Everynight Charley

Young the Giant at the Rooftop at Pier 17 / June 3, 2023

The American Dream. At age 15, like many American youth, Sameer Gadhia (born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and raised in Irvine, California) co-founded an indie-rock band called the Jakes, playing coffee shops and local festivals. Once in college, he studied human biology in anticipation of a possibly lucrative career. In 2009, he left school to pursue music, thinking he might return to studies later. The band became Young the Giant in 2010 and since then has seen ever-growing success.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic provided the singer-songwriter with the time to refocus and reclaim his ethnic heritage after years of exploring universal themes in his lyrics. Gadhia’s new lyrics pivoted on the pursuit of the ‘American dream’ on a personal level. In his new compositions, images of Asian people and landscapes peppered an overarching sense of longing and belonging. The band released the songs four at a time as EPs at various points in 2022. Toward the end of the year, Young the Giant collated and released the full production, American Bollywood, organized in four acts.

Young the Giant’s tour promoting American Bollywood began in late 2022 and finally reached New York City for two nights under the open skies on June 3 and 4. Indian-styled arches adorned the back of the stage at the Rooftop at Pier 17 for these concerts. Gadhia and bassist Payam Doostzadeh, the two Indian-Americans in the quintet, dressed in ethnic wardrobe.

Photos by Everynight Charley

Like the record, the set was arranged in four acts, although the songs in each act did not entirely follow the sequence of the songs on the corresponding EPs. Each act was introduced by a thought-provoking video that dramatized an Asian perception of the ‘American dream.’ Wrapped in such a comprehensive concept, this was Young the Giant’s most epic presentation to date. 

For many, this may have been simply an indie rock concert with a few Indian-American flourishes; yet, it felt much more dramatic and emotional than many other performances. From pop to soft rock, the music touched a diverse range of sensibilities. Resisting sameness in sound, the songs’ arrangements elegantly swung from lush to sparse. Gadhia’s soulful croons and striking gyrations capped the recurring intensity of guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata and the driving percussion of Francois Comtois.

Gadhia remained the axis at all points. This show was about his words, his emotional intonations, his enigmatic doubts and concerns, and most of all his command of the spotlight. His charisma was subtle, yet riveting. With the strong support of Gadhia’s four band mates, Young the Giant’s performance proved to be the summit of the band’s trajectory so far.