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Happenings /// Phantogram at Marathon Music Works, 10/31

Phantogram headlined a sold out Marathon Music Works Halloween set on their Nashville stop, with as festive and lively a set as anyone in attendance could have asked for.
Photo by Sean McHugh

To say I was magnificently underwhelmed by the alarmingly small number of “Elevens” from Stranger Things costumes at Phantogram’s Halloween tour stop here in town would be an understatement, I suppose. I can’t say I was all that enamored with the show that other folks were – I still binged the show within the span of a single, lonely weekend – upon completion of the first season, but that’s beside the point. Basically, what the Netflix centric-lede is meant to (questionably) imply is that any and all pretense and expectation was to be properly abandoned at the door of Phantogram’s Marathon Music Works set, because they were undoubtedly going to exceed them.

Following an exceptional opening set from The Range – in which James Hinton masterfully finessed his way into getting the initially reserved crowd of androgynous Sias, Monarch butterflies, and Jackie Moons into a proper frenzy for the sound and fury of Phantogram’s Halloween set – the band formerly known as Charlie Everywhere (that’s a long FKA, by the way) wasted no time ratcheting upon Hinton’s set and shooting the evening’s energy into the stratosphere of Halloween show lore. Opening up with “Funeral Pyre” whilst dressed as Dia Day Lost Muertos skeletons, Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel gave the Marathon crowd of ghouls, ghostbusters, and gremlins the jolt Hinton primed them for.

Playing behind a skrim screen with minimalist black and white orbs, spheres, and quadrilaterals projected upon it, the band ran through “Black Out Days” and “Don’t Move” – a song that sent the aforementioned Monarch butterflies into a whirl about frenzy, subsequently wafting the inimitable scent of a certain type of “foliage” throughout the spacious Marthon Music Works crowd. Following the ovation for “Don’t Move,” Barthel’s cry of ‘Nashville!’ was met with even more uproarious adulation, as she went on to describe the admiring onlokkers as ‘fucking freaky as hell,’ much to their extreme joy. The band then dropped right into “Turning Into Stone,” as Barthel and Carter exchanged roles as Carter fronted for the track, while Barthel carried the melody with a harpsichord Moog effect that created the most infectious of vibes that lasted throughout the set.

After running through “Turning Into Stone,” Barthel and Carter hit “Same Old Blues,” “You’re Mine” and “Answer” before Barthel wished the crowd its first ‘Happy Halloween’ and subsequently chastised Josh for excessive cursing, which was met with many a laugh from the festively freaky crowd. Black cats, Taxi Drivers, and witches alike could hardly contain themselves when Barthel once again took a moment to note the distinctly unified mass of costumed concert goers, along with highlighting her own costume – ‘I’m wearing white contacts, and I can’t see a fucking thing, but at least we’re all in this together.’ – once again, riotous applause.

The rest of the set was as knockabout as anyone could possible have asked for in terms of headlining Halloween acts, as tracks new and old enraptured and further riled up the crowd – “Mouthful Diamonds” elicited the first full blown sing along of the evening (but not the last), while “Howling at the Moon” felt like a distinctly Phantogram take on Nashville and electro western. All in all, Phantogram put on the idyllic Halloween set, going all out on their costumes – Barthel and Carter most so –and playfully toying with a more than exuberant Marathon crowd, having set the bar for future Halloween tour stops to come through town.

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