As the indie folk-rock scene took off in 2000, Matthew Houck was there at the start, forming Phosphorescent in 2001, releasing their first album in 2003 and then five more, waiting for a spotlight turn.
The moment came on April 18 as he found himself headlining a sold-out Bowery Ballroom.
The Alabama-to-Brooklyn transplant and his five-piece band kicked off with the slow-building “Terror in the Canyons.” Houck painted guitar slides and vocals over languid drums and stretched-out organ notes. The tune drew cheers and calls to “turn it up!”
With the volume cranked, Houck lead the band on the sprawling “Quotidian Beasts,” one of the many standout tracks on his latest record, “Muchacho” -- itself a standout among 2013 releases so far. After a quiet start, Houck got to howling over high guitar notes that fenced with sharp-edged keyboards. The elements of frailty and strength here are echoed on the record.
The opening bass line of “Song for Zula” brought cheers again. Houck’s trembling voice, with lyrics sly and emphatic, drifts over layers of string-like synths. He released the crowd from this desolate space with the playful “Ride On/Right On.”
A set of Houck alone on stage had material that cut even deeper, including a raw version of “Wolves” from the 2007 album, “Pride.” The crowd fell silent as he built the song with looped guitar notes and earnest vocals.
He continued with the folksy “My Dove, My Lamb” and then covered Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter’s “Storms Never Last.” The band returned to close with the anthemic “Los Angeles,” a breezy and spacious number filled with infectious harmonies that had the crowd singing along.
Phosphorescent is in Europe during May. Outside of its appearance at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, July 19-21 at Chicago’s Union Park, his only other scheduled stateside show is in support of The Walkmen at Brooklyn’s McCarren Park on June 15. That show is in conjunction with the local Northside Festival, June 13-20 at various venues in Brooklyn.
Here’s a selection of New York-area shows in May. Please note that opening bands aren’t always listed. Shows marked (SO) are sold out, although online services such as Craigslist often have tickets.
May 2 Johnny Marr at Irving Plaza (SO) May 3 Foals/Surfer Blood at Terminal 5 May 4 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club/Bass Drum Death at Terminal 5 May 5 Flying Lotus/Ultraista/Thundercat & Band at Terminal 5 May 6 The Breeders at Webster Hall (SO) May 7 Brazos at Cameo Gallery May 8 Four Tet/Jon Hopkins/Koreless at Webster Hall (SO) May 9 James Blake/Falty DL at Terminal 5 (SO) May 10 Downtown Music Festival -- various artists around NYC Shout Out Louds at Webster Hall May 11 Downtown Music Festival -- various artists around NYC Gold Panda at Knitting Factory May 12 Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin at Roulette May 13 Phoenix/Blood Orange at Apollo Theater (SO) May 14 Digitalism at Highline Ballroom May 15 Foxygen at Mercury Lounge (Late Show) (SO) May 16 Kurt Vile the Violators/Angel Olsen/Steve Gunn at Bowery Ballroom (SO) May 17 Yeah Yeah Yeahs/The Flaming Lips/The Darkness at Prospect Park, Great GoogaMooga festival May 18 Matt & Kim/Father John Misty/ Sharon Van Etten at Prospect Park, Great GoogaMooga festival (SO) Liars at Metropolitan Museum of Art May 19 Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings/De La Soul at Prospect Park, Great GoogaMooga festival (SO) Angel Olsen/Magmana/Steve Gunn at Glasslands Gallery May 20 Portugal. The Man/Royal Bangs at Irving Plaza (SO) May 21 Georgia Anne Muldrow & Dudley Perkins at Brooklyn Bowl May 22 Stones Fest NYC at Bowery Ballroom (various artists) May 23 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers at Beacon Theater (SO) May 24 Yacht/Prinzhorn Dance School/Larry Gus at Shea Stadium May 25 DFA Records 12th Anniversary Party at Grand Prospect Hall (SO) May 26 The Shins/Man Man at Williamsburg Park May 27 The Monochrome Set at Bowery Electric May 28 The Thermals/Screaming Females/Hop Along at Bowery Ballroom May 29 Marina & the Diamonds/Charli XCX at Central Park SummerStage (SO) May 30 Mount Kimbie/Holy Other at Bowery Ballroom May 31 Snowden/We Barbarians at Cameo Gallery
(Jaime Widder works in sales for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars, Lance Esplund on art.
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