Phantogram @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest
July 5, 2014
Sometimes things just aren’t your fault. Phantogram’s show
Saturday night at the U.S. Cellular Stage at Summerfest suffered from mixing
troubles that often turned the duo’s hip-hop infused electronica into an
impenetrable wall of noise. Sound problems aside, the group turned in a
respectable performance that focused heavily on their newest album Voices while touching on highlights of
their previous work.
Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel add cascading guitar arpeggios to heavy beats and looped strings to create a massive surge of sound, which Barthel’s voice alternately dominates and adds to. The addition of a touring drummer and rhythm guitarist/keyboardist filled out the songs and gave Barthel and Carter more freedom to perform.
On stage, the two were markedly different. Carter stood calm in the midst of the noise, while Barthel was a dynamic force in constant motion as she strutted and whipped her hair frenetically. Dark and energetic, Phantogram is suited to frenzied dancing, and the rare moments of quiet came as a welcome. The achingly sad “Bill Murray” was one such instance and saw Barthel standing atop a pedestal and donning a jewel-encrusted cloak, for a moment transformed into a swaying goddess of light refracting beams of light around the stage.
Other highlights were “Howling at the Moon,” a defiant Voices cut which brought Barthel’s vocal abilities to the forefront and made for a perfect shout-along moment and the stabbing synths and screeching sirens of “Fall In Love,” which elicited the most reaction from a sometimes lukewarm crowd. Still, Barthel’s unstoppable dancing and an imposing light show delivered a true concert, the visual displays making up for the poor sound quality.