Actions may speak louder than words, but sometimes live vocal manipulation, male-female harmonies, and climactic songwriting speak the loudest of all. Such was the case for Phantogram on Thursday night, whose plaintive sex appeal jammed SOhO to the rafters in inaugural celebration of Santa Barbara’s third annual New Noise Festival.
Silhouetted above a capacity crowd, the NY-based noisemakers had a quiet air about them during downtime, but seemingly postured songs soon crescendoed into feverish screams, with lead vocalist Sarah Barthel double-gripping the mike for leverage. Even she looked surprised by the intensity evinced by favorites like “Turn it Off,” “As Far as I Can See,” and the newer “Nightlife,” which all combine elements of psyche-rock, trip-hop, and post-rave, not to mention enough lighting to permanently engrave the band’s image on to your corneas. Between drums, guitar, keyboard, and a couple of mikes, their stage set-up looked simple enough, but these audio-illusionists are aptly named, as their performance compacted enough lights and sound to fill a festival stage into the tiny brick-walled room. Of course, not all was lasers and rave-synths, as more down-tempo selections like “You Are the Ocean” and “Running From the Cops” were fit agreeably in between for a swaying, eye closing respite. It’s strange to think that a space that comfortably fits a band of five and a crowd of 200 can look so small under the watch of three people, but when you’re as surgical as Phantogram, and you’ve got a song as appropriately rakish as “When I’m Small” to close out your set, such illusions are commonplace.