11 Apr, 2013

Phosphorescent at the Hi-Dive

After ten years under the name Phosphorescent, Matthew Houck might be headed for the big-time. The band released their seventh album Muchacho last month, and people are getting behind it in hordes. It’s no wonder their show at the Hi-Dive sold out well before the doors opened, leaving many out in the cold (or, more likely, drinking at the lovely Sputnik next door, where I enjoyed one-too-many pre-show cocktails).

The show was billed as the “Muchacho Tour 2013”, and everyone wanted to see how this new album would sound in this wonderful venue-bar. The album has plenty of rock-and-roll that everyone expected would make for a good time, but the album’s also dense enough that some of the trickier tracks may well have fallen flat. Phosphorescent did justice to the album’s western psychadelia, and even trickier pieces like the thick “Song for Zulu” delivered. (The notable set-list exclusion was “Muchacho’s Tune”, the album’s strongest ballad. The song strikes a balance based largely around delicate piano work and trumpeting; horns weren’t included in the live band.)

The set highlighted the weird, disparate influences that make Phosphorescent work. At times the band came off as a rootsy country effort–their cover of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson’s “Reasons to Quit” was excellently executed, melodic and dancey without losing swagger. Bar crowds are a fickle beast, but Houck had the audience so well-engaged that he was able to pull off a tricky solo version of “Wolves”, a song from his 2007 album Pride. Repetitive loops allowed it to slowly slip from ballad to drone: deep in the show, it was a bold set-list choice in which Houck displayed the penchant for risk-taking that makes Phosphorescent such an exciting band.

Phosophorescent projects durability, and they’re successful enough that they might just be around for the long-haul. If you haven’t already, I urge you to check out the new album, which I’m finding to be continually rewarding. Phosphorescent may make it back in town before long – but don’t be surprised if they take a bigger stage.

Review by Joey Gargotto.

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