Monday, April 15, 2013
Concert Recap: Phosphorescent - Lincoln Hall, Chicago, April 13
If there was ever any doubt that Phosphorescent (the nam de plum of Matthew Houck) has been playing music since 2002, seeing Houck and company in a live setting should squash any skepticism.
But a vast majority of the crowd at Lincoln Hall (Chicago, IL) on April 13 wouldn't have known that, hell, I heard a few members of the audience asking "Who's up next" and "what type of music they play" just before Phosphorescent took the stage. The show was sold out, so I haven't the slightest idea how they got in.
The crowd was much older than many of the shows I've attended at Lincoln Hall, and although it was a 21+ show, I wouldn't have expected most of the crowd to be 35 and up. These members took advantage of the venue's cocktail service, drinking heavily, as if gearing up for a Toby Keith show.
Phosphorescent would take the stage at around 11:15, after the opener Strand of Oaks warmed up the crowd in an admirable fashion. Oaks seemed like a duo of "metal-heads-turned-alt-folk-musicians" and their set was actually really good, as the singer and drummer eventually opened up to the crowd with lines like "I usually write songs about space and the pope... this one's about space" or dedicating a song to the singer's wife, or even admitting "I know I may look feral, but I'll be back [by the merch area] so please come say hello."
Phosphorescent's set was greeted with open arms by the crowd, focusing on intermingling material new and old. It was apparent that the group had overcome a tumultuous day, every member looking a little more stressed than one would normally expect. Apparently there had been some keyboard issues, so their lead keyboardist was forced to illicit someone to find them a new set of keys before the show (whom he eventually thanked graciously). Houck had his fair share of problems on the stage as well, as his guitar strap failed him on multiple occasions. Never to be affected, however, as the frontman would smile or joke about it with the crowd each time it happened.
One of the highlight's of a Phosphorescent show, is it's lack of structure. This sounds like an insult or a downfall, but after scanning the stage, there was no setlist to be found. The group relies on intuition within the band, and trust in frontman Matthew Houck. Their set was clearly discussed and primarily predetermined before taking the stage, but every now and then, Houck could be seen talking to different members of the group, discussing if they wanted to play something different.
(Another spectacle of any Phosphorescent show is their lead keyboardist [seen above], who manages to steal the spotlight time after time. His enthusiasm and just plain old rockstar mentality are a sight for sore eyes, and his talent level is top notch.)
Key moments of the set included a few of Phospho's best tracks from their latest EP, Muchacho, including the lead single "Song for Zula" "Ride On/Right On" and "Terror in the Canyons" however, Mucacho's centerpiece, "Muchacho's Tune" was left off the set, to my disappointment.
The encore was also a nice change of pace, as I had seen the group two other times in the past month, both at SXSW, and both not featuring an encore. Houck would take the stage alone for a few songs, including "Wolves" and a cover of Randy Newman's "Days of Heaven". He was eventually joined on stage by his bandmates for Phosphorescent's usual endcap, but never tiresome, "Los Angeles".
Despite a few over-served members of the crowd, it's difficult for me to believe that most of the members of the audience didn't leave amazed by what they had seen. Even those who felt it necessary to ask fellow audience members what type of music Phosphorescent played.
You can purchase Muchacho here, and take a look at Phosphorescent's remaining tour dates at their website.
All photos taken by Kellen Nordstrom