By photojournalist Jeffrey Moellering
Irvine, California based indie rock band Young the Giant brought their ambitious ‘American Bollywood’ album world tour to the USF campus Yuengling Center on July 21st, opening with Armenian folk pop upstart Rosa Linn, and Germany’s catchy pop act Milky Chance.
Young the Giant’s first generation Indian-American vocalist / frontman Sameer Gadhia, accompanied with Germany’s Milky Chance and Armenia’s Rosa Linn, made for a kind of mini United Nations of music right here in Tampa Bay, and the faithful fans showed their appreciation by turning out in droves to see these emerging, talented acts with an international flair.
Roza Kostandyan, known professionally as Rosa Linn, is a 23-year-old folk-pop singer hailing from Armenia. After showing well in European music contests, she won a record contract and has parlayed that into a summer tour that featured extended stints with Ed Sheeran. Rosa is an impressive young singer-songwriter in the vein of many female greats, with a powerful voice and stage presence. She played mostly her own compositions and a few covers, including a Stevie Nicks song, which Rosa said she had the opportunity to play with recently. Rosa sings heartfelt songs that belie her young age, and she’s certainly an upcoming artist worth following as her songwriting skills blossom.
Germany’s Milky Chance was second to take the stage on the evening’s triple-billing, and while walking through the crowd in-between sets and conversing with attendees, it became clear that many were there to see this infectious group that is really gaining a devoted following. Milky Chance combines elements of folk, pop, dance, and 80s techno into a compelling blend that whips the crowd into a frenzy. They already have many well-known songs that are tailored for a call-and-response kind of audience participation. Bandleader and principal songwriter Clemens Rehbein is an energetic showman and cheerful presence, soaking up every moment of their growing popularity. His accent has a bit of a British twist, and it’s not surprising that many of their songs take compositional cues from the great 80s English techno bands, with catchy melodies and strong beats. Milky Chance is nearing headliner status, and may well achieve that as early their next tour.
Featured act Young the Giant is becoming a tour-de-force of the American indie-rock scene. Their 5th album “American Bollywood” showcases the prevalent themes in their music, with Sameer Gadhia’s experience as a first generation Indian-American, navigating the path of life with feet planted in two worlds.
Young the Giant’s stage and lighting was impressively elaborate, and the show was segmented into four acts, which according to the band represent Gadhia’s “grandparents in the old world (‘Origins’), his parents finding themselves strangers in a new world (‘Exile’), his fight to maintain his culture while also trying to fit in (‘Battle’) and finally, reconciliation and transcendence for future generations (‘Denouement’).”
Each segment was punctuated in between by a video and a kind of meditative moment to contemplate, be introspective, and grateful. Their songs range from anthemic U2 type revelatory rockers, to danceable numbers, and softer ballads, exploring sonic territory as the emotional peaks and valleys of our own lives. The performance was truly uplifting and joyous, filling the hall with passionate positive energy.
There was a sense among all in attendance that Gadhia’s journey is indeed also our own, and his America, like generations of immigrants before, is our America – chaotic, frenetic, yet still untapped and infinite in possibilities, grace, and ultimate fulfillment. Capturing that ideal in the ”four minute symphony” that is the pop song is a magical thing to behold like a lighting bolt, both in the imagination of the dreamer and the one for whom the dream unfolds. There was a sense, if only for a moment, that a collectively shared dream lives inside us all, waiting to emerge in a physical form, attainable in our conscious world. “American Bollywood” aspires to that paradise, a puzzle piece snapping into the whole.