The One AM Radio, Lymbyc Systym, the Race

The Living Room, Thursday, Aug. 9

These days, it's hard to mix rock music with charity and be taken seriously. Besides being a prop-up for "Gore in '08," and Gogol Bordello's dignity-stripping performance with Madonna, I can barely remember what last month's Live Earth concert was for. Saving the planet or something?

The Living Room, an all-ages venue at 413 E. Fifth St., has more attainable goals. During the last two years, through local donations, it's provided a space for teens to "express themselves through the visual and performing arts." Normally a local-music spot, last Friday, the Living Room hosted three national bands that would have no problem booking gigs at larger 21-plus clubs.

Chicago's six-piece alt-goth group The Race slimmed down to a trio and a drum machine for this tour. The title track off their new CD, Ice Station, sounded like a Cure-Interpol mash-up; another, "Crack Goes the Lake," brought to mind Depeche Mode remixed by the DFA crew.

Looking around, I realized the aptly named Living Room exudes comfort: Consider the temperature, the sofa-lined setup and the walls plastered with Polaroids of friendly regulars, who not only buy merch (including vinyl), but are there for the music, not to be seen while texting or talking to friends.

Los Angeles' The One AM Radio is actually the Hrishikesh Hirway, who has enlisted the Austin, Texas, (via Tempe) duo Lymbyc Systym and a horn player for his U.S.-Canadian tour. With only three days of practice, Lymbyc not only mastered Hirway's songs, but essentially remixed them, substituting an electric Fender Rhodes piano for synths while a horn played most of the hooks, creating a warmer vibe. Hirway's laid-back vocals are borderline Iron and Wine, and when combined with the break-beats, create a near-Beck, folktronica background.

Often compared to The Album Leaf, Lymbyc Systym (brothers Jared and Michael Bell) closed the night as audience members stood on folding chairs to get a better view--half the fun of an LS performance is watching them multitask as they juggle keys, shakers, laptops, vibraphones and drums.

The highlight of the night came during Hirway's solo song "Drowsy Haze," during which the crowd sang a counter melody of the words "stay" and "haze." It reminded me of that old U2 live sing-along, "40."

Who knows? Maybe these kids can save the world after all.