January 27, 2014

Phosphorescent @ Center Stage, Atlanta

Phosphorescent’s 2013 album, Muchacho, has appeared across top album lists and praised as front man Matthew Houck’s best compilation yet, so when they were coming to Atlanta on January 25th, I knew I had to go.

The relatively cheap tickets and the added buzz caused the theater to sell out quickly. I arrived early and got a front row spot. I also managed to spy a few cowboy hats and long beards while waiting for the first act to start. Seemed like people were really excited for the country-folk twang in Phosphorescent’s music.

The opener was Caveman, an American band from Brooklyn that boasts a pretty popular recently-released sophomore self-titled album. Their music is accented by heavy drums and a consistent beat, but also has interwoven airy vocals. Combined, it creates an otherworldly and ethereal sound that had the crowd bobbing their heads.

They played some of their more well-known upbeat songs like “In the City,” but also slower jams like “Where’s the Time.” They instantly gained the crowd’s respect and put on a really entertaining show.

When they finished, they took away their instruments, and stagehands started bringing out vases filled with white flowers. Excitement was building and everyone was asking their neighbors if they’ve ever seen flowers at a concert. Then came dozens of candles and incense. The room was filled with eager chatter and a sweet smell as the lights lowered and Phosphorescent’s “Sun, Arise” started playing. It was such a beautiful moment because the crowd quieted and there was only the soft glow of the candles lighting the venue. Then, Matthew Houck emerged with his five band mates. He was dressed in a flashy classic cowboy outfit, and the highlight was his glitter cowboy boots.

The concert was magical. Houck’s country-rock demeanor was softened by his breaking voice as he sang songs from Muchacho and his other albums. His songs were accented by his comments in between, talking to the crowd about how he was so glad to be in Atlanta. His raspy voice and pedal steel was so country based, people in the crowd kept yelling out “Willie!” either referencing his 2009 album To Willie or asking him to cover Willie Nelson. Yet, it didn’t feel like a country concert. At times the band had loud jam sessions and, other times, Houck played folksy songs.

To close, Houck stood solo on the stage and sang his heartfelt “My Dove, My Lamb,” and then spent a long time slowly layering his wailing voice to a guitar picking pattern. The crowd was surrounded by the howling beauty, and there was an overarching feeling of reverence in the venue. He walked off stage with the recorded track playing, and the whole crowd erupted into cheers.

The band came back for an encore and contrasted their soft closing with a long eruption of sound, smiling at each other and looking like they were genuinely having fun. He ran over to shake people’s hands (including mine!) and smiled as he exited the stage, closing an explosive show that definitely proved Phosphorescent’s success.

Photos: Camilla Grayson

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