Phantogram @ The Depot 10.13 with Future Islands

Posted October 16, 2013 in
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Photo: Timothy Saccenti
Normally at 9 p.m. on a Sunday, I’m avoiding laundry and watching Family Guy with my parents whilst sipping whiskey. When this Sabbath rolled around, I left my beloved couch and trudged through the rain to baptize myself in the holy hotness of Phantogram. Fervent recollections of the last time I saw them play (2011 Twilight Series, opening for Ghostland Observatory) flickered hot and heavy in my heart—and my girl crush on Sarah Barthel was throbbing something fierce. My spirits weren’t dampened by the drunk girl in front of me in line who was disgustingly not wearing shoes, nor by my lack of a companion for the eve. Faith status: unshakable.

The Depot welcomes wallflowers such as myself with open arms. The room is lined with chairs like a junior high dance and there are low-quality TVs blaring grainy images of the stage so you don’t even have to entertain the idea of pushing your way through elbows and beers to the front. I staked a premium loner spot and settled in for Future Islands’ set. Being a hip, synthpop trio comprised of middle-aged men, their stage presence is defined by idiosyncrasies such as singer Samuel T. Herring’s pelvic thrusting dance moves that made me feel I was watching an Erasure music video, and the overall style of the band members—think “’90s TV Sitcom Dad” attire. Their set was earnest, sweaty and undeniably entertaining. About midway through, Samuel announced, “I’m getting a little wet up here, I hope you’re getting a little wet down there.” Impassioned drum machine cradled throaty Tom Waits-esque vocals, which ranged from theatrical to straight up explosive. Their animated performance translated well to the crowd and left a nice buzzing energy in the room before Phantogram took the stage.

Phantogram is the sweet, sweet love child of trip hop and shoegaze. When I first got their album, I had to cut myself off from playing it on repeat so that it would sound just as orgasmic every time I put it on. You want to get lost in Sarah’s sultry and enchanting voice, but Josh Carter’s guitar demands enough attention that you end up with an ideal dyad. “Running From The Cops” makes you want to cut up some carpet with its dirty bass, while “Turn It Off” wraps itself around you like smoke from a fire. There’s something hauntingly alluring about the harmonies that Phantogram creates—if you close your eyes, they’ll launch you somewhere into space and you’ll be in no hurry to get back.

If you’ve never seen Sarah Barthel before, she’s basically an electronic goddess in shiny leather pants—she could be Karen O’s equally talented twin sister. Her inky, jet black hair whips around in beat to her ghostly, sexy vocals and she bends so gracefully over her keyboard to bust out badass synth riffs that it makes me want to cry. Seconds after she was on stage, I saw a sea of iPhones lifted to full extension, trying to get the perfect Instagram shot of her silhouette. One thing about Phantogram is that they seem to put a lot of thought into the light show that goes along with their music. Streams of pulsing white, red and green flash in unison with the bass line and you catch just enough glimpses of the band in full light to make you swoon. They started off the set with two newer songs from their most recent album, Nightlife. I’m not much of a dancer, but it was seductive enough that I got off my chair and kept moving the rest of the night. Continuing on with a mix of both old and brand new, they put the room in a trance and most everyone was intuitively bumping along. At one point, Sarah took off her jacket and said simply, “Fuck yeah.” Fuck yeah is right. As a treat to the crowd, they played “Howling at the Moon,” which is a track from their upcoming album. Given what I heard, you can expect something killer in the near future. For the final song, they played “Celebrate Nothing” from their self-titled EP only available for purchase on tour. It was the religious experience I was pining for: memorable and goddamn righteous. Amen.