“There were certain things about my Christian upbringing that I liked. Others, not so much.” The irony that John Rossiter’s band is playing in a Lutheran church has not been lost on the Young Jesus frontman. Surely the crucifix presiding over the stage at Park Church Co-Op did not go unnoticed by Rossiter, who, with his shoulder-length hair and slim frame, could have easily played our Lord and Savior in a high school Christmas pageant. But despite the coincidence and implicit humor in a band called Young Jesus performing in a place of worship, the setting was perfect for the Los Angeles quartet, who clearly know how to optimize their surroundings.
The songs from Young Jesus’ most recent album The Whole Thing Is Just There felt perfectly at home in such a space. The music seemed to billow from their instruments, drifting upward to the vaulted ceiling along with the machine-secreted smoke that accents so many of the Co-Op’s concerts. The songs took their time, allowing us to bask in every trilled hi-hat and the programmed howls emanating from Eric Shevrin’s double-decker keyboard. Rossiter and his band are proficient in the art of anticipation, lingering in silence before doling out a single strike on their instruments, repeating the process at slower intervals until their songs settled like dust on the chapel floor. Tracks like “Bell” and “Deterritory” stretched out like Jeff Buckley compositions, and I wondered if it was mere coincidence when Rossiter mentioned that a particular song on their setlist had “Grace” as its working title. Whether or not Buckley was on Rossiter’s mind, he admitted that “Grace” felt like a fitting, one-word sermon for the evening.
If Young Jesus provided the pensive, languorous atmosphere at the Co-Op, L.A.’s IAN SWEET ushered in a dreamscape of love and longing. Helmed by the tiny and tenacious Jilian Medford, IAN SWEET arrived onstage in a cloud of hot pink smoke, as if they were genies emerging from a shared lamp. Having just released their sophomore LP Crush Crusher on Sub Pop’s Hardly Art imprint, the trio played the bulk of its tracklist during their set, including the murky “Spit” and the sparsely arranged title track, during which Medford’s band left the stage to make space for what she called her “dance break.”
Medford is an unlikely but captivating bandleader; she seems perpetually amused and even surprised that she is onstage. Her between-song banter often fractures into a girlish giggle. But she is quick to volley from her sweet and vulnerable side to a wailing, guitar-shredding entity, who occasionally screamed so hard that she sounded possessed. Possessed by what forces, I can’t say—but something strong enough to make me stay put in a church pew.