Remember 2009? Damn, what a good year! “I Gotta Feeling” was on the radio, Silly Bandz were stacked on our wrists, and this was the Internet craze your family sent you over and over
Those were simpler times, and the brighter days of ’09 feel so far away. But sometimes, a band, a song, an album is so powerful, it pulls you back to that year, and that feeling. That feeling only comes around rarely. That feeling happens during “Listzomania” and “1901” by the formidable French indie-rock troupe Phoenix.
During an incredible opening night of 96.5 FM’s “The Nights Buzz Stole Christmas” concert series, Phoenix brought their decadent lights, silky smooth music, and over-the-top cool persona to the Midland Theatre in Kansas City.
The band wasted no time kicking off the show. They opened with their latest hit, “J Boy” from new album Ti Amo, and then instantly gave the fans what they wanted to hear. They tore into a raucous rendition of “Lasso,” from 2009’s breakout album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. It won over the hearts of the large crowd within seconds of the song starting.
Over the course of the night, they continued to play gem after gem, hit after hit, until the dancefloor was theirs. “Rome,” “Girlfriend,” “Entertainment,” “Trying to be Cool,” and more. Relentless they were with the amount of hits they played. The band sounded insanely tight knit, and every guitar stroke or drum beat was impeccably perfected.
They closed with the stellar track “1901,” but that didn’t mean the show was over. Not by a long shot. Lead singer Thomas Mars strolled out into the crowd casually, carrying a microphone with a extended, light up red chord. He strutted through the entire crowd, before finally standing up above the fans. With balloons bouncing around him, he chugged a fan’s drink given to him, and surveyed the audience. He led the crowd in singing the final notes of “1901” and wished everyone goodnight. It was an extraordinary end to an extraordinary show.
Phoenix were supported by Hembree, a local Kansas City indie-rock band with a sound that is supremely ready for the biggest of stages. They truly have everything necessary for a successful band that will go the distance: incredibly catchy guitar riffs, pounding drum rhythms, fantastic lyrics, likable band members, and a readiness to have a fun time on stage that is infectious for the crowd, (i.e. their tremendously fun cover of the Gorillaz’ “DARE, that got the party going.)
While watching them onstage, I couldn’t help but imagine them on the festival circuit- starting low in the bill, playing the 3pm time slot, building an audience in the sunny afternoons. However, their audiences continue to build until they find themselves playing to the sunset, and maybe, just maybe, closing out the day. This may be idealistic, but I absolutely think that this is a capable goal for Hembree. Their love for music is palpable, and that kind of appreciation for the music, and the enjoyment of playing it for people, will get you far in this business.
The first opener of the evening was another local outfit, Y God Y. Led by Garrett Marsh, their sound is unique and inviting. Driven by warm synths, and spacey drum beats, Marsh’s voice carries the sound into another dimension. Their style is equally indie-rock and electronic-synth pop. The combination of styles works well for them, and they created a big hit with fans. With their Afentra-approved cosign, I can see this band growing into a prominent touring band, taking their weird and fantastic sounds on the road to audiences all over the world.