The 3rd annual Firefly Music Festival is taking place this weekend at Dover, Delaware and we are there to capture all four days of live music. Last night, the festival opened with performances from Amos Lee, Local Natives, Courtney Barnett, Phosphorescent, Parade of Lights and more.
It’s quite the contrast when, on a grey, snowy Sunday evening, a golden man with a golden guitar and a golden voice takes the stage (outfitted with touches of gold, of course) to play some of his sunny musical gold.
This man, no wonder, is Mathew Houck, or Phosphorescent (dictionary definition: emitting light without appreciable heat), as you may know him. Despite having broken his guitar just before the show, Houck radiated his way onstage, “Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction)” slithering its way between the numerous candles scattered about before anyone picked up any actual instruments. “I’m going for a balance between Buddy Holly and Green Day;” joked Houck, “It’s the first thing they teach you in guitar school.” It seemed to me that Phosphorescent is less the intersection of a rock and roll pioneer and punk rock poster boys, but bare bones alt-country music cloaked in water color ambiance and candle smoke warmth.
The evening prominently featured tracks from Phosphorescent’s 2013 release, Muchacho, including a distilled “The Quotidien Beasts” and an earnest solo rendition of “Muchacho’s Tune.” (Note: the lyrics “I’ve been fucked up, and I’ve been a fool” rather ironically harkened back to an earlier remark, “I’m a broken man with a broken guitar”, regarding his instrument mishap, a nice emotional touch to make the night just that much warmer). Of course, the back-to-back double threat that is “Song for Zula” followed by “Ride On / Right On” were surefire crowd pleasers.
As the wicks of those candles burned on, Houck’s band left the stage, allowing him to show off some of those denuded folk/country songs that lay at the heart of his music. I’m a sucker for “Can I Sleep In Your Arms”, Houck’s cover of Willie Nelson’s cover of Hank Cochran’s country classic, but his extended vocal loop pedal version of “Wolves” was, at the very least, unique, and rocked the crowd into a fluorescent trance.
Joining Phosphorescent were New York alt-rockers Caveman, who took a little while to get the crowd engaged, but once their music finally percolated, fans seemed invested in their percussive, syncopated style. Frontman Matthew Iwanusa did a good job of keeping a shivering audience attentive, though I’ll admit that some of his ventures into more comedic banter were less than amazing.
Muchacho is much more than a very critically venerated record by a guy who writes great songs; Houck and company have clearly mastered the substantiation of their latest album, and Phosphorescent’s live music has a lot more dimension than you get with, say, candles and incense (though candles and incense certainly had their role).
It’s music that shimmers with a golden gleam and wraps you in so much warmth that you practically forget just how cold it is outside.
WXPN welcomes folk / Americana luminaries Phosphorescent at Union Transfer tonight. Rescheduled from a snowed-out show last month, the show will feature singer-songwriter Matthew Houck and his bandmates showcasing material from last year’s critical favorite Muchacho, as well as the band’s extensive back-catalog. Tickets for tonight’s all-ages show are $18 and can be purchased here.
Phosphorescent (aka singer-songwriter Matthew Houck) will play Union Transfer tonight. The indie-rock singer-songwriter released his sixth album Muchacho via Dead Oceans last year which, as he told Pitchfork, was inspired by his experiences on tour. Paste Magazine named the record its #1 Album of 2013. Watch the video for “Ride On / Right On” below and get tickets here.
You can’t deny that it’s been a banner year for Phosphorescent. The project of existential Americana singer-songwriter Matthew Houck kicked off 2013 with the majestic new album, Muchacho, and its enchanting single “Song for Zula.” Some road bumps were encountered when the band’s new lineup played an uneven show on the first night of tour at Johnny Brenda’s, but the growth it experienced since then has been remarkable.
By the time Phosphorescent rolled through the area again at this summer’s XPoNential Music Festival, it was a well-oiled machine that delivered arguably the best set of the weekend (see a recap here). The band was tight and together, but in a way where the players could build their songs into cathartic, unrestrained moments and still come safely back from the edge.
So one can only imagine how much further growth the six-piece has experienced, and how epic their recently-announced Union Transfer show will (maybe, hopefully, probably) sound. The band headlines on Tuesday, January 21st; tickets are on sale now. Below, listen to Phosphorescent’s recent World Cafe interview with David Dye, and watch a video of an XPoNential performance that not a lot of people saw – jamming with My Morning Jacket on “Oh, Sweet Nuthin'” while the rain poured down outside the SBC.
Phosphorescent, the moniker of singer-songwriter Matthew Houck, played the Marina Stage at the XPoNential Music Festival today. Although the set started slow, perhaps because it was Houck’s birthday the night before, he and his band powered through, giving it their all during their forty-five minute set. Even as rain poured down on the audience a few songs in, the band and the audience seemed not to notice, staying through the rain to hear this incredible performance.
Most of the songs played were from Phosphorescent’s most recent album, Muchacho, released March of 2013. The gorgeous “Song for Zula” was played half way through the set to enthusiastic cheers from the crowd. Other highlights included the dark Americana jam, “The Quotidian Beat” (which featured some crazy keyboard solos), as well as the “Nothing was Stolen” and the closing “Los Angeles,” both from 2010’s Here’s to Taking it Easy. See photos of the performance in the gallery below and read the set list after the jump.
Phosphorescent (real name Matthew Houck) appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last night, backed by a small choir, string section and of course members of The Roots. He performed “Song for Zula” off of his latest LP Muchacho. Phosphorescent will be at the XPoNential Music Festival this summer, happening July 26-28 at Wiggins Park and the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ. Watch the clip below.
Weekend passes to the XPONential Music Festival are available now through WXPN membership. New and renewing members will get a pair of weekend passes to Wiggins park and lawn seats to the SBC show for a pledge of $24 month. More information can be found here.
The Lumineers (Sat 7/27 @ Sus. Bank Ctr.)
Dr. Dog (Sat 7/27 @ Sus. Bank Ctr.)
Polica (Sat 7/27 @ Sus. Bank Ctr.)
Wake Owl (Sat 7/27 @ Sus. Bank Ctr.)
John Butler Trio
Trampled By Turtles
Lianne La Havas
Justin Townes Earle
Kopecky Family Band
The Stray Birds
Aaron & The Spell
Of course, there’s a downside to making a record as intricate and delicately arranged as Phosphorescent‘s Muchahcho. The higher you set the bar for your listeners, the harder it is to live up to your own ambition.
On the first night of tour, with a new lineup of players in tow, Matthew Houck told a sold-out Johnny Brenda’s last night that the collective was admittedly rusty and working out the kinks. “Right on!” one fan screamed – presumably making a request for “Ride On / Right On,” a standout track from the new album, and not sharing some odd enthusiasm over the singer’s humility. But Houck deferred. “Yeah, that song’s got a lot of rust,” he said.
“Ride / Right” never did get played. And of the 90-minute / 13-song setlist, only four drew from Muchacho, with mixed results. Opener “Terror In The Canyons” was amped up from the forlorn pedal steel ballad we hear on the album. Its swirl of keys and guitar licks blazed onward to a powerful jam of “The Quotidian Beasts.” Things, at this point, looked and sounded great. And then the set took a sharp dive with a particularly weak performance of “Song for Zula” – the moving, heartrending, Johnny Cash-referencing vibey number that many are already calling song of the year. Continue reading →