October 25, 2023

Yves Tumor at Cornell Homecoming

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Yves Tumor played the 2023 Cornell Homecoming Concert this Sunday at Barton Hall for an extremely excited crowd of several hundred students and alumni. 

Tumor, born Sean Lee Bowie in Miami, is an American musician with a cult following who has been releasing music under the Yves Tumor name since 2015. According to Dazed, Tumor began experimenting with music as a way of escaping the “dull, conservative surroundings” of Knoxville, Tennessee, where they grew up. The desire to break boundaries and escape traditional norms is evident in their music. Tumor’s discography covers a wide variety of genres, to the point that the only link between some of their songs is the fact that they sound nothing like anything you’ve heard before. However, Tumor is best described as a modern rock artist with experimental roots, blending the classic genre with electronic and psychedelic influences. 

Tumor’s individuality is also displayed in the wide range of artists, engineers and producers they work with. Their collaborators include varied figures such as James Ferraro, a pioneer of the vaporwave genre, Alice Glass, former frontwoman of Crystal Castles, Grammy award winner Noah Goldstein, Drain Gang icon Ecco2k and indie artists such as Joji and Willow.

Despite the esoteric and idiosyncratic quality to their music, they’ve enjoyed widespread acclaim and popularity. Their album Safe in The Hands of Love won Best Dance/Electronic Record in 2019 at the Libera awards, which celebrate the independent music community. Three of their albums received the coveted “Best New Music” designation from Pitchfork, including Safe in The Hands of Love, which was rated a 9.1 and was ranked as Pitchfork’s 10th best album of 2018. 

As many Cornell students have discovered the hard way, there is a big difference between making good music and being an entertaining performer. We live in an era of music where sophisticated autotune makes having a good voice unnecessary, and when they’re not blatantly lip-synching, artists often take their jobs as performers to involve showing up an hour late, dancing around to their music and occasionally singing along for a line or two. 

As a side note, the internet has been a double-edged sword for music. On the one hand, it makes it extremely easy for artists to get discovered and make a career for themselves, meaning that music is a more viable career option than it used to be. This also makes it easy for people to explore the type of music they’re interested in. I don’t know of anybody in Gen-Z whose music taste hasn’t been heavily influenced by the internet and what they see on it. On the other hand, the internet has perhaps made it too easy for people to get discovered, cheapening what it means to be an artist. This isn’t necessarily bad, and I don’t mean to be pretentious, I listen to plenty of shitty music. If you ask me though, live performances in the era of TikTok fame are truly the only way of determining whether an artist has real, tangible talent. 

As a fan of Yves Tumor for a number of years, I was greatly looking forward to seeing the results of this test in person at their Homecoming performance, which they described during the show as the first leg of their international tour. Tumor did not disappoint. Sporting a pinstripe suit and accompanied by a live band, Tumor delivered an energetic and passionate performance of a 15-song setlist. The show was a work of art, with an extremely sophisticated light production that beautifully matched the music and perfectly set the mood for each song. 

Tumor opened with “God is a Circle,” the leading track from their critically acclaimed new album Praise a Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds). The song, featuring fast-paced, grimy production from Noah Goldstein, discusses issues with a toxic lover (a theme likely relatable for many Cornell students). Tumor played two more songs from the new album before playing the fan-favorite “Jackie”, a song that showcases Tumor’s impressive talent in making music that is both unique and catchy. After “Jackie,” Tumor played “Gospel for a New Century,” a classic with a beautiful start-and-stop opening that first got me into their music. 

To me, one of the coolest things about music is its ability to evoke memories and transport people back to specific moments in time and periods of their lives. At the beginning of freshman year, I made fun of my friend because he’d always play the same song whenever we’d hang out. I thought it was annoying, and I would always beg him to turn it off, much to his amusement. Today, though, I really appreciate that he did that. I may forget the specific details of the beginning of my time at Cornell, but hearing NOSTYLIST by Destroy Lonely will always bring me back. Similarly, hearing Gospel For A New Century live for the first time brought me back to senior year of high school, a time of a lot of uncertainty and change for many of us. Hearing the song in Barton two years later was a wild moment. 

After Gospel, Tumor played a variety of songs from the new album as well as from their legendary 2021 The Asymptomatic World EP. The most memorable moment (besides an ill-fated and confusing mosh attempt) was during the very last song. As the band started to play what is perhaps Tumor’s most well known song, Kerosene, Tumor asked the audience to sing the song instead. The 2023 Cornell Homecoming Concert ended with Tumor relaxing on stage, face covered reading the Daily Sun as students took turns on the mic.

Tover Feist is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He can be reached at [email protected].