Your Friend entranced Liberty Hall last night
Your Friend with Major Games
Liberty Hall, Lawrence
Thursday, January 28
The feeling of excitement in Liberty Hall last night was palpable with an audience ready to see a local artist on a big stage. And, really — props to Taryn Miller for holding her release show for the new Your Friend album, Gumption, in such a wonderful location. The Jackpot or Bottleneck might’ve provided a greater guarantee of a close crowd, but Liberty Hall’s high ceilings allowed the room necessary for her voice to soar.
The packed lower level necessitated the opening of the balcony in between sets. It’s an astonishing thing to see a local act pack a venue of this size on a school night — but, honestly, should we be surprised? Your Friend is the one area musical artist on whom you’re unlikely to find a dissenting opinion. The band — especially with guitarist Chris Luxem and drummer Nicholas Stahl — is an adventurous yet accessible group of musicians, providing an ably sweeping backdrop for Miller’s songs.
The songs are slow and sweet. While the pace might not be anything to get your pulse racing, the sheer amount of power required to hold a room such as this doesn’t have to be blistering. Your Friend is the power of a Kansas winter: It might take time to reach its peak, but once it has, you’re overwhelmed by what’s in front of you.
If only more of the audience were there for the music. The kids down front were rapt with attention, but if you moved to the back of the lower level, the buzz of conversation frequently overwhelmed the quiet introspection of the band on stage. By night’s end, it was a frustrating constant that really undermined what should’ve been a really joyous occasion.
Most of Gumption was played, and having only had the chance to hear the songs via compressed, streaming audio, it was magnificent to really hear these songs break out. Part of the joy of seeing Your Friend perform live is the knowledge that the songs aren’t going to be encumbered by anything like a running time. If they need to stretch out, they will, and sometimes they need to get out and wander around the stage a bit.
For the final song of the night, Miller stood on stage, just her and her guitar, playing a song she’d played at her first show. Ending the show much in the same way her career in Lawrence began gave the show a full-circle feel. It was a gorgeous coda to an already beautiful show but provided the perfect capper to a lovely night.
Openers Major Games were the right counterpoint to Your Friend. Where Miller and company were wide open and flowing, Major Games was tight and sharp. It was a study in contrast. Major Games’ sound is so big and so powerful, but it’s positively astonishing that such ear-destroying, building-rattling sound can come from just three musicians. Major Games were a veritable wall of sound. It was a powerful beginning to the night, and a memorable one, at that.