A little May grey wasn’t going to stop fans from packing into Cal Coast Open Air Theatre for Phantogram’s Thursday night show.
Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter make up the electronic rock duo, Phantogram, hailing from New York. With a career spanning over 10 years, the group has released three studio albums and numerous EPs and singles. They’ve even participated in collaborations with heavy hitters in the industry like Big Boi and Miley Cyrus. Gone are the days when they played dive venues. Their tours now consist of big-ticket festival bookings and headlining massive venues.
A fashion muse in her own right, Barthel took the stage sporting a sequin fringe cape and thigh-high spiked heel buckle boots. Her captivating presence normally steals the show entirely, but this time Carter played more of a pivotal role than usual. Opening with “You’re Mine,” a seductive single off of their latest album Three, a solo spotlight switched back and forth between the two during their lyrical banter. Throughout the evening, the setlist included several songs that showcased Carter’s vocals, such as their chilling song about love, “Answer.”
The multi-talented Barthel took on lead vocals, keys, and bass without missing a step – which in those heels was quite a feat. Fans were drawn in with dark, haunting, lyrics merged with poppy tones and glitchy arrangements from start to finish. Phantogram’s signature airy vocals were present throughout the night as they played several tracks from their earlier, more experimental days. “Turning into Stone” from EP Nightlife featured spacey keys while a galactic light show circularly spun in every direction. Crowd favorites released in 2009 were still just as popular as new favorites released in 2017, which was proven by matched excitement during “When I’m Small” and “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore.”
In a tender and sensitive moment, the band returned to the stage for their encore with newly released single, “Someday.”
This song is dedicated to Barthel’s sister, who she lost to suicide in 2016. Proceeds from the single will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Before their encore began, Barthel addressed the audience with an important message: “It’s ok to not be ok.”
To close things out, Phantogram brought things full circle and took the audience right back to the start. “Futuristic Casket” featured the two side by side, softly weaving vocal harmonies. This old favorite from their first album Eyelid Movies left us reminiscent of years ago when we first fell in love with Phantogram. Their raw and beautiful talent, humble and relatable personalities, and ability to put on one kick-ass show will continue to keep us coming back for more.
BONUS PHOTOS: Tycho opens for Phantogram.