20 Watts

Concert Review: Phantogram at Monkey Town by tjwell01
June 14, 2009, 1:32 pm
Filed under: XCLUS!VES | Tags: , ,


Phantogram lit it up last night with awesome new tracks and more energy than I’ve seen before, but unfortunately the venue, although overtly hipster and psychadelic, was no place for a rock concert.

As Sarah and Josh stood nested in their small space and surrounded by casual onlookers on sofas, they opened up with two new tracks never heard before. I was warned before I’d be hearing new music, and I’m delighted to say it sounded just as hip and fun to dance to.

At least musically, it seemed Phantogram was experimenting with sound-mixing, as they would quickly record their voices and then set them on the repeat just for effect. It’s amazing how big their soundboard is, and how many effects they sampled in their short 6-8 song set.

Although the set was great, it could’ve been so much better had the venue allowed an audience to react to the music. The room was small at maybe 25 x 25 ft and was lined with white couches with little glass coffee tables placed in front of them. People with reservations snagged the couch seats, and anyone else who just wanted to see Phantogram had to squeeze in small hallways to get a glimpse. Also awkwardly, the band was placed in the middle of the room with all their equipment, which left just enough room for them to roam a little and rock out.

The redeeming aspects of Monkey Town were their hanging video screens on the wall that flashed psychadelic images of running water and blossoming plants. It meshed really well with Phantogram’s psych-pop sound, but the venue is better suited to be an opium den than a rock venue.

Appearance wise, Phantogram looked fresh and electric, what with Sarah’s new slick black hair and the band’s strobe light.  Watching Sarah slam it down on her synthesizer with her black hair added a much-needed attitude to the overall performance. I sensed a little Karen O in the room.

After the set, Caitlin and I stuck around to watch the headling act The Loom, an indie Americana sextet. Their sound was electic with ukulele and french horn, but the overall performance was flat and uninspired.

I made it my mission to say hi to Sarah after their set, so after a few songs by The Loom, we snuck out to front of the restaurant on North 3rd St., and found her packing up the car. I ran up and opened up by mentioning she was interviewed by my buddy Nathan Mattise the this week, and she smiled. We talked about Monkey Town and their upcoming set at The Bowery, and she gave us a little scoop.

“We’re definitely going to come back to Syracuse during the school year,” she said.

You heard it here folks. Phantogram is coming back to Syracuse. Do I hear bandersnatch? I hope so.

–Jett Wells.



Second opinion:

I liked that venue.
The Looms were neither flat nor uninspired.
Sarah reminded me more of Alice Glass than Karen O.

Comment by caitlindewey

[…] praise. They look the part – a great rock facial hair for Josh and what a colleague called a Karen O approach for Sarah – and their command of the space is phenomenal for a duo. Their sound and energy […]

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