumps, Etc. coming out next month.

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