|Photo by Erik Hess|
Two New York bands with wildly contrasting but no less affecting sounds
came through the Varsity Theater last evening, as both the Antlers and
Phantogram delivered stirring sets packed with passion and originality.
While Phantogram had a looped-beat driven, vibrant style that was in
stark contrast to the austere sincerity of the Antlers music, both
bands used modern effects to enhance and amplify their divergent
sounds, which, after the night was over, complemented each other much
more than I thought they would going into the performance.
The dashing two-piece Phantogram opened the show, playing a tight,
spirited 45-minute set that was nicely paced and artfully augmented by
a screen filled with images of cityscapes, decay and abandoned
typewriters, which only added to the clandestine mood of their music.
Drawing mostly from their excellent new album Eyelid Movies
the band, featuring Sarah Barthel on keyboards and Josh Carter on
guitar/effects, put on a brisk, well-received show that proved that
music, even if it is quite minimalist in scope, can still be interesting and inventive, it's just up to the musicians to bring
something new to the scene.
|Photos by Erik Hess|
And Barthel and Carter are clearly onto something original and
enthralling with their sound, trading off vocal duties smoothly and allowing songs like the stellar "Mouthful Of Diamonds," "Running From
The Cops," and "Turn It Off" to soar in the small room with an even
bolder tone in the live setting. The duo also played a simmering new
song during the set, "Make A Fist," but it was the electrifying closer
"When I'm Small" that got the largest ovation of the night, and for
good reason, as the song is absolutely killer, and indeed slayed live.
Phantogram's music is full of atmosphere and ambiance, and when
combined with two inventive musicians and the travel-laden images on
the screen behind them, it becomes transportive, taking the
audience somewhere else during the short but splendid performance.
Brooklyn three-piece the Antlers closed the night strongly during their
first ever Minneapolis performance, delivering a 75-minute set wrought
with emotion and intensity. Their hushed charm took a bit of getting
used to after Phantogram's booming set, but frontman Peter Silberman
slowly won over the room with his plaintive, Jeff Buckley-esque vocals
and sincere, revealing songs. Drawing mostly from last year's
the band gave these fragile, touching songs
an added edge during their performance, often expanding on the codas
and roughing up the melodies a bit to take away (or release) some of
the pain found at the heart of these songs. Starting with the serene
beauty of "Kettering," the band eased their way into the performance before
delivering a stunning version of "Sylvia" that was a clear highlight of
|Photos by Erik Hess|
The band was intently focused on their sound throughout the
performance, just muttering a few heartfelt thank-yous to the crowd,
preferring to let their highly-emotive songs do the talking for them.
And what remarkable songs they were, with "Bear" and "Atrophy" both
ascending effortlessly on this night. The band played one new track
during their stirring set, "Blue," while also playing nearly the
entirety of Hospice
, bringing the audience with them on the
heartbreaking journey that is threaded throughout the record. And under
less capable hands, the somber subject matter wouldn't go over well in
a live setting, but the Antlers bring a potency to their music that
transcends the tragedy found within the lyrics. Their two-song encore
was impressive, with a brilliantly reworked cover of the xx's "VCR" a
nice surprise, as well as natural set closer "Epilogue," which the band
turned into a fiery send off that was stunning and deeply moving.
While on paper it might not appear that the differing styles of
Phantogram and the Antlers would mesh well, but both bands delivered
terrific sets that showed off their inspired, innovative talents, and
served notice that we will be hearing more from both of these
accomplished, but still developing, groups in the future.