Hyukoh stood on the stage at the Mayan Theater tired and sick with a cold, and rocked harder live than any indie band I’ve ever seen.
I don’t even know where to begin.
We’ve all had those moments, those pining moments where we hope and wish and pray that one day we’ll have the chance to see our faves perform live. We dream of it, only to wake up and face the reality that this dream is damn near impossible for some acts. The idea that I’d ever get to see Hyukoh live was so far fetched that when I got the notification that they’d extended their world tour to North America, I stared at my phone and started laugh/screaming at my desk. You know that sound you make when you’re excited and panicking at the same time? Yeah… that sound.
Fast forward to September 19, and I’m driving like the maniac that I am to make it on time for press check in. I get there and the line is around the goddamned block. I meet up with friends, check in for press, am told my camera, Empanada, isn’t invited and I’m butthurt. Damn HIGHGRND and their YG Entertainment-style policies.
When I walked into the beautiful historic Mayan Theater in Downtown Los Angeles, I just stared in awe. It’s small. Intimate. And I’m right in front. Like two people standing in front of me close. That’s about when I knew this was gonna be good. After an insane wait, the place is full to capacity, as Hyukoh has officially sold out the Mayan.
The band eventually comes out to Nirvana blasting on the speakers as they settle in and begin with “Tokyo Inn“.
Oh Hyuk … oh god his voice. I stand there and every inch of me is covered in goosebumps as he adjusts his plain pink dad-hat and coos into the vintage mic. The diverse crowd goes nuts. They don’t hesitate, and steer the crowd through “Comes And Goes” as girls scream all around me.
The song ends, and the frustration of Lim Hyun Je could be seen rolling off of him as he quickly switches guitars. He’s already popped a string. He stands there, in his oversized trench coat and flaming red mullet, as he quickly tunes it and they start “Leather Jacket” followed by “Panda Bear“, which I wasn’t expecting as it’s an early track, and then go back to their new album with “2002WorldCup“.
It was “Wanli” that started the feelercoaster. Oh Hyuk apologized for his cold then sang with what was normally a scratchy sentimental sound was now a growling sensual depth that none of us were prepared for.
I stood there assaulted by this onslaught of pure rawness. Because of course, they followed that shit up with “Gondry” … aaannnddddd I’m crying. Why the hell was I crying?! It isn’t even my favorite song! And yet, seeing them perform this live … this gentle beautiful song had an entire room of people melting into emotional piles of goo.
And that’s when Lim Dong Gun growled in frustration, as there was no sound coming from his bass and he was having none of it. The switch was surprisingly quick as he tuned the backup bass and they killed us with “TOMBOY“. Nothing is more nostalgic than a classic rock sounding song and an entire audience singing along. It was amazing. The craziness was seeing fans linked arm and arm, hand in hand, singing along swaying to the song, and the band members faces lit up with joy as we sang in harmony with them.
They played “Simon” and the soft scents of a 420-friendly So Cal vibe took over. This is in no way a reflection of the band. This is strictly a reflection of damned good live music being played in LA. The scene could have easily changed to any venue and it would have happened. It’s a strange sign of respect and honor in a neo-liberal world of free love. It was fitting for the vintage sounds they’re so famous for.
The calmness was cut short because they played my favorite song on the new album. “Reserved Seat” is harder, darker, sexier, and rough. Live, it’s amplified to the point that the temperature felt like it rose in the room. It was hot. Damned hot. I fought with the need to close my eyes and just move with the music because I needed to see their faces as they played. I needed to see Lee In Woo go absolutely fucking nuts on the drums in between waves of stillness and raw rage. The delicate balance was intense. There’s no other way to describe it.
I was told they performed “Paul“, but honestly I don’t remember. I was still trapped in this dominant haze of intensity.
They then said goodnight and the crowd felt robbed. They screamed “ENCORE!” and “HYUKOH!” over and over until these four men stepped on stage and granted us the gift of “Hooka” and “Wi Ing Wi Ing” live. They left us sobbing and raw from the emotional dragging of a lifetime. We were battered and exhausted.
I walked out of the Mayan, my legs feeling like rubber, my heart feeling like pure freedom, scooped up my girls and went hunting for midnight Pho.
Please look out for their tour. Don’t miss the chance to see and hear Hyukoh live. It’s life changing.