Sound on Sound: Phantogram strikes back

Phantogram plays Friday at Sound on Sound Fest at Sherwood Forest Faire in McDade. Photo contributed by Chad Wadsworth/Sound on Sound Fest

Phantogram plays Friday at Sound on Sound Fest at Sherwood Forest Faire in McDade. Photo contributed by Chad Wadsworth/Sound on Sound Fest

Without the chops, Phantogram goes buried in Spotify playlists as another synth-leaning buzz band. But the grandiose-scheming four-piece act on Friday showed the Dragon’s Lair stage what they’ve been cooking since 2014’s “Voices.”

Barreling right into “Black Out Days,” the band’s catchiest song to date, the Greenwich, New York outfit went fearless and shed the recent past. It was a cylinders-firing mission statement: We’re festival headliners now, get acquainted.

“You guys like that one don’t you?” singer and keyboardist Sarah Barthel said after trying out cuts from October’s new album “Three.”

“You guys ever drink for no reason?” she asked later. “We call that celebrating nothing.”

As she told the Charlotte Observer, producing songs for fellow Sound on Sound performer Big Boi gave Barthel the confidence to find a more bold stage persona who experiments with fashion. Friday night she donned thigh-high leather boots, shorts, and blonde hair. And while Barthel and co-songwriter, guitarist, and producer Josh Carter were not short on confidence, the new direction meant experimental, sorrow-laden music.

In January, Barthel’s sister committed suicide. Onstage she seems to have channeled the loss with all-in musical escapism. Even 2013’s “Fall in Love” blanketed takers with blaring, pulsing keyboards.

This was thunderous rock star headlining. This was industrial, lunch pale light and magic; an essential appearance by a band that’s made the leap to “night festival slots only.”


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