Phantogram at the Electric Pickle, October 2

Photo by Sarah Penello
With Entresol
The Electric Pickle, Miami
Saturday, October 2, 2010

Buzz-band Phantogram played the Electric Pickle's back porch on

Saturday night and lived up to the hype. It was a night of samples and

layers, laptops and mixers -- a more dynamic and sonically interesting

show than expected with so few people on the stage. The crowd bellied up to the stage a full 20

minutes before a single chord was struck, nodding with what was

presumably anticipation as Sarah Barthel, Josh Carter, and Tim Oakley pieced together their epic setup

themselves. This is the upstate New York trio's first

headlining tour (they supported the XX this past summer) and the first time Phantogram has ever played Florida.

With a guitar, keyboard, and drum kit, plus one drum machine, an open laptop running Mainstage in Logic-Pro, a cassette recorder, no fewer than three mixers, and, in the words of guitarist Josh Carter, "a whole bunch of loops and effects pedals," Phantogram kept the Pickle moving from the beginning of its set till the end. All three members participated in the layering of prerecorded samples and in sampling themselves live, so at any given time, each musician might be in control of several layers of sound.

With this arsenal and some seriously tight musicianship, Phantogram laid down heavy beats, solid melodies, and immaculate harmonies between keyboardist Sarah Barthel and Carter, all underscored by a low-frequency hum that had even the brick pavers buzzing. On a white sheet behind the band, a constant stream of abstract imagery and flashing lights pulsed in time, making it nearly impossible to look away from the stage. Barthel's dance moves and sultry gaze, which she fixed upon the audience whenever she wasn't throwing back her head with wild abandon, didn't hurt either.

The crowd went especially crazy for "Mouthful of Diamonds" and "Running From the Cops," both off the record Eyelid Movies -- released earlier this year on Barsuk records. The standout track of the evening, though, was an unreleased song titled "Make a Fist." Over a high-stepping, high-hat-happy marching cadence, drilled-out expertly by Tim Oakley, Barthel's voice swells as she repeats, again and again: "This is the future! This is the future!"

And she's right. It is.

Entresol, the solo project of Broward-local Edi Rivadeneira, got the

evening started right with his South Florida brand of danceable

synth-pop. With three keyboards, two microphones, and some mixers,

Entresol put on the kind of show that makes the term "one-man band" not a

joke anymore. The crowd recognized one of their own and quickly got on

his wavelength.

A decade ago, a keyboardist, guitarist, and drummer on a stage -- or Entresol's one-man setup -- would have been just that. But now, as technology becomes more and more affordable, bands like Phantogram are continually pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a musician. With a little help from their (digital) friends, these three are diving headlong into the the future, which will be sonically limitless.

Critic's Notebook:

Better than: Spending the cost of the show's cover on a well drink at Grand Central, right up the street!

Random Observations:

1. Both Carter and Oakley were sporting pretty nice beards. Beards, which are generally a rarity among the clean-shaven mugs of SoFla, are a refreshing sight when touring bands from the North come through.

2. Sarah Barthel is beautiful.

Random fact: Carter's first instrument was drums; he plays all the drums on both the full-length and their previously released EP. Oakley, a longtime friend of Carter's, joined Phantogram for this tour, and it is uncertain whether he'll be joining Carter and Bethel for the recording of the second EP, due out some time in 2011.

Best quote of the evening:

(directed at Tim Oakley)

"I can tell you guys are getting big by the commercials at the beginning of your YouTube videos!"

-- Crystal Manning, new fan

-- Sarah Penello

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