If not a little ironic, it seemed unfortunate that Sunday night was when the much-anticipated rains decided to wash across Santa Barbara proper. Not only was the evening supposed to offer a long-awaited appearance by the Los Angeles-based Carolina Liar, it was also the night KJEE had scheduled to host a fundraiser for fire victims Lance and Carla Hoffman. And while the climatic discord might have dampened the turnout, it did nothing to diminish the show’s musical enthusiasm by both band and audience alike.
Fronted by South Carolina native Chad Wolf, the genesis of Carolina Liar is almost as intriguing as their anthematic fusion of rock and Euro-pop. A series of coincidental happenings in Los Angeles found a few of Wolf’s songs in the ears of famed Swedish producer Max Martin. Backed by a collective of Swedish musicians, Wolf was soon in Stockholm recording what would become the band’s Atlantic Records debut, Coming to Terms.
As he pranced, twisted, and thrashed around the stage Sunday night, Carolina Liar seemed to clearly be Wolf’s brainchild, but the musical experience was by no means a one-man show. The grinding guitars of Jim Almgren Gandara and Rickard Gransson weaved their presence through an air of swirling electronic keyboards (courtesy of Johan Carlsson) in a union that was both infectious and compelling. The band’s music unashamedly lives in the margins; it’s a little too independent to be clear-cut contemporary, yet far too hook-laden to be easily dismissed.
Yet it is Wolf who clearly commands the spotlight. Summoning and gesturing throughout the course of the band’s 11-song set, Wolf clearly had the audience at the end of an emotional string. Whether it was the smoldering “Show Me What I’m Looking For,” where he rocked back and forth while huddled over the microphone, or the way he stood, arms raised, at the foot of the stage for the band’s sprightly calling card, “I’m Not Over,” Wolf’s performance was passion personified. Sure he promised platitudes, but he delivered in spades.
As the rain steadily fell outside of Stateside on Sunday night, it seemed nothing could put out Carolina Liar’s musical fire-something that seemed to be appreciated by all in attendance, if not for the hooks, riffs, and melodies that were executed to perfection, then for nothing more than the joy of seeing a rock band that truly has their shit together.