There are two bands to review: Phantogram, and Phantogram's live show. The Riot Room hosted a very short and concise Phantogram set on Friday night. But if you're only as good as the company you keep, Phantogram may be in a real pickle. The crowd was one of the worst I've encountered in Kansas City. It was as if every freshman who didn't pledge at the end of rush week was told that Friday night was their last night on earth before they would be abducted by aliens and flown to the planet Xandiander for medical testing. Maybe it's not Phantogram's fault. Maybe Kansas City just isn't ready for the future of music. The latter is probably the most likely scenario of the two, but to quote Meryl Streep: "I have doubts."
Even though the set was less than 45 minutes long and the only "live" instrument was Josh Carter's guitar, it sounded as if there were at least 14 people on stage. The soothing synthetic sounds from the keyboard, logic board, drum machine, and a myriad of push-button contraptions made my mind buzz with visions of mermaids. (Not like real mermaids, but fun mermaids from the 80's versions of Daryl Hannah and Cher.)
With my eyes closed, the music was cohesive and intentional. With my eyes open, there were two pretty unenthusiastic people on stage making music with computers and acting as if the other person wasn't there. It was distracting because I was trying to judge whether that was a good thing, a bad thing, or if it just didn't matter. Maybe I have misguided expectations of a live show. If the people are the instruments -- like in the case of Phantogram -- I want just that: a show. The music was exceptional, but I could have just stayed home and skipped the annoying crowd.
NOTE: If you find yourself in the vicinity of a stage with people performing on it, and you have to yell over the band to your friends standing next to you, go to the back of the bar. Or go home. Don't stand in the front row and yell over the headliner. Kansas City, you embarrass me.
HIGHLIGHT: Sharing a cab with strangers Kate, Morgan, and Tyler, discussing how the absence of an actual drummer is very detrimental to Phantogram's live show.
BONUS HIGHLIGHT: The one "old" (45-ish?) guy who stood right in front and stared at keyboardist Sarah Barthel's tits the entire show. Not cool man, not cool.