SXSW showcase reviews

by Sandy Carson


Bar 96, Friday, March 15

Phosphorescent toured hard for two years behind 2010 breakthrough Here's to Taking It Easy, drugs, booze, and infidelity doled out in near-equal measure. "I lost the place, lost the girl, and lost my mind," leader Matthew Houck conceded recently to Pitchfork. He stumbled upon something truly remarkable in return: a near masterpiece in the upcoming Muchacho, and a road-tested live band finally as commanding as Houck's cracked-country voice. Both were evident in opener "Terror in the Canyons (The Wounded Master)," with the Brooklyn songsmith caught between competing, contradictory impulses. "See, I was the wounded master, oh then I was the slave," he sang. "My hands and my mouth, aw honey, they would not behave." While Bar 96 – a makeshift outdoor stage on Rainey Street – proved less than ideal, battling Festival bleed-over and frequent crowd chatter, Phosphorescent powered through. Now a sextet, with two keyboardists and a second percussionist accounting for the loss of local pedal steel sideman Ricky Ray Jackson, the band offered a rough-and-tumble backdrop to Houck's wounded narratives, swelling with rolling keys and moments of barbed glory in "A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise" and "Wolves." "I feel like we just got warmed up," Houck remarked before closer "Los Angeles." He was right. The set was short and bitter, but it also left plenty to look forward to.

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