The history of Why? can, on the face of it, seem a little confusing. Yoni Wolf, under the name Why?, came to prominence as a member of experimental hip hop outfit cLOUDDEAD, before going solo, releasing a couple of EPs and an album, ‘Oaklandazulasylum’. Then he was joined by his drummer brother Josiah and keyboard player Doug McDiarmid, at which point the band Why? came into being and Why? the man went back to being Yoni.
Not that you necessarily need to know this, because this show was performed with no reference to the pre-band past, save for the disparate collection of influences collected in the years leading up to the band’s formation. But, ignoring that, the songs played came mostly from last year’s ‘Alopecia’ album, with a handful from Why? the band’s 2005 debut ‘Elephant Eyelash’, and one from the forthcoming ‘Eskimo Snow’ (due in September).
Boosted to a four piece by guitarist Austin Brown for the live show, they have nailed a sound that is completely unique to them. It’s stripped down and simple on one hand, but complicated in both its mixture of hip hop, folk, psychedelia and pop and the need for everyone on stage to play various different instruments. In fact, it was worth attending just to watch Josiah playing drums, xylophone and singing all at the same time on ‘A Sky For Shoeing Horses Under’. But that was just one part of a finely-crafted live show, balancing Yoni’s lyrics, which always manage to make even the most mundane things seem utterly beautiful, and music that is never afraid to take it slow where it could race off into the distance.
As they finished on a grand-sounding rendition of ‘By Torpedo Or Crohn’s’, they had the audience eating out of their hands and I stood praying that they wouldn’t crack and play any more. Thankfully, they brought things to a close at the perfect moment, pushing the audience back into the world with those last notes still ringing happily in our ears.