Phantogram brought all the moods to The Anthem on September 6th, from dance to vulnerability to happiness to despair, all in one epic show!
Phantogram is the electropop duo of Sarah Barthel (vocals and keyboards) and Josh Carter (vocals and guitar), who first formed as the band Charlie Everywhere in 2007, before becoming the current band we know and love.
They made themselves known with a slow groove, centered in a small cube-like stage thinly veiled by a see-through curtain. Sarah played the keyboard solo in this cube, silhouetted by glimmering lights and the curtain, while Josh warmed up the guitar in front.
Then they went bold with “Black Out Days”, the pulsating early hit from their second album, Voices.
A few songs later, now finally out from the confines of the curtain, they dropped the electrically charged trip-hoppy banger, “You Don’t Get me High Anymore”. The back screen came to life to show distorted images of people navigating unseen worlds. The screen would continue to be an integral part of the show, the coolest imagery being a wolf slinking through a spooky forest.
Next came the dirty funk intro of “Mouthful of Diamonds”, a song that comfortably fits in the early 1980’s pop scene, and wants us to ‘wake up’ because we’re ‘getting high on your own supply.’
They broke out an older song, one that Josh said they hadn’t played in seven years, “You Are the Ocean”, with a long jam of an intro. He thought that they last played it in DC at DC9 or something like that. That’s an incredible ride over the years, from DC9 to The Anthem.
Sarah paused at one point to exclaim about The Anthem, and all the fans that came out to see them. It wasn’t a sell-out, but there was little doubt that everyone there was enjoying themselves. Phantogram performed 17 songs in total, including a number of new songs like “Mister Impossible”, their new single that should be a compelling reason (along with “Into Happiness”) to buy their fourth album when it is released in the near future. The sounds weaving through the club for this new song reminded one of a low key air raid siren.
“Calling All” is a fun trip-hop call and response track, that stands out as both widely different yet fully part of Phantogram’s palette.
“Fall In Love” came near the end, and it seemed to re-ignite the crowd into a frenzy of urgent dance, while The Anthem was permeated with wafts of smoke from the stage. Sarah commanded the crowd’s full attention with her inviting, searching lyrics, while Josh never slowed down on the guitar.
Yet still the evening seemed a little subdued overall, and it wasn’t until they ended the main set with a new song “Ceremony”, about Sarah’s sister who committed suicide three years ago, and a chance to highlight that the National Suicide Prevention Week is coming (September 8-14). Sarah shared some of her vulnerability and pain in an impassioned plea, ‘It’s amazing how loyal and incredible our fans are. When my sister committed suicide, it was really awful. But if you feel sad, it goes away. So please don’t go away. This is my moment to feel vulnerable, and it feels good.” In fact, before their show at The Anthem, Sarah and Josh played a free, intimate set around the corner at Pearl Street Warehouse to support The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
They ended the two song encore with one of my favorite songs by them, “When I’m Small” and Sarah’s voice belted out across the floor and balconies, bringing chills and leaving an indelible mark in our minds as an exemplary concert going experience.
All in all, an excellent evening and here’s hoping they tour again when their new album is released!
Black Out Days
Run Run Blood
You Don’t Get me High Anymore
Mouthful of Diamonds
You Are the Ocean
Howling at the Moon
Gaunt Kids (New song)
Fall In Love
When I’m Small