A wisp of stillness began to sluice through the thrum of a mingling crowd when Your Friend took the stage at the Rickshaw Stop on March 28; as soon as it hit the opening chords of “Heathering,” the air dissolved into amber.
With a set of dreamy, pensive songs from both their EP Jekyll/Hyde and their debut album Gumption, Your Friend played alongside headlining acts Porches and Alex G in a recent stop on its cross-country tour.
Intensely atmospheric and haunting, Your Friend’s music unfurled live — though it may actually be more apt to say that it set the world around it in bloom. Throughout the set, there was a fullness to the sound that brimmed upon supersaturation. The music seemed to materialize in space; it felt as if the air in the room had pixelated into a textured thing, like being underwater. Your Friend’s set was a uniquely physical experience — it’s not just that its music makes you want to dance, but that it seems to seep through your pores and move you from the inside.
In this way, Your Friend’s live set seems to lead you to the music as an experience: not only something you listen to, or go to see, but something that happens to you. As a result, the set came across as less like a group of individuated tunes than like a score — one that transfigures mundane life into something more ephemeral, translucent — as persuasive and alluring as fiction. It’s as if the music manages to equalize the materiality of sound and the room it fills. While this kind of tangibility to the music is present in the recording, the immediacy of the concert brought it to the fore.
These are just the general impressions given by the first couple of minutes of the first song — perhaps indicative of another unique and compelling quality of Your Friend. Your Friend has this ability to incredibly swiftly create an atmosphere so unusual and sudden, it can be either incredibly immersive and euphoric or whiplash-inducingly disorienting, depending on how willing you are to go along with it. At the stillest points of the concert — for example, for the first few moments after Your Friend launched into one of its more abstract and mournful songs, “Desired Things” — you could easily see both reactions splitting the crowd before the vibe smoothed into a kind of wakeful hush, a sense of charged vulnerability throughout the venue.
The force of the atmosphere was largely created by frontperson Taryn Miller’s uniquely gravitational stage presence. Vulnerable and intense, their presence offers a kind of natural simplicity that’s both refreshing and compelling. They presented such emotive music in a way that felt so genuine and honest, it felt necessary and inevitable that the atmosphere responded by morphing into something intimate and fragile — the weight of it is hard to breathe under.
At some point, someone screamed from the crowd, “I love you!”
Miller, tuning their guitar, replied, “Aw, who said that? Is my mom here?” Then, after a beat: “I love you too.”
The set, as well as the easy rapport between Your Friend and the crowd, picked up speed after it ran through old fan-favorite “Tame One.” But the most dazzling moments of the night came when the band displayed a kind of transparency about its craft — particularly while playing “Who Will I Be in the Morning.” On the record, this song presents haunting choral harmonies, and Your Friend performs this live by constructing the loop onstage: the construction is the performance. To see the harmonies build and coalesce is fascinating and beautiful, and that the construction itself is the performance makes the song something like a piece of process music — for reference, such as Steve Reich’s “Piano Phase.”
With this as its final song, it felt like the audience was brought in to witness a moment of creation — the most perfect and natural ending possible for a set characterized by its authenticity and its transformative effect.
Lindsay Choi covers literature. Contact them at [email protected].