Yoke Lore pulls at youthful crowd’s heartstrings at El Rey

Spotify had been suggesting Yoke Lore to me nonstop for months based on my listening habits, so when the opportunity presented itself to see the band live, I jumped at the chance. Yoke Lore is the current project of Adrian Galvin, former Walk the Moon drummer. What I knew before the show was that the music had similar pop underpinnings to his past projects but was constructed with a folkier foundation. Galvin’s instrument of choice is the banjo, which pretty much says it all. 

When I arrived at the El Rey on one of the first real LA fall nights of October, the line of people waiting to get in looped around the block. Once inside, it occurred to me that the crowd was young. Like young young. Most of them looked like their parents had dropped them off because they didn’t have drivers licenses yet, which I thought was pretty interesting for a folk-forward banjo-fronted act. Goes to show you that kids these days have pretty discerning taste for more than your average Top 40. Then, when the lights came up and Galvin took the stage, the throngs of teenagers started to sing along with him passionately, and with rapt attention. Girls screamed “I love you!” as Galvin strummed the first somber, poignant chords of “Beige.” 

Yoke Lore‘s tour features musician Garren Orr on drums, and as a wink to Galvin’s past as a drummer, the two swapped instruments halfway through the set for one song, which also gave Orr the chance to flex on the banjo for a bit. It’s always fun to see musicians mix things up on stage and show off for each other a little. 

The set included Yoke Lore’s biggest hits, “Goodpain,” “Fake You,” “Chin Up,” the brand new “Dead Ringer,” and the cover that made him famous, Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply.” Legend has it that Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes loved the cover so much he got Galvin’s blessing to perform the arrangement. The funny thing is that based on the age of the crowd, I’m not sure how many of them even knew it was a cover.

Galvin’s voice is lilting, delicate, and almost reminiscent of Bon Iver with a speaking voice to match, but between songs, his commentary seemed more like disjointed musings than confident tour banter. He explained that this was their second stop of the tour, which made sense. The show felt a little bit like a dress rehearsal. While the music itself was polished and his voice sounded good, the flow didn’t quite seem to be there, and with so much dead air and set up between each song, Galvin seemed to lose his audience’s attention a few songs in and I could feel the energy get restless. 

Overall, there’s a lot of wonderful potential here and I’d love to catch him again on this tour once he really hits his stride. Despite some hiccups, Galvin’s voice implies a deep well of emotion, and when you hear it really belt over the chorus of his nuanced, sentimental ballads… well, it’s pure magic.

Words and photos by Stephanie Varela Rheingold