Youth Code at the Triple Rock, 2/4/14

Sara Taylor of Youth Code
Sara Taylor of Youth Code
Photo by Erik Hess

Youth Code
With Coming & Prostate
Triple Rock, Minneapolis
Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Youth Code is not for the faint of heart. Last night, the L.A.-based duo of Sara Taylor and Ryan George returned to Minneapolis on the heels of a tour with AFI for their second performance with local industrial outfit Prostate, bringing along self-described "weirdo art-punk" band Coming to open. The ensuing onslaught of EBM was reminiscent of early Throbbing Gristle, who are often considered to have invented the industrial music genre -- bringing to mind the disconcerting and harrowing feel of their infamous 1981 single, "Discipline."

See Also: Slideshow: Youth Code at Triple Rock Social Club, 2/4/14

Photo by Erik Hess

Prostate's set began as a low-resounding moan, growing and pulsing into their opening song "Black Dolphin." With a sudden blast accompanied by the sharp metallic staccato beat of drummer Mike Filkins and guest percussionist Brandon Keegan -- filling in for Oskar Brummel, who is currently traveling through Europe -- vocalist Seth Ryan screamed primally into the microphone, agony etched upon his face. Wrapping the microphone cord around his tightly clenched fist, he lunged forward as Filkins and Keegan maintained their controlled, measured pummeling.

Prostate emitted the nature of sound that forces your eyes to blink unwillingly upon impact. It felt like crawling endlessly through a tepid swamp, or cloud made of glass shards, with the synthesized strains of a demented ice cream truck echoing from afar. Lyrically, it was lacerating. "Best wishes, and godspeed," Ryan bellowed, with a disgusted flick of the wrist. "I love you." A tattooed silhouette of birds hovered on Keegan's arm as he kept time.

Coming followed with a display of off-kilter, abrasive punk, incorporating elements of doom and sped-up sludge to produce a guitar-fueled, throbbing pump and grind. Strutting menacingly across the stage, Dustin Hollenbeck led the band with a guttural roar seemingly too large for his small frame to produce. Sweat forming in beads upon his brow, he paused only to explain the message of their music: "It's about terrorizing the American dream."

Youth Code at the Triple Rock, 2/4/14
Photos by Erik Hess

The standout moment of Coming's set was their rendition of "Trust," for which drummer AJ English set down his drumsticks and joined Hollenbeck on vocals, microphone cords draped over his naked shoulders as he slinked over the equipment on stage, bringing to mind the antics of a young, nihilistic Iggy Pop. "Don't you trust me with her," the two shouted at one another, moving off the stage and into the crowd. After covering Joy Division's "New Dawn Fades," they closed with their song "Waiting," self destructing into a sprawling ocean of feedback.

Ryan George of Youth Code
Ryan George of Youth Code
Photo by Erik Hess

The crowd coagulated into a dark mass, swarming the stage as Youth Code's Taylor and George obliterated eardrums with the opening sequence of "Let the Sky Burn," the first track on their self-titled album. George's voice was searing, echoing endlessly as he began to shriek, one hand outstretched towards the sky. The room suddenly seemed bullet-ridden, pierced by harsh industrialized yet strikingly danceable synthesized beats. Jumping, Taylor took to the microphone.


Taylor's voice is that of a hundred saw blades scraping mercilessly against a sheet of tin. Wild-eyed, she slashed through the air with one hand, then recoiled. The crowd reacted by increasing in movement as a pit began to form, bodies hurtling into one another. As she screamed the words to "Wear the Wounds," Taylor pounded on her chest, her jagged movements illuminated hauntingly by camera flashes. At the song's end she exclaimed, "You don't know how stoked I am to be back in Minneapolis."

Youth Code at the Triple Rock, 2/4/14
Sara Taylor of Youth Code
Sara Taylor of Youth Code
Photos by Erik Hess

Just as Taylor was about to sing the opening lines of "Sick Skinned," George's equipment suffered a crash. "It's like, I was right about to come, and then you were like, 'I don't want to fuck anymore,'" Taylor quipped. George snapped back with, "Well, I have to play like, six instruments." After a short pause the music started up again, and Taylor shouted, "Let's jump for real this time." A sample in the sequencing asked, "Why don't you just obey?" The pit did just that, as Taylor clawed the hair from her face, snarling.

The duo delivered convincingly, effectively sharing their space and feeding off of each other's energy. Their stage antics communicated traits of both the abuser and the abused, themes which are also present in their lyrics. They have somehow managed to effectively invent their own form of EBM by resurrecting long-lost remnants of early industrial music and injecting their interpretations with aspects of hardcore and coldwave, all the while maintaining a consistent 4/4 tempo that made it difficult for even the most stoic of audience members to stay still.

For "Destroy Said She," Taylor and George took to their respective stacks of equipment, backs turned to one another as their fingers moved deftly above the machines. They ended with "Carried Mask," in a glorious, jarring cacophony, leaving the audience begging for more. Fortunately for us, the unique music landscape of Minneapolis and reliably enthusiastic reception has left an indelible impression upon Youth Code, hopefully ensuring us future opportunities to bear witness to their electric brand of live performance as they continue to evolve.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I fell in love with Youth Code the first time I saw them play at Terma Fest in Minneapolis last year, and in my opinion Prostate is one of the most innovative and intriguing acts in this town. I'm an avid consumer of experimental and electronic music. I think harsh noise is awesome and I like it when performers have the ability to scare me a bit -- basically, I knew I'd be at this show whether I was writing about it or not.

The Crowd: An eclectic mix of young and old, mostly dressed in black, interspersed with many recognizable local musicians. Lots of smokers.

Overheard in the crowd: "If you wanna get into magic, all you gotta do is get a 'onie' and hit it a bunch."

Prostate's Setlist:
Black Dolphin
Double Dare (Bauhaus cover)

Coming's Setlist:
New Dawn Fades (Joy Division cover)

Youth Code's setlist:
Let the Sky Burn
First & Last
Wear the Wounds
What is the Answer?
Keep Falling Apart
Sick Skinned
Tiger's Remorse
"Destroy" said, She
Carried Mask

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