Ever have one of those bands in constant rotation on your playlist that you’ve watched go from near-obscurity to a level of fame that you always wished they’d have but secretly hate because it means bigger venues, more people to contend with, and less chance of really getting that intimate experience?
Phantogram is that band for me.
Let me start out by saying that I love Phantogram, and although I’ve been to every show they’ve done so far in Vancouver, I knew this one would be another notch on my bedpost. Last time they were here, I got to stand so close to the stage at Venue, it was almost surreal. Tuesday night’s show at the Commodore is a testament to what I’d always expected would happen: Phantogram’s style of electronic rock with psychedelic vocals and hip-hop beats are slowly becoming recognized by more and more people. And well they should.
Tuesday night’s show wasn’t the packed, sold out crowd that has become the norm at the Commodore, but that certainly didn’t dull the excitement for me or the large crowd that greeted me when I arrived. And when the lights dimmed, that excitement erupted into an all-out fury of cheers as the New York-grown band took the stage and began their set.
With the release of their latest teaser Celebrating Nothing behind them¸ Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter graced the Commodore stage with their signature style: Sarah, stage right, head bent down, hair covering her face, playing alongside longtime friend and bandmate Josh, who is always stage left and playing guitar with the chillest of chill demeanours; but behind them, everything else seemed a bit different. They were still flanked with their supporting players, but this bigger venue inevitably meant brighter lights, a bigger (almost muddier) sound and a different feel than anything I’d experience with them before. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad at all, just different.
As they rocked through their 16-song playlist (saving 2 for the encore), we were serenaded with songs like “Black Out Days” and “Celebrating Nothing” from the newest EP release, as well as a mix of crowd favourites from the Nightlife EP and full-length album Eyelid Movies including the bass-heavy “When I’m Small”, “Mouthful of Diamonds”, “Don’t Move”, “16 Years”, and “Futuristic Casket”. It was a fun show that was tailored for this larger venue. From the carefully-choreographed lights to the huge crowd, everything about this Phantogram show was worth the cost of a ticket.
Despite their growing popularity, they haven’t seemed to change. Barthel and Carter play amazingly well together with crisp vocals and flawless instrumentals that don’t ever seem to miss a beat. And although they don’t really interact much with the crowd (aside from the occasional shoutout and thank you that make your heart melt with their incredibly endearing qualities), none of the intimacy of their stage presence was lost in that large venue. It’s one of the things that keeps me coming back. When you’re at a show, you almost forget where you are and simply get lost in Phantogram.