Young Lions and Tony Kevin Jr. Prove Sincerity's Still the Style, Last Night at Can Can

In Reverb's tireless quest to bring you the latest report on Seattle's Tuesday scene, last night I trekked to the relocated Can Can (it's upstairs now!) to hear the sounds of Young Lions and Tony Kevin Jr. Inside, waves of maroon fabric and red lighting gave the space an almost womb-like vibe. When I walked in, Young Lions were starting their set. In their plaid flannel (yes) and loose-fitting jeans, the four members looked like the guy you might see sitting next to you at your "hip" desk job. Frontman Joshua Phillips sings in a Garth Brooksian twang, his voice incongruously deep (if I closed my eyes, I was reminded a bit of current Idol hopeful Scotty McCreery). The songs themselves sound more rock than country, and were quite likable, especially the less "sad bastard" numbers. Add some pleasant stage banter (keyboardist: "I know I shouldn't tell a Laffy Taffy joke, but this one is just too good. Why did the tomato blush?" Audience: "Because she saw the salad dressing!") and you've got yourself a pretty charming act.

Headliner Tony Kevin Jr. was more of a mixed bag. A tall, broad-shouldered, bearded guy in an American Apparel hoodie, he took the stage with acoustic guitar in hand, explaining that while tonight's performance was meant to be with a full band, he would be accompanied only by guitarist/percussionist Joey Roberts. As they launched into opener "Don't Tell Mama," about a troubled woman named Sarah, I could hang. The close harmonies and interesting story made for a song I'd listen to again. Tony Kevin Jr. has a powerful voice and is clearly passionate about his songs. But after a few songs, his unwavering sincerity, whether singing about love, loneliness, or Mother Teresa (seriously), began to grate on this cynical correspondent. Most of his songs deal with relationships--not just guy/girl, but also community and friendship--and the difficulties caused by being alone or the fear of becoming so. Top it off with his pleas-turned-orders that the audience stop talking during his "serious" songs ("Please guys, if you could just not talk at all, this song is really vulnerable") and his full-throttle emotional delivery, and it made for an exhausting listening experience. Three songs would have been perfect, but a whole set was draining, like sitting in on the therapy session of a stranger. It's clearly very personal material, but sometimes abstraction is preferable to honesty, especially if you don't identify with the story being told.

The crowd: Robin Pecknold lookalikes and girls with messy hair and English accents. Actually, a huge table I'd assumed to be friends of the bands turned out to be travelers from the Green Tortoise Hostel, laughing and flirting with abandon (and causing great frustration to Tony Kevin Jr.).

Overheard: "Brad and I wrote this song doing hot yoga."

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow