You could call Phantogram as an easy breakout back in March during South By Southwest when it overloaded The Mohawk for a Friday afternoon day party. Unlike swaths of synth-oriented present-day pop acts, the two-piece Greenwich, N.Y. band stretches out its hollow eyed-mood music into a harder live product with two additional touring musicians. Think almost nu-metal drum kit work.
Extra credit to singer Sarah Barthel for playing hurt Sunday at the Miller Lite Stage.
“We’re so pumped to be playing this festival,” Barthel said almost without a voice. She bantered in whispers between songs that featured soaring vocals.
Dressed in a white tank top, black pants, and adorned in gold-colored bracelets and necklaces, Barthel played the royal. The delicate stage presence masked her savvy and attacking keyboard acumen.
Co-songwriter, guitarist, and singer Josh Carter made the most of his spotlight solo duties, taking the lead sporadically. But Barthel emerged as the indispensable centerpiece–decorating the pulsing “Black Out Days” with a wall of howl. It stomped speakers like the most balanced trip-hop.
This year’s “Voices” is an easy year-end list add. But there are bands naturally built for the great outdoors and those ideal for private listening. Of the many of these bare bones acts attempting to crossover, Phantogram’s bold live palate will help it vastly going forward.