There’s nothing quite like a hometown show for Irvine-based indie rock band Young the Giant.
Though the band members grew out of the smaller local clubs like Detroit Bar (now The Wayfarer) in Costa Mesa and The Glass House in Pomona and went on to become global stars, music festival favorites and arena and amphitheater headliners, getting to decompress a little back at home in front of some familiar faces is still a treat.
The band — including vocalist Sameer Gadhia, guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata, bassist Payam Doostzadeh and drummer Francois Comtois — is currently winding down its lengthy summer outing in support of its latest record, “American Bollywood,” and returning to FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine with rock duo Milky Chance on Saturday, Aug. 19.
“It’s extremely satisfying to be able to go back to a place that you know has been a huge part of your upbringing,” Gadhia said during a recent phone interview, just before a show in Seattle last week. “As we get older, we see a lot of the special parts of the larger Orange County community and there’s so much there to appreciate and celebrate. We’re excited to come back and just for people to have a good time.”
Young the Giant initially formed in 2004 as The Jakes while its members were all attending Irvine high schools. After finding some success with the single “Cough Syrup” off their 2008 “Shame My Hand” EP and some changes in the lineup, the guys renamed themselves Young the Giant. The quintet dropped its self-titled debut full length on Oct. 26, 2010 and cracked into the mainstream with the singles “My Body,” “Apartment” and the wider re-release of “Cough Syrup.”
Since then, the band has performed on late night television and awards shows, sold out venues around the world and in 2016 it was asked to help say goodbye to one of the area’s most beloved concert venues, Irvine Meadows. The outdoor amphitheater was demolished after 36 concert seasons shortly following two sold-out shows headlined by No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani with Young the Giant and Save Ferris. Since they’re actually from Irvine, they were asked to christen the new temporary FivePoint Amphitheatre in 2017 and were even given a key to the city that evening by Irvine city officials.
“I don’t think it unlocks anything,” Gadhia jokes. “We’ll have to try it when we’re down there this time.”
Returning for a hometown show gives the band a small chunk of time to reflect on where they came from. They were all students when they met and were all part of school music and drama programs. Gadhia said the late Derek Venlet, director of Irvine High School’s instrumental music program, had a huge impact on Cannata and Tilley’s formative years. He also credits choral teacher Richard Messenger with helping to open up his eyes to various styles of music.
“He actively roped me in and I was so appreciative of that,” Gadia said. “I think having that experience, singing songs and standards I had never been exposed to as an immigrant kid from India, kind of widened my breadth of knowledge of music and got me more passionate about singing.”
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Culturally, the band is as diverse as Irvine itself. Gadhia’s parents immigrated from India to the U.S. just before he was born, Doostzadeh is Persian, Comtois is French-Canadian, Tilley is British and Cannata is Italian and Jewish.
“Irvine in itself is such a specific and particular place,” Gadhia said. “It has great free public education and is a hallmark for a lot of immigrant communities who were seeking refuge and Irvine is a place that when we were young had a lot of cultural diversity. The music scene was vibrant, the music programs were so fostering of emerging talent and I think those are things to appreciate. I’ve said this before, but people (mischaracterize) Irvine as kind of this cookie cutter, sterile-type of place, but its been a place where immigrant families who have been through a lot in their lives found a place of shelter and found a place for their children to thrive. In that context, from a cultural lens, it’s really a unique place and there’s so many young people there and a lot of culture that still hasn’t quite been put in the spotlight.”
The band members have often written about immigration from their own perspectives as well as their families within its songs on albums like 2016’s “Home of the Strange,” 2018’s “Mirror Master” and on “American Bollywood,” which is a much deeper dive into the subject of immigration, the struggles of immigrant families and first generation Americans.
“We were very intentional and being very specific and having a lot of nuance with the storyline and if you wanted to go all the way in deep, you can, but at the end of the day a song has to be a good song to be appreciated,” Gadhia said of the latest material. “It’s been an interesting experiment for me now playing this stuff live to like middle America, but seeing people resonate with this story from a more universal lens.”
Meanwhile, he said he doesn’t need to preach from the stage. He lets the lyrics, the music and the stage design move things along and allows the fans to be as involved with it as they’d like to be. But the fans have responded positively, Gadhia said, leaving messages on the band’s social media pages and sharing their own stories.
“That’s amazing,” he said. “I think when you release something, that’s when it becomes art. It’s not always purely dependent on the way people consume it, but to share it with even just one person and for them to attach their own meaning, nostalgia and their own stories to it, that’s what creates that dimensionality. I’ve been blown away by the stories we’ve seen in the comments of our social media, people coming backstage after the show or coming to our VIP (meet and greets) and it’s great. I hope they feel emboldened and excited that their story is being told on a large stage.”
Since the band all grew up in Irvine — which was also home to famous actors, athletes and musicians like comedian and actor Will Ferrell, Tim Commerford and Zack de la Rocha of rock band Rage Against the Machine, “Mad TV” and Broadway star Nicole Parker, actress and “Saturday Night Live” star Nasim Pedrad, Olympic medalist and swimmer Amanda Beard, all the members of rock band Thrice and many more — Gadhia said there’s definitely something to so much talent coming from that very specific area. Part of that, he figures, is that they were all exposed to so much culture and art, including all of the big-name talent that headlined Irvine Meadows.
“Irvine Meadows was that place that where if you talk with many of (these stars), that was the place where they realized ‘Oh, I can do this, I think there’s something in the cards for me,’” he said, while adding that he believes the area does need and deserve a new permanent live concert venue.
Last month, the Irvine City Council voted to ended its agreement with Live Nation to build a permanent amphitheater inside the Great Park, which currently leaves the 2024 concert season in Irvine in serious limbo.
“I think having FivePoint right now is amazing and I would love to see it continue to build and for us as a band, we want to try to work back within the community and see what we can help organize in the next years, so that’s a topic of interest for us right now,” he added.
Young the Giant
With: Milky Chance
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19
Where: FivePoint Amphitheatre, 14800 Chinon, Irvine
Tickets: $30.50-$190 at LiveNation.com