Griff Washburn, better known by his stage name Goth Babe, brought The Lola Tour to The Rooftop at Pier 17 in New York City for the tenth show of a 36-date tour that kicked off in Aspen, Colorado on April 22. His fuzzy, alt-rock guitar-driven music, much of which is written on an off-the-grid 36-foot sailboat and namesake of the tour, was a match made in heaven for the dynamic 1.5-acre, open-air rooftop venue which opened in 2018 at the South Street Seaport and boasts panoramic views of the Lower Manhattan skyline.
Living in the Washington state mountains by way of Tennessee, and later Brooklyn, Goth Babe’s songs of personal reflection and the great outdoors are truly captivating. And the story of how the electronic-indie musical nomad came to enjoy his camper-dwelling lifestyle in the great Pacific Northwest is just as inspirational as his music. Living a life that many of us dream about, with his faithful companion Sadie (an adopted Australian Shepard), it has not been an easy journey for Washburn. In 2018, while living in his car, he was held at gunpoint. Although he was left unharmed, Washburn has candidly revealed that he suffers from the PTSD that followed. Then, in 2021, he suffered a traumatic brain injury that resulted from being hit in the head with a surfboard. Bedridden for months, touring was forced to a standstill while Washburn battled migraine headaches and depression. Following a resilient comeback with the support of his fan base, another major life setback struck Washburn. While on tour in early-2022, he was notified that the tiny home he had built for himself outside of Portland, Oregon has completely burned to the ground. Besides losing his beloved home, he lost his studio, recording equipment and an iMac with years’ worth of unreleased music that would never see the light of day.
Any one of these tragic events could have easily broken a person, but not Griff Washburn. He picked himself up, dusted himself off and then did what any one of us would do – he bought a truck with a camper and built it out with solar power, a small studio and even a wood-burning stove. In these new living quarters dubbed “The Lodge,” it would not be long before Washburn would embark on another vagabond, sun-soaked adventure.
Promptly at 7:30 pm, with the iconic Brooklyn Bridge serving as the stage backdrop and the sun setting over New York Harbor, Adrian Galvin (who goes by the moniker of Yoke Lore) and his drummer Garren Orr suddenly appeared from the dark shadows at stage right. As the crowd continued to grow exponentially with each passing minute, the duo was met with thunderous applause usually reserved for that of a headlining act.
Unfamiliar with Yolk Lore before tonight, I soon realized what all the fuss was about. Yoke Lore is a delectable recipe comprised from several key ingredients – namely harmonic anthems, voracious banjo playing, soulful beats and indie-pop synth fusion. In Galvin’s own words, his solo project “is a technique of telling stories about how we are bound to one another and how we are bound to ourselves. The value of anything can be measured in how it connects to its various counterparts. Heavy love deals with the weight that those relationships sometimes come with, but this is only one story among many that will make up the mythology of Yoke Lore.”
Raised in nearby Katonah (Westchester County), Galvin exhibited the stage presence of a seasoned veteran, gifting the audience one rousing indie pop track after another from his burgeoning discography that took formation in 2016. In fact, Yoke Lore is no stranger to the stage, having been born to a director and an actor/sculptor, he was encouraged at an early age to explore visual and performing arts. In addition to being a multi-instrumentalist, Galvin co-founded the Brooklyn-based dance troupe Boomerang, and his rug-cutting moves were put on full display as the 30-minute, 8-song set concluded with “Beige” and the title track from 2017’s EP “Goodpain”.
YOKE LORE Picture Gallery
At 8:30 pm, I stood in the photo pit talking with fans along the steel barricade who ranged in age from their 20s to 40s, all of whom were eagerly waiting upon Goth Babe’s road crew to finish their final stage preparations. Soon after the setlists were taped to the ground and water bottles were strategically placed across the stage for Washburn and his two bandmates behind the drum kit and on the synthesizer, the house lights went dark, and the hauntingly beautiful instrumental “New Born Worlds” (“Iceland”, 2022) commenced the night’s festivities.
The indie-electronic singer/songwriter who has continued to build his success via short-form EP releases dating to his 2016 debut next presented his ode to the ocean with “Moments/Tides” (“North Coast”, 2020), followed by “Colours” (“Smith Rock”, 2019). After Washburn addressed the 3,400-capacity sold-out crowd by saying “Thank you guys so much for coming tonight, we really appreciate you. We’re gonna have a lot of fun with you guys,” he chose a lucky member of the audience to join him onstage before she was granted a ride on an inflatable watermelon-themed pool lounger and released back into the ocean of fans.
The next trio of songs – “Alone in the Mountains,” “Casita” and “Encinitas” – continued the relaxed, easygoing theme of the night highlighted by lush, melodic mixes and shimmering electronic pulses. Released in 2018 and catching critical acclaim, the euphoric “Sometimes” was up next. Featuring Washburn’s melancholic vocal tone and layered guitar, Pier 17’s rooftop and everyone on it was cast into a dreamy, nostalgic haze.
After he made the request that each member of the audience should “turn to a neighbor that you do not know and tell them why you live in New York and why you love it so much,” he invited another fan onto the stage to assist him in launching a cardboard cut-out of the English actor/comedian Rowan Atkinson (a.k.a. Mr. Bean) to surf the crowd for the duration of the show. Washburn continued to enrich our collective musical palette with “Taking Over The Sun,” a song about overcoming adversity and “Canary Islands,” a tranquil indie pop gem depicting a wanderlust traveler.
As Goth Babe’s 70-minute long set neared the home stretch, he addressed his adoring fans again. “Do you guys care if I get sappy for a second? You guys, this is insane. This is really, really cool. I don’t know if you guys looked around at all, but this is pretty insane. We are extremely grateful for every single one of guys. We’re not like rockstars up here, we’re just dudes. I’m from Tennessee. But this is just so nuts. None of this would be possible without all of you guys buying tickets. You guys, life is so, so beautiful and I love that I get to share this life with you guys. This is awesome.”
After performing “The Trees,” “End Summer,” “I’m in Luv” and “Driving South,” the delightfully chilly spring evening culminated with “Weekend Friend,” a single released by him in 2019 about the emotional complexity that comes with ending a relationship with someone. Witnessing the show’s finale from a 25-foot perch atop Pier 17’s soundboard configuration, I had a magnificent view of the thousands of happy souls below me as they belted out the song’s chorus in unison.
When he’s not on the road touring, Washburn and his pup Sadie can be found outdoors exploring the west coast in their truck camper, writing music along the entire way. Washburn is also an advocate for environmental non-profit organizations such as Protect our Winters and the Conservations Lands Foundation, helping to raise money and awareness where he can. So, in a small but important way, by listening to his music, attending a Goth Babe show or buying some of his merch, you would also be lending support to our fragile Mother Earth.
If you’re unable to catch Goth Babe’s current tour, or you want to learn more about the personal side of the freedom-filled outdoorsy musician who grew up on old school punk and surf rock, check out his short documentary film “Tides.” Released in 2020 with adventure photographer and filmmaker Ben Moon, Washburn used the opportunity to “talk about mental health and how it deeply affected [his]life in the hopes [he could]open the door for some of [us]to seek help and/or not feel so alone.”
Following a handful of dates in Massachusetts, Kentucky, Illinois and Utah, Goth Babe will be taking a two month hiatus from mid-May to mid-July – during which time I am sure he will be either writing more music, surfing, rock climbing, snowboarding, sailing, hiking, or a combination of all these passionate activities – before resuming the second half of the tour that will conclude at The Ritz in Raleigh, North Carolina on August 12.
Yoke Lore Setlist:
Fake You | Chin Up | Seeds | Shock Flesh | Truly Madly Deeply (Savage Garden Cover) | Winona | Beige | Goodpain
Goth Babe Setlist:
New Born Worlds | Moments/Tides | Colours | Wanna Help Your Mind | Alone in the Mountains | Casita | Encinitas (Goth Babe & Louis the Child cover) | Sometimes | Taking Over The Sun | Canary Islands | The Trees | End Summer | I’m in Luv | Driving South | Weekend Friend