Lydia’s ‘Liquor Tour’ performance goes down smooth

Skylar De Paul /Staff

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Lydia, the notable trio of indie-cool-boys from Arizona, brought the tail end of their “Liquor Tour” to The Chapel in San Francisco on Friday.

Made up of Leighton Antelman, Matthew Keller and Shawn Strader, the band released its first album, Illuminate, in 2008. The band’s newest release, Liquor, came out in July and features artist Lauren Ruth Ward on the track “Red Lights.”

While Lydia’s newest album is good, it was a track off Illuminate that stood out most. “A Fine Evening For A Rogue” was a song the crowd seemed to know well as it loudly repeated the lyrics back to the band members, who were grinning widely on stage. The drums were empowering, bringing a sense of urgency with every beat as Antelman and Strader stomped around the stage to the rhythm. Antelman’s voice was soft and smooth on the low verses, making the drops of the song that much more impactful as his voice grew stronger.

Most of Lydia’s songs held an elated energy and an uplifting vibe — even the acoustic portion of the set felt inspiring and cheery with the tone of “Back to Bed.” The cute song held fun falsettos and was playfully slow before switching back into a full-band sound with thundering drums. Many of the transitions in Lydia’s songs are powerful simply because of their well-arranged drum parts, and this was reflected in the attention-grabbing beat of the live drum set.

Lydia kept it organic and easy with its looks and its sound as the night went on. The Arizona band members looked hipster-dapper with their casual, fitted outfits and shoeless feet on the bohemian printed rug covering the stage. It was clear by how comfortable they appeared that they’ve done this a million times.

And it was made obvious by the band’s interactions with each other during the performance that the members are more than just bandmates — they’re friends. During many of the songs, especially “Goodside,” Antelman and Strader shared intimate moments as they lost themselves in what they were playing.

These moments of playful tension came often, and it was refreshing to see that the band members seemed not to care about what people thought of how they expressed themselves. In fact, the crowd seemed more than positively receptive when Antelman and Strader’s faces came within inches of each other, or when Antelman would press against Strader’s back as he played the guitar. The band members’ body language emphasized their friendship and made it clear that, for the members of Lydia, playing music together forms a strong bond.

The overall mood of the show was sensual in its essence, not just because of the close dancing of the band members or the intimacy of the small venue, but thanks to Antelman’s enticing vocals. His voice holds a unique raspiness that blends well with the electronic vibe of Lydia’s indie genre. Even in the band’s live performance, Antelman’s voice sounded almost exactly like the recorded version, the electronic echoes copied by the live background vocals of Strader and Keller.

The smoothness of his voice was only elevated with the band’s slowed-down cover of OutKast’s early 2000s hit, “Ms. Jackson.” Antelman’s tone, comparable to that of a male Amy Winehouse, made the song sound somewhere between atmospheric R&B and indie rock.

But Lydia ended its show on a crashing note, bringing the house down with an authoritative outro of instruments skillfully blending together in an artillery of sound. Lydia may be a more under-the-radar band in today’s music scene, but the crowd interaction and dedicated fans showed that Lydia is definitely a band about which you’ll someday wish you could say, “I listened to them before they were famous.”

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.