photos by Michael Dubin, words by Rachel Kowal
It's hard to know where to even begin when it comes to Railbird, the relatively unknown opener. When I walked into the Bowery Ballroom and saw Railbird on stage, I didn't know where to focus my energy. The bass player wore a top hat paired with his t-shirt, the female back-up singer wore some kind of Bill Cosby-inspired jacket, and then there was the singer, Sarah Pedinotti. Pedinotti was decked out in a red sparkly number and had three huge turkey feathers tucked into her unruly nest of curly brown hair. She was quite a sight to behold, and her lyrics - which covered nervous break downs, dreams, and haunted houses - were no less intriguing. Railbird closed their set with a "Limousine," which features the harmonica and an old-timey microphone, which certainly added pizzazz to the vocals.
Light Pollution followed Railbird's theatrical set of Americana/folk. This band didn't really do it for me. There's nothing particularly offensive about the Chicago band - their melodies are pretty good and the singer definitely had a lot of energy - but there was nothing particularly memorable about them either.
In the lull before Phantogram began performing, the stage was stripped bare and entirely re-arranged. Luckily, Phantogram doesn't require much - just a keyboard or two, a couple of mics, and a guitar... oh yeah, and the projection screen. Throughout their performance, images of dolphins swimming around, a rain-stained car window, and wind blowing through a meadow danced across the screen.
Given the experimental style of their music and their flashy appearance, it's hard to believe that Sarah Barthel and Joshua Carter practice in a barn in upstate New York and didn't just step off the L train. Their music relies heavily on samples and pre-recorded beats that are made to make you dance. (It's fun to imagine Sarah wearing pumps and a skin-tight black ensemble, head banging next to some chickens though.)
Phantogram's set was short - just 10 songs, including the encore. But their moody dance music, hip outfits, and intoxicating lyrics make for a compelling show. The allure of Sarah's smooth voice compliments Joshua's more raucous vocals.
And they were clearly excited to be playing to a sold-out crowd. "We're a very young band and from the bottom of our hearts, we're just so glad you're here," said Josh as their show neared to a close. With a big smile on her face, Sarah whipped out her iPhone and proceeded to take a photo of the crowd before walking off stage.
The Bowery Ballroom show happened last night, May 19th, and was part of a tour that also included a show at Maxwell's in Hoboken one night earlier. The Bowery setlist with more pictures of the headliner from Maxwell's, below...
Phantogram - Bowery Ballroom Set List
As Far As I Can See
Let Me Go
Mouthful of Diamonds
Running From the Cops
You Are the Ocean
Make a Fist
Turn It Off
When I'm Small
All Dried Up