Though the weather may have been dreary, the music of Phantogram electrified the air of the Upper West Side. Playing rain or shine, Phantogram and Action Bronson performed at Pier 97 on September 13, to a crowd that supplied ample energy.Phantogram, an electro-rock indie duo came into view in 2007, after Sarah Barthel and long time friend Josh Carter formed “Charlie Everywhere.” Tossing that name aside, the upstate New York [Greenwich] pair formed a small following, which soon became a national fanbase.
Headlining with the duo was rapper Action Bronson. Performing right as the weather set in, Bronson walked on stage with his gray sweater and green Jets flat rim, taking in the audience’s intense energy. Simple blue lights and a one man DJ station completed Bronson’s set. His set was 45 minutes long, filled with songs such as “The Rockers”, “Strictly 4 My Jeep”, and “Easy Rider.” Not only were his vocals and lyrics extremely impressive, but his humor was shown throughout his set. Laughing with the audience, he yelled, “Just look at me for a second. This is the finest piece of beef that science created!” Meyhem Lauren came on stage for their song “Tango & Cash,” helping the set come to a close and creating an atmosphere prepared everyone for Phantogram.
As the rain fell harder on the audience, the clock struck 8:15 p.m. and Phantogram was ready to begin. The crowd roared as music started to play lightly from the side speakers. The stage remained black as all of the band members walked on, in all black outfits. Suddenly, a blue light created a background of blue smoke. As “Nothing But Trouble,” a song from their new album, began, red, blue and white strobe lights begin to fill the stage. The keys, drums and guitars set the night off with a bang. Not only did the combination of the instruments allow the rock vibe to come into play, but the devices attached the drums added an electric feel to the songs as well. Barthel’s vocals were powerful from the first note, intensifying her piano playing and dancing on stage. The rain continued to fly onto the stage, but the band members didn’t care; it’s almost as if the rain was giving them more energy to perform. While the song has an upbeat electro-rock, Carter kept his cool on stage, allowing the indie vibe to flow through his guitar and vocals, while Barthel brought the intense rock edge.
The third song, “As Far As I Can See” brought gold light onto the stage. A song from their earlier 2009 album, this song seemed to be a favorite of the crowd. Fans were singing along with Barthel, as Carter and the rest of the band jammed on stage. The way that the band took in the audience was truly magnificent. Though they didn’t speak to the crowd until the end of the song, the way they transferred their energy to their viewers was incredibly interactive and created a sense of community, even in the outside space of Pier 97. After finishing their song, Barthel noted the horrible weather and smiled. Clearly, Phantogram wouldn’t let a little rain ruin their night.
Next up was a dance/rock anthem called “Black Out Days.” The first note of the song, set Barthel off. She began to jump up and down, swinging her arms in the air and singing, “ya ya ya yah,” with the audience following. What’s most notable about Barthel’s vocals was the fact that while she can belt with serious power, she also controls her tone, hitting each note with 100% precision. As the song ended, the band’s energy was the highest it’d been all night. With a warm yellow light hitting the audience, people began to shout “Louder!” Barthel and Carter laughed, agreeing with the audience. As the band continued to wipe off their instruments [from the rain], Barthel went up to the microphone and, smiling, said, “Louder? Is this loud enough?”
BAM! Their hit song “16 Years” filled the air and the audience was electrified once again. Carter’s vocals were especially noticeable in this piece, providing a smoother layer to the music of Phantogram. Suddenly, white spotlights shined towards the sky, and if you were lucky enough, you were able to see the lights create the big dipper constellation. Following this hit, came another well-known song “Don’t Move.” If someone were to look up the definition of the band Phantogram, this song would be playing alongside. “Don’t Move” is the perfect mixture of the duo’s musical traits; just enough electricity to intensify the rock, and bring out the subtlety of their indie nature. Both Carter and Barthel’s vocals in this song are simple, but were energized by their passion and the audience’s intensity. The second the song began, the crowd screamed instantly, giving Barthel the chance to bring the audience together and clap to the beat as a community.
Near the end of the show, they played their song “Howling at the Moon.” The entire stage was filled with brightly colored strobe lights, adding even more energy to the already hyped up song. Ending the show with this piece was a great choice by the duo. Throughout the entire concert, the band proved to be performers. Sure they are incredible singers and songwriters, but only truly talented artists can bring their skills together to become performers; and Phantogram put on one amazing performance. “Howling at the Moon” combined all of the bands skills, from lighting design, to audience interaction, and of course, their incredible vocals and musicality.
This young band has just begun their rise to stardom. And with such a strong sense of music, they are sure to make a huge impact on the music industry for years to come.