Fans filled the entirety of Goleta’s Mercury Lounge on Saturday night, singing along and swaying to Phantogram’s organic beats and soft, airy voices, which echoed beautifully through the small space. Known for their intricately seductive blend of hip-hop inspired electronica and breathy lyrics, the duo consists of lifelong friends guitarist Josh Carter and keyboardist Sarah Barthel. The group creates an undeniably emotional aura, invoking whimsical reflection with thoughtfully provoking hooks and complimentary soul-soothing melodies. Performing a number of favorites, Phantogram’s incredibly intimate performance both surprised and awed the audience, leaving patrons with an exhilarating musical night to remember.
As the band took to the tiny stage, people pushed toward the front of the lounge and even sat on the floor, relishing in the cool, eclectic sounds. The throng of fans cheered adoringly while Carter and Barthel belted out their more widely held songs, which included “Mouthful of Diamonds,” “When I’m Small,” and “As Far As I Can See.” Awash with flawlessly executed pop overtones, Barthel crooned to the crowd with her habitual, otherworldly tones and stylized keyboards, while Carter harmonized with his darker, twang-ish voice, the plucking of his guitar strings, and almost incidental sounding synthesizers.
Midway through, the two made a tribute to Mark “Sparklehorse” Linkous’s untimely death by doing a cover of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Shocked and saddened, listeners were undeniably moved by Phantogram’s accolade and the loss of the beloved musician, who had ended his own life just hours before Saturday’s show began.
Hailing from upstate New York, Phantogram began making music in 2007. (They previously went by the name “Charlie Everywhere.”) After generating excitement with their first EP in 2009, the band is now capturing hearts again with their recently released debut full-length, Eyelid Movies, which they’re currently touring in support of.
A fresh and much appreciated take on electronica, Phantogram’s diverse compositions powerfully resonate, awakening the free spirit in anyone and everyone willing to listen. They are a band to keep an eye on, as well as one we’ll no doubt be hearing more from in the future. Truly embracing their individuality, Carter and Barthel offer a multiplicity of sophisticated, unrefined vocals and instrumentation that is irresistibly, overwhelmingly, and obsessively addicting, making for an intensely surreal show. Phantogram is an entirely new musical experience that is nothing short of mesmerizing, and had the crowd yearning for more; calling the duo back for an encore that was humbly provided.