As Gretta Ray softly strummed her guitar and sang of heartbreak, the Hi-Fi, full of mostly-male, tattooed indie rock fans, was dead silent. The young Aussie put the final touches on a gut-wrenching performance of “Radio Silence,” which she prefaced with a story of an old breakup.
“Oh no, please stop sniffling,” she said with a gentle accent and a laugh to a woman in the front row. “I’m sorry I’m being such a downer. The band after me is so not that.”
In no less time than it takes for one to refresh their beverage, Gang of Youths eased into the opening riffs of “Fear and Trembling.” Lead-singer David Le’aupepe’s soaring voice contrasted with his opener’s like his black polo shirt and white Guild Starfire IV guitar. As the tempo rose and the rest of the band joined in for the song’s blistering chorus, the heartbreak turned to headbanging.
The band rode the energy into “What Can I Do If the Fire Goes Out?” as Le’aupepe pounded his chest and drummer Donnie Borzestowski threw his hair around. Our lead singer can’t help but join his drummer as guitarist Joji Malani plunges into a guitar solo.
The room, about seventy-percent full, finally got a chance to breath as Le’aupepe sipped a bottle of water and remarked that there are more people here than he expected.
“It’s our first time in Indianapolis,” he said to cheers. “Is there anything here besides Peyton Manning and the cars that go fast?”
As he urged the crowd to love each other and to strengthen their hearts, a noticeable excitement sprung up in the room. The band dove into “The Heart Is a Muscle,” L’aupepe clapped along over his head with dancing fans.
Borzestowski got a rare chance to rest his neck and fix his hair when they followed it up with “Keep Me In the Open,” an emotional piece about Le’aupepe’s failed marriage. The band meandered through “Do Not Let Your Spirit Wane,” “Go Farther in Lightness” and the opening verse of “The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows” before they belted out the song’s chorus, declaring that “Not everything means something, honey.”
“This might be the only room in this city where you can dance however you want, and no one will judge you for it,” Le’aupepe said as the song wrapped up. “I want everyone in here to dance for this one.”
The band kicked off “Let Me Down Easy” as Le’aupepe’s electric stage presence showed itself in-full. He danced across stage, stepping in-rhythm to the music and pumped his arms à la Beyoncé. He hit an air guitar and fabulously flipped his hair before returning to his microphone for another verse.
The show reached its precipice with “Magnolia,” from their 2015 album, The Positions. Still leading by example, Le’aupepe danced like no one was watching.
“Yeah I’m drunk but I’m ready to kick some ass tonight,” he sang as he jumped into the crowd.
He performed the anthem in the arms of exuberant fans who danced and snapped selfies with him. Le’aupepe returned to stage for the song’s final, triumphant chorus.
“There’s no way tonight, as long as I know,” he sang. “That heaven will take me so I’m staggering home.”
The band returned to Let Me Be Clear, its 2016 release and then back to Positions with two slower songs, “Still Unbeaten Life,” followed by “Vital Signs.”
“Say Yes to Life” put a bow on the final show of their American tour. Le’aupepe belted out the second verse to the room of his amped-up devotees.
“Stay, don’t go. We’re like halfway through the halftime show,” he sings. “Do not let this one end, before you emerge as the winner.”
The song’s outro dialed the energy in the room back up to ten, a grand-finale befitting of a rousing night. Bassist Max Dunn, Malani and Le’aupepe came to the front of the stage to greet audience members in the front row. The band left the stage to a raucous ovation, which faded with the guitars in the audience’s ears.