killer photos by: Jeff Martin
all words by: Shona Fenner
I first fell for Phantogram when searching for the perfect biking music that could transport me while still reminding me to breathe. And then Wednesday night this group from New York really came through with their live performance before The Glitch Mob. Phantogram masterfully grabbed the attention of the entirety of 9:30 Club with the same confident and poppy Portishead-like stylings that made me listen to pretty much only their album for weeks on end. Their beat driven intoxicating electronic music still remains perfect for aimless cycling adventures that include hills and trees, but now I have a considerably deeper appreciation.
Not only are they musically talented but they are also smart about playing for the audience. As one could imagine keyboardist and sultry vocalist Sarah Barthel, a fashionable waify thing with a fantastic haircut that kept you from seeing her face, quickly became a favorite of the largely straight male crowd. She wore a tight little black outfit but by no means relied on the attraction of the crowd as Phantogram’s impressive musical talent drew us all in anyway. The harmonious vocals and synth riffs came together awesomely, putting me in a hypnotic state. The aura of the three members seemed to take up the entire stage as Barthel traded vocal duties with guitarist Joshua Carter. Personally I like his voice the best, but judging by the fact that I heard more than one person behind me exclaim “…she is SO hot!” over Barthel on stage right not too many folks gave Carter their full attention.
Phantogram brings something a little different to the table with haunting but catchy tunes that effortlessly race from steady downtempo motion to sonic electro-pop that makes you whip your hair back and forth. They played a longer set than I would have guessed, featuring pretty much every song out right now and a couple new ones to boot. Their drummer Tim Oakley was crucial to the performance as well since the beats keep it all moving and have some obvious appeal to groove-hungry Glitch Mob fans.
Since Phantogram is the real reason I chose to come to this show I would be remiss if I didn’t promote them a little further. Not enough people seem to know about these guys and that’s plain wrong… they rock and look good doing it. Go take a listen to “When I’m Small”. I also invite you to try out my personal favorite Phantogram number “Futuristic Casket” which totally kicked ass live with a performance a little louder, harder, and faster than the recorded version. And if you are already a Phantogram fan then I think you should go listen/watch these guys acoustic here.
The Glitch Mob seems to be one of those groups that gain popularity solely based on word-of-mouth, typically at festivals. In case you are not familiar, the primarily goal of these guys is to be mesmerizing. The Glitch Mob is comprised of three dudes from Los Angeles named DJs Oooah, edIT, and Boreta who all wear high tops and black shirts with white ties… I’m sold. While often a little long-winded, their rhythmic electronic beats draw you into the musical conversation and completely away from the conversation of those random people next to you.
Let me give you an example by noting that while their opener was a great transition into one of their most popular crowd-movers it was still like 10 minutes long. The only way you can keep my attention that long is with flashing, moving neon lights everywhere or maybe some girl flying around near the disco ball on the ceiling supported by big long ribbons…. Oh wait…
To succinctly describe this show experience I would say that the set was a solid hour and a half of what could be the best and most satisfying screensaver theme you ever had. About a third of the Glitch-lovers around me were “considerably under the influence” shall we say. But even so, the whole crowd was under some strange and shared hypnosis. By the end of the show when we finally vacated one of the most legit spots and stood in the back we saw this big sweaty beautiful mass dancing in front of us, lit up by glow sticks.
Glitch-lovers are an eclectic bunch and have some dance worth further study. The frat-boy shuffle was evident, as was the hippie girl sway, rave kid reaching and waving, and even a little of bouncing every time it got louder. I love DC when everybody stops caring and starts moving around at concerts. Likely that is because people are still nice and polite… but close their eyes during solos and start to “feel it”.
The Glitch Mob plays something I once heard affectionately called ”glitch-hop” and sound exactly as that name suggests. Their songs are like anthems for a long line of video games (think Tron) and when they remix something it often turns out a cut above the song itself (think TV On The Radio’s Red Dress remix). But honestly their live show would have been nothing without the glowing light show and their acrobat girl who wowed the crowd for a couple songs after our retinas started to detach.
I found it all to be high above my expectations. This show marked The Glitch Mob’s first performance in DC and I dare say they were impressed with the love they found on a Wednesday night.