Shows: Chance Peña, Hayd @ Antone’s


Should it have been surprising to see what appeared to be nearly all of Chance Peña’s sold-out crowd already filled in at 8 p.m., in place at Antone’s one hour before he was scheduled to go on?

Perhaps it shouldn’t have been, but it was. Then again, Peña’s a riser in the singer-songwriter realm, sporting the look and sound of a dude with a high commercial ceiling in that genre, and he was raised in Tyler, less than four hours away. Just 22, he was on “The Voice” at 15 and has already tasted under-the-radar mainstream success as a songwriter, earning a gold record as primary writer for John Legend’s “Conversations in the Dark.” “In My Room,” a 2022 single in the David Kushner mold, has over 218 million Spotify streams, and most recent single “i am not who i was” is appearing in low international chart positions. Peña (top photo) is in an attention-capturing phase, and his set Sunday at Antone’s — just a tick over an hour — likely captured a whole lot more from anyone who showed up out of curiosity.

Sometimes, Peña sounds like he went on a woodsy retreat to record in Bon Iver’s treehouse, fell out and hit every branch. At other times, it’s your Kushners (for whom Peña has opened) or Hoziers he’ll remind you of. Displaying easy yet down-to-Earth confidence onstage, giving something of a Jacob-Elordi-as-an-indie-folk singer vibe, Peña’s sensitive, dark sound not only went over well from his end, but also displayed Antone’s versatility as a fitting venue for basically any genre and any performer. Deeply world-weary in vocal tone, gently hypnotic and subtly variable in style, he and his band more than showed what they could do. The slide guitar of “In My Room,” a difference-maker on record, was even more so onstage, displaying his ability to explore the broader boundaries of his genre. His borderline-somber voice can rise to an uplifting chamber-folk crescendo, as it did on “Highs & Lows,” or an alt-folk-rock climax like on “Cruel World,” where he reminded me of … truthfully, I can’t place it exactly. Some ’90s guy.

Maybe the only question Peña had yet to answer, pre-encore, was the extent of his capability to drop the hammer with a sound that could fill Antone’s as fully as his Austin fans had. Perhaps he was anxious to answer that question, because the period he spent in the wings for an encore was one of shortest I can remember; it felt like he and band were offstage for 25 seconds max. Anyway, once they were back on, that question was quickly answered in their two-song return. “Spinning” had that full folk-rock sound that felt sufficiently like an anthem and served as final exclamation point evidencing Peña’s versatility. And evidencing that he’s already got fans steeped in his catalogue, quite a few knew when to chant “Fuck that” at an appropriate point of “Pursuit of Happiness,” one of his “older” recordings (2018) that came early in the set.

While Peña expressed small-town-kid appreciation for the success he’s enjoyed, opener Hayd — playing before that nearly full 8 p.m. crowd — was even more innocent and aw-shucks in presentation. Which is saying something. Telling the story of how he saw a rodeo up north and felt less manly than before, letting the audience in on nervousness over his coming stop in Atlanta because there’s a girl there, Haydn Hubers was a gentler-still presence than the good buddy who followed him onstage. Performing alone, the Michiganian played a handful of songs in the basic indie-folk-pop lane in 30 minutes, shining brightest on “Don’t Go, Don’t Leave” and “Head in the Clouds.”