Live music review: Phosphorescent

Workman’s Club, Dublin

****

In Ireland supporting stadium moochers the National, Georgia band Phosphorescent are taking advantage of a day off by putting on their own headline show at one of the spiritual homes of Dublin hipster-dom. The choice of venue is appropriate as, a few weeks previously, the Alabama outfit were named ‘25th most hipster band’ in the world by website Digital Music News (the ranking calculated via an obscure tally of Pitchfork.com reviews and Facebook ‘likes’).

But while the generous beards and trucker hats sported by frontman Matthew Houck and his five lieutenants chime perfectly with the setting, their music transcends lazy pigeonholing. Though nominally part of the Southern Gothic school of indie miserabalism, flashes of the unexpected constantly inform Houck’s writing. On last year’s Mucacho album his grainy voice paired with surprise electro flourishes and poppy choruses while favourites such as ‘Song For Zulu’ and ‘Terror in The Canyons’ climax in transcendental psychedelia, Houck and sidekicks lost inside soaring riffs and Neil Young style jams.

As is often the case with cult groups, the fanbase is eager for acknowledgement and Houck is peppered with requests throughout. He accedes to calls for ‘Joe Tex’, ‘These Taming Blues’, stopping up to explain Phosphorescent “have never been the most professional band”.

Quite what he’s getting at is unclear — though it is a squeeze fitting six musicians on a compact stage, Houck retains a tight hold on the gig. Every flourish and breakdown feels immaculately plotted, illuminated by the frontman’s vision.

Eyes closed, head nodding, Houck is lost in a private reverie. Twenty four hours later Phosphorescent will struggle to hold the crowd’s attention as they open for The National at Iveagh Gardens. In a room full of true believers, however, they are searingly compelling. With a little luck, it is possible to imagine Houck and company one day achieving levels of success commensurate with their more famous touring partners. If they don’t, the loss is ours.


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