“We’re so f#cking happy to be here. Pardon my French, but it is true,” said Sarah Barthel, the lead vocalist for the band, Phantogram.
The New York duo unleashed its street beat sound and woke up the sleepy audience at the Hollywood Bowl Sunday night. Many attendees were there to see the headliners, M83 and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, as part of the final concert in KCRW’s World Festival.
Barthel’s opening words were a tone-indicator of the nine-song set, which was self-aware, highly personal and vulgar (vulgar as in tinted in the color red). Her voice can be described as airy, but raised high enough to whisper a pocketful of secrets. The intimacy in her voice creates the impression that the listener must lean in closer. But fortunately, with the Hollywood Bowl’s au courant technology, the crowd entered into and became part of the textured experience.
Phantogram put space in between popular songs “When I’m Small,” “Mouthful of Diamonds,” “As Far As I Can See,” and their lesser-known work. The band also performed three new tracks, “Voices,” “Celebrating Ugly” and “Black Out Days,” from their soon-to-be released album titled Voices.
The lighting used for “Don’t Move,” a suggestive violet, created an internalized experience surrounding the emotionally-charged lyrics, “I’m not your paranoia/When someone’s at the door/There’s a fast calling out of a throat of a body rising through/ the floor.” Throughout the performance, Barthel thrashed her body over a synthesizer, her signature black bob flinging and smoke billowing over the band members.
Although Barthel’s vocals articulate most of the band’s music, the guitarist, Josh Carter leads on a few tracks, one of which is “Voices.” The recorded song is a dreamy chill pop-filled song with a catchy chorus; however, the band changed the arrangement for the live performance and infused it with a blues-y, rock-influenced sound. The lighting technology went from a glamorous magenta to silvery-white, and the band members bowed their heads solemnly as they continued to play. The result was a slight departure from their established sound but was strange and delightful to witness.
By the last song, “When I’m Small,” the crowd was in agitated bliss. Audience members screamed for more as the stage slowly darkened, and Phantogram was draped in an unspeakable silence.