Trip Hop duo Phantogram from Greenwich, New York have been plying their electro-rock inspired wares for close to a decade now and have recently achieved a higher level of notoriety and acclaim.
The band’s ascent in the world of music began back in 2007 when Sarah Barthel (vocals/keys) and Josh Carter (vocals/guitar) began collaborating with one another, eventually releasing their first studio effort, Eyelid Movies back in 2010.
A single EP (2011’s Nightlife) two more LPs (2014’s Voices and 2016’s Three) and a partnership with Outkast’s Big Boi in 2015 (Big Grams) have since followed.
Through the course of generating all this of new material Barthel and Carter have quietly evolved as both musicians as well as live performers.
Gone are the days when the pair would play stripped down sets to a handful of fans at smallish venues such as the DC9, the location of their initial performance in the Washington DC area several years back.
Phantogram has now reached a level where they not only are playing to large crowds at mainstream music festivals; they’re easily selling out multiple nights at iconic music locales such as the 9:30 Club in Washington DC, which is where I was lucky enough to witness one of their spellbinding sets recently.
Electronic music often can be much less engaging and can come off even boring in a live setting, Phantogram, however, does not suffer from this malady.
Not only does the duo’s music come to life on the lighted stage, but Carter and Barthel also ensure their fans are treated to almost entirely different versions of their recorded music as they tour with additional musicians that this time around including Chris Carhart (drums) and Nicholas Shelestak (guitar/synths).
Phantogram has also added an interesting twist to their live performance as at the beginning of their set, as well as towards the end of it; the band plays enveloped within a translucent curtain illuminated with unorthodox visuals.
At first, fans may have been skeptical that the band would be able to connect with the audience playing behind a transparent wall. However, as it turned out, the curtain created a unique almost four-dimensional environment that drew the audience into their performance that much further.
Barthel and Carter are not pretentious nor does the pair seem to take themselves too seriously on or off the stage. Their sense of comradery and playfulness with one another and the crowd is typical of their concerts and their performance at the 9:30 Club in DC provided much of the same.
The evening’s performance leaned heavily on Phantogram’s recently released third studio EP, Three as well as the band’s previous full-length effort, Voices.
Standouts on the night included takes on “Black Out Days”, “Don’t Move”, “Fall in Love” and current single “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” as well as versions of two of the most recognizable singles from their debut EP Eyelid Movies, “Mouthful of Diamonds” and “When I’m Small”.
Perhaps the only negative regarding Phantogram’s performance at the 9:30 in Washington DC was the fact that the show only ran for a bit over an hour and a half.
Please take note, 90 minutes is a relatively show length for any band playing a mid-sized club venue. The disappointment stems from the fact that as Barthel, Carter, and company played, the more bewitched was the crowd (this journalist included) wrapped deep in the Phantogram universe.
I guess I have no choice but to find some way to commission a rocket ship to transport me to Phantogram’s live music galaxy a few more times on their current run. I strongly advise any fans of great live music do the same; maybe we can pool our resources? Call me.
Set List: Funeral Pyre, Black Out Days, Don’t Move, Turning Into Stone, You’re Mine, Same Old Blues, Answer, Mouthful of Diamonds, Howling at the Moon, Futuristic Casket, Destroyer, When I’m Small, Barking Dog, Cruel World, Fall in Love, You Don’t Get Me High Anymore
Event Date: 25-Oct-2016