After interviewing Josh Carter of NY-based Phantogram last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect from their show at the Santa Fe Sol last night. I mean, during the interview, Mr. Carter was pretty relaxed, calm, almost sedate. While incredibly fun to speak with about different artistic mediums and live performances, his subdued demeanor made me wonder whether the show would be a sit-down affair, or a blasting dance party. I’m pleased to report last night’s Phantogram show as being unmistakably of the latter; the thumping rhythms pumped out by Carter and his cohort Sarah Barthel could not be tamed.
It’s always kind of a drag when a musical act can’t reproduce the magic of their albums in their live performances. This is not the case for Phantogram. If anything, the act’s presentation translates better live than on the album(s), which should be the case of every great artist – do well in the studio, kick-ass live. Barthel spent most of the show in a near trance-like state, her body effortlessly ebbing and flowing with the music emanating from her keys, like a witch-doctor at ceremony. Carter made his presence known, as well, bestowing tasty guitar treats upon the huddled masses. It should also be noted that the vocal skills displayed by both Barthel and Carter were nothing if not sublime. Add to this the incredible light show Phantogram brings to the table, and there was nothing left to do but undulate. Testify! It was pretty fucking amazing.
The frenzy of the crowd seemed to reach almost biblical proportions midway through the show, as if everyone had come to witness the gospel according to Phantogram, and the ministers were paying out in full. And as a beautiful top-off, the combination of the heavy-bass beats, synthesizers, and guitar were never too much for the venue’s sound system, ie, it sounded really good too. The Santa Fe Sol is perfect for acts like Phantogram – it’s a very intimate setting, easy to pack full of people dying for the gospel of sound, and the acoustics are delicious.
By the time Carter and Barthel had finished delivering the word according to sound, some four songs after announcing ’this will be our last song’, the audience had all but danced themselves into ecstasy, ready to collapse in a pile of mushy legs, ringing ears, and satisfied souls. The drive back to Albuquerque was spent in ecstatic contemplation of how best to spread the sound. I want to believe!
PS – I think my wife may be leaving me to stalk Sarah Barthel…