Navigating another sold out crowd at Hammerstein Ballroom, I found myself surrounded by an exuberant and diverse crowd, all clamoring to get as close to the action as possible. The main event however was preceded by NY based DJ, The Range. Range, aka James Hinton, warmed the crowd up with a moderately crowd pleasing set that included lots of bass drops and ample use of various samples he curated from YouTube videos. One guy standing next to me impatiently kept giving Range the finger throughout his set, visibly irritated. I took no offense to his song selection though, enjoying the bass rattling my eardrums and nodded my head in time with the music. He also clearly enjoyed his time onstage, smiling and mouthing along with the lyrics. While his set was pleasant to begin the night, unfortunately the crowd seemed mostly interested in the main act’s start time.
Shortly after, a black scrim was raised to obscure the stage from the crowd’s view. Vague outlines of stagehands changing over instruments and moving things into position as the clock edged toward 9:15pm. Behind a second scrim against flashes of strobes, glyphs, geometric shapes and hot white light, Phantogram’s lead singer Sarah Barthel’s shadow moved in time with the voice we all heard belting out words during “Funeral Pyre.” As the volume swelled and the music increased its intensity on “Turning Into Stone,” more and more images were projected onto the scrim, hiding the band behind vague imagery. Josh Carter took his time to hammer out punctuating notes on guitar, driving the feeling and emotions of the songs into everyone’s chest.
Around me people danced with abandon, or stared wide eyed at the scrim, straining to catch a glimpse of the band. Their diligence was rewarded when the scrim was finally lowered, revealing the band in all its glory. Both Sarah and Josh readily interacted with each other, as well as the crowd in front of them, egging everyone on to lose themselves in the music. The room’s atmosphere was at once as moody and charged as the lightning onstage, somehow making the cavernous space of Hammerstein feel like a much smaller club.
With the driving drum line of “Futuristic Casket, the aching vocals and fiery backdrop of “Destroyer,” the band’s set ended far too quickly. Patiently awaiting an encore performance, the scrim was again raised while Josh took lead vocal duties on “Barking Dog,” a song he dedicated to his sister who unfortunately passed away recently. Stirring the last shred of emotions in the room, the night ended on a relatively high note, with “Fall In Love,” and “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore.”
Snapping a photo of the crowd, Sarah and Josh bid everyone farewell before leaving the stage for the final time. Luckily, everyone left floating out onto 34th street, knowing that this wouldn’t be the last time they’d see them perform.
Article: Lesley Keller