REVIEW gig Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Phantogram’s live set proves to be in ship-shape. (Bristol fashion)

New York duo perform a slick and moody set – on a boat!

Phantogram - Live - Thekla, Bristol - 12th May 2014

It is much to this reviewer’s chagrin that it has taken him almost thirty-six years to discover the delights of Bristol’s Thekla venue. Upon viewing the map of said venue, I was interested to find it placed in the middle of a place called East Mud Dock – seemingly in the water. Assuming it was some kind of mistake, I passed the venue a number of times before realising that it was actually a boat. On entering the venue, it took a great deal of time to find my way around; at one point only managing to find a view of the stage from 15 or so feet up.

Luckily, by the time the support act – Kins (incidentally the name of one of my rabbits) – took to the stage, I had managed to find a space next to the monitors to annoy people with my intermittent photo taking; the results of which are featured below. Kins themselves were an interesting group of musicians; they were failed somewhat by a few technical hitches (the drummer was bashing the hell out of his skins and cymbals and yet barely registered on my side of the stage) but they took it all in their stride and put on a fine performance of darkly-tinged indie. Audience banter was kept to a minimum as they roared their way through a half-hour set, causing causal chatters to become actual gig-goers as they went along.

More technical hitches seem to blight the arrival of the headliners for the evening, Phantogram; a New York duo, padded out with a few extra musicians for this tour in promotion of their upcoming album ‘Voices’. On record, the band have a dark and brooding sound which would have been hard to replicate live had these extras not been in attendance. Once a few of the electrics had been sorted out and the moving of a few monitors, we were off! What had been a semi-sparse crowd for Kins had now grown to a couple of hundred although there were notable spaces dotted throughout; some people possibly walking out in disgust at the price of the drinks. Who can say?

The band have been showcasing various tracks from the upcoming record (watch out for the review on Subba soon!) for a couple of months now, and their Instagram feed is full of oddly B-Boy poses along with the likes of new BFF, Big Boi of Outkast who has collaborated on the record. Not everyone would have been familiar with these, but rather than playing the large majority of ‘Voices’, there were still plenty of cuts from their 2009 debut album ‘Eyelid Movies’ and 2011 EP ‘Nightlife’ to keep the long-standing fans happy. Singer Sarah Barthel shook her head and indeed most of her body in between visits to the microphone whilst multi-instrumentalist Josh Carter did this thing of looking moody and strumming and bleeping his way around the stage – just like in their videos.

The new record promises to be more of the same on top of the debut and subsequent EPs, but judging from tonight’s performance there are a few surprises, twists and turns and little complexities that will keep any doubters interested. Some more audience interaction would have been a nice touch; Barthel reported in a Facebook message today that she has been stressed out by accusations surrounding the wearing of a Native American headdress in the recent past, so maybe last night was just a little glitch. This wasn’t the most memorable of shows – not a huge amount of movement in the crowd (Barthel made up for this, and then some), but it certainly showed that the forthcoming record has promise.

Rating: 7 out of 10