Since his official debut in 2017, Doncaster’s own Dominic Harrison aka YUNGBLUD has become one of the most exciting artists of our moment. A guided misfit for the youth, the now-24-year-old meticulously edits the old with the new; as if he’s constantly building a cut-and-paste scrapbook of Sid Vicious fits, David Bowie swagger and 70s rock beats, and packaging it up into a rugged aesthetic for the new generation to devour.
For someone that was born some 20 years after the very style he’s known for was at its peak, Harrison reflects an entire generation that too feel like they’re outcasts in a world that’s never accepted them. And that’s important. In fact, it’s the very thing that fuels him. “The most beautiful thing I love is that I can always spot my own community,” he says over lunch in Auckland, referencing the eager fans who are watching him through the window. He gives them a wave and later goes out to wrap them each in a hug. Halfway across the world, he can’t believe he’s found a home here in NZ.
Popping over to our shores from July 19 to the 21st, YUNGBLUD filled the gap we’ve all been missing from live international acts. Like a fresh breath of air, he not only conquered every room but rocked around with a passionate ooze of cockiness that only a true artist can have. And frankly, we’ve never seen someone work harder. From the moment he landed to the moment he took off again, Harrison never stopped moving, and that attention to detail and genuine care for his craft is something worth appreciating.
Kicking things off with the aforementioned chat over lunch with Albert Cho of Eat Lit Food, Harrison wined and dined at Auckland’s Soul Bar and shared with us not only a dozen laughs but insights into why he does what he does. “It’s all about expression. That’s what I dedicate my life to, allowing people to express themselves.” One only has to look at his smudged eyeliner that looks as if it’s seen the worst of an underground punk mosh, his “someday all the adults will die” badge he wears like an emblem, and the tuft of red and black hair that sits behind his sunnies to understand exactly what he means. Here’s someone who is unequivocally his own person, and he’s slowly but surely building an army of likeminded soldiers who are prepared to follow him into battle.
Those soldiers join us at Shed 10 the following night to watch their favourite rockstar light up the stage. Flocking in in hoardes of glitter, pink, chains and tattoos, the room felt like one big club meeting for the rejected and provided a genuine safe space that most probably haven’t felt in a long time. Whether you were originally a part of it or not, there was an overwhelming sense of community, and at one point Harrison couldn’t hold back his tears. “This is just f**king insane,” he croaked, looking out at the sea of loving fans of all ages and wiping his eyes. “I’ve lived my whole life feeling like I was f**king weird and that something was wrong with me, and here all the way across the world I have a family in New Zealand.”
For the duration of about an hour and half (including a well-received encore of three songs), there wasn’t a single quiet moment. Whether he was opening the mosh pit up by screaming “WIDER!” so much it began to morph itself into some kind of jingle, flailing around onstage to the clashing drums of his hotchpotch of rock and pop-punk, or igniting a chant of “F**k Supreme Court” in reference to the latest abortion laws, Harrison had the crowd wrapped around his finger from start to finish. When he said jump, we’d jump. When he told us to all crouch down and get low to the floor, we did exactly that. And when he screamed at us to “go absolutely f**king mental”, well, an ear-splitting eruption of screams broke out that made the walls feel like they were shaking.
Not only does YUNGBLUD stand to be one of the most polarising artists of our time, he’s also undeniably one of the most talented. It takes a certain kind of star to provide a show like that, one that would absolutely look like it’s right out of a vintage rock magazine if you just slapped a black and white film grain over top. His songs have a weight to them that go beyond just being a decent tune, and in that room you felt it. There wasn’t a single lyric missed as they were all sung back to him, like one big collective promise that he’d never be alone. For that time being, we were all transported out of reality for a bit and kept inside this untouchable liminal space. And with the events of the last few years, we’ve needed that feeling more than ever.
YUNGBLUD’s self-titled third studio album is out September 2 and is available to pre-order here.