August 12, 2018
It's obscenely hot; Texas hot, where the air is thick and soupy and you feel the sweat dripping down the small of your back. My shoes are melting on the asphalt. It's still a few minutes before 10am, and Dominic Harrison, the force we know as Yungblud, is dancing through crowds lined at the parking lot entry gates for Vans Warped Tour San Antonio. In pink converse, pink socks and pink bandanna, he entertains the perspiring patrons with a bright pink megaphone and homemade sign.
It's the final Warped Tour, and the energy is palpable. I'm here to meet, photograph and interview a select few artists and otherwise attempt to enjoy the 24th and final leg of the Warped Tour franchise. With the release of Harrison's flawless EP just days prior, the pink-clad rocker is at the top of my list.
I was first introduced to Yungblud's rebellious high-energy fusion of grungy rock-laden hip hop when he set a University of Texas show (and the lips of Austin locals) on fire. For weeks, people recounted the larger-than-life Brit who spent equal time scaring us with out-of-control stage antics, lyrically spouting the things we're all afraid say 'in real life' and hurtling across a tiny stage in reckless abandon. People couldn't stop raving.
I was wildly curious to meet this whirlwind and get a slice of his psyche, first-hand. As a blogger, it's usually expected that I'll write glowing EP reviews, create flowery stories of the hype and the energy of a live show, or talk about unending talent, charisma, generosity, humanitarianism, beauty, intelligence, contagious dance moves, versatility and prowess, etc, etc etc (huge inhale). The problem here? Harrison is all that and much, much more.
So let's get down to basics: Meeting Yungblud is sensory overload, in the best way possible. It's everything and it's nothing. It's big, wild and in your face, and then it's intimate, quiet and reflective, like you're chatting with your dear old neighbor about the state of the world. It's big personality and large assertions, a multitude of F-bombs framed by an unruly mop of hair and misleadingly innocent eyes, a garishly pink bandanna ripped off mid-sentence, and the way he passionately leans a little too far into your personal space, ranting about the state of things. He misses no time in telling me exactly what he thinks; a tirade of wise-beyond-his years, reflective and enlightened insight. I love this kid.
His priority, as we escape the fluttering fangirls and overzealous crowds? "I'm not the hype, I am the anti-hype." He maintains, explaining that he wants to remain relevant while pushing boundaries, never afraid to blur the lines and to give you something to think about. He wants to inspire and unite those who feel disunited. It's no small feat and I secretly admire this youthful zeal. I can't call it naive, but rather, refreshingly indifferent to the status quo.
I ask about his black heart tattoos: "One on my right hand, one on my left; this is before I knew who I was. I was broken. On my left hand, this one is whole; I found myself by writing. I write with my left hand. And of course they're on my middle finger, so I can say fuck you, but fuck you in a way that brings people together."
This is precisely what Yungblud has managed to do; to reach the misunderstood and the disillusioned, the youth who feel their voices are unheard and to unite in understanding, passion, rebellion and diversity. A fan recounts; "when I listen to (his) songs, I just want to scream "say it louder!" because everyone needs to hear this." Another; "We're not just fans, we're family." It is a beautiful thing. Harrison talks about blurring the lines - of everything from genre to gender; "there's a whole lot left to blur, I'm seeing shit every day. I want to be the artist that blurs your expectations on what to expect…" And he zealously affirms it in his actions, onstage and off. Flirting with the crowd androgenously; hovering between flittering femininity and affirmative rockstar power poses, he flings his big pink sunglasses backwards and plants a juicy kiss on the lips of his main, male, guitarist.
His seven-song set is a fiery, outrageous spectacle of passion, energy and impressive musicianship. Intoxicating. He opens with 21st Century Liability, and from here it's a nonstop provocative one-man whirlwind; exquisite guitar riffs, vocal prowess, f-bombs, perfectly-timed hair flips and so many exceptional photo moments that my little photographers' heart is left aglow. I thank him later for this, all things aside. I'm mildly smitten.
The post-show flurry yields quickly to captivatingly thoughtful reflection on the state of the world as we sit, post-show on the back of a Uhaul across the road from Warped Tour grounds. Those sparkling eyes yield a genuine understanding of the fears we all face in a world truly fucked up. It strikes me that the filter of appropriateness, that politically-correct self-serving shield so many of us hide behind is not present here. In his words; "I was misunderstood all my fucking life..." I ask what he'd say to those who still feel these pains. "It's about finding a niche, yeah, it's about finding that courage and the fundamental fire that's within you, within everybody - to be yourself no matter what; to be like 'you know what? If you don't like who I am, you don't need to be in my life.' "
It's a platform of loyal, brutally honest anarchy, and it's resonating with a lot of people. Perhaps this is precisely what we need most; the popularization, normalization of the select few who are making it okay to question the status quo. In the age-old style; we find unity in disarray, this time led by an attractive energetic British lad who performs with unfiltered conviction, compassion, and a refusal to apologize when that disobeys society's presets. "I don't want to divide, I want to unite. Division is boring; dividing people is an old way of thinking." It's about fucking time.
Evidently, Harrison doesn't play by the rules, and he doesn't plan to change that anytime soon. His debut EP 21st Century Liability hit the scene in the first week of July and immediately rose to #8 on the UK alt chart. We predict it will go much further. He's not slowing down; slated to play Warped Tour until mid-July, tour Australia "real quick," returning to the US for Life is Beautiful and Austin City Limits while also hitting towns from California to New York. It's an ambitious undertaking. I ask what's next for him.
"I don't know, man, my next album... it's gonna blur; if I want to collaborate -- with Drake, Lorde, Slayer? …music is music. We'll see." Predictably unpredictable. He grins, giggles. His passion for music is virtually oozing out of every pore.
I cannot help but applaud the rising star, who's going above and beyond to make a positive impact with his music. I don't doubt the success of his new EP, and even less so the impact of his message. A message of acceptance, unity, compassion and disobedience. He's already skyrocketing to the top of the charts and I predict that Yungblud will be a household name in less than a year. I look forward to my sophomore 'bluddy" experience at ACL Festival, where Yungblud takes the stage for a two-weekend residency, and we'll be there to check in with Harrison and his amazing team.
In the meantime, thanks dude; I had a blast.
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