WHY? Celebrate 10th Anniversary of ‘Alopecia’ in Austin (SHOW REVIEW)

Ten years ago, in 2008, Why? Released an album called Alopecia that was a massive step forward for frontman Yoni Wolf and the “band” such as it is. Earlier Why? Recordings were barebones efforts with Yoni rapping over simplistic beats. Now, finally, the project felt like a full fledged indie rock band, with Yoni speak-singing over lush arrangements and complex, intricate musical diversions. Since then, Why? has largely continued along this path, so Alopecia set the stage for every release from the band to come.

It makes sense then to do a tour to celebrate the album, ten years on. After all, it’s their most well known album, perhaps their best, and the one that set the stage for everything to come. Even after finishing their set in at the Mohawk in Austin, Texas on November 19, Wolf acknowledged this, telling the crowd “we’re going to play some songs from our other albums. Your less favorite albums.” That’s less a knock on Why?’s other albums and more a testament to how large Alopecia looms over everything else they’ve done since.

Starting with album opener “The Vowels,” it was immediately clear how much effort went into producing this record. Subsequent Why? releases and tours have featured large bands and tremendous arranging, but to replicate Alopecia, the band went all out. From reproducing the samples to intensely complex playing, the band breathed more life into the record than it has ever had. It felt even more vital ten years on.

The album has been so ingrained now that every little change Why? made to the songs became immediately obvious. Yet every bit of jamming or additional flourish that they added to the songs only served to enhance the experience. Likewise, Wolf has developed tremendously as a frontman over the years, adding his improved singing voice to certain tracks that were more spoken on the original record. It made the songs feel new and improved, like a live, on the fly remix and remaster job.

Their work done when they finished Alopecia, Why? played three other representative tracks from their career: “Strawberries,” “This Ole King,” and “Crushed Bones.” Closing with “Crushed Bones” was an absolutely impeccable decision. It linked the early days of Why?, when it was just Wolf dabbling in indie rap, to the current world of Why? and it made everything feel like it came full circle. At the end of the day, this will always be Wolf’s bizarre, lovelorn brainchild.

Ten years is a very long time, especially for a band on the road, and yet Alopecia still rings so true and impactful after all these years. Wolf admitted the subject of one of the songs, “Fatalist Palmistry,” lives in Austin. He said it would be weird to sing it if she was there, but, “it’s cool. I’m over it.” Wolf may finally be over all the angst and hurt in the lyrics of Alopecia, but the record will never lose its luster and its ability to connect straight to the guts of the audience. Why?’s masterpiece was in fine form, and the band was simply perfect performing it. Whatever next chapter comes for the band, hopefully this current continues to run through it, because the sounds of Alopecia still have plenty of life left in them ten years later.

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One Response

  1. Thank you for this review. I am so excited to see them on this tour soon. Alopecia is one of my all-time favorite albums and I am happy to hear that they are doing such a fantastic job playing it live even after a decade!

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