Show Review: Phantogram @ The Observatory in Santa Ana

Photos by Charlotte Johnson


The Observatory was packed to capacity, the main floor set low with the audience welling up around it. The energy of expectation and excitement buzzing in the air. A scrim obscures the stage, but the smoke pumping behind it leaks out over the audience from around the edges. The opening notes of “Funeral Pyre” ring out, and the audience goes wild. Sarah Barthel’s ethereal voice rises above the music, disembodied. A distorted image of the band dances on the smoke, creating a ghostly 3D effect.


Josh Carter presses a key launching the vocal loop to “Don’t Move” and the audience roars. It is evident in the crowd’s visceral response that this is one of the band’s biggest songs. Sarah is wearing a white robe and playing a bass on this track. They launch directly into another big hit, “Black Out Days,” Sarah jumping around the stage, pure electricity, while the crashing symbols build and white lights flash behind them.

The scrim drops as they launch into the new single, “You’re Mine” from their forthcoming album Three. The song announces a new direction in their music, where Josh and Sarah share vocal duties, often alternating verses. Sarah drops the robe, revealing black leather booty shorts, a black halter top and thigh-high patent leather boots. She thanks the crowd for turning out and says that the band loves playing The Observatory because of the energy in the room. Another new song “Answer” brings the energy down, and Sarah returns to the bass. Josh underscores Sarah’s voice with haunting harmonies.


“Celebrating Nothing”  swells into a full-on dark wave anthem, while red and blue lights separate the stage into sharp pools of light. “When I’m Small” the song that started it all for the band shows Sarah at the height of performance, prowling the stage, exuding a confident sexuality. The final song of the set, “Futuristic Casket” ends on a high note, the white lights strobing, as if the stage itself is breathing.


The band returns for a four song encore, the first “Barking Dog” gives Josh a chance to shine, highlighting his vocals and guitar prowess, while he is framed by VHS static on the screen behind him. The final song of the night “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” is explosive, the stage bathed in red light, turning abruptly blue during the chorus. The song ends sharply and the band leaves the stage, leaving an indelible image burned into the audience’s brain. Much like a fever dream, they ask themselves “could that have been real?”

Phantogram plays the Hollywood Palladium in LA tonight, and they are on tour through December. Buy tickets by clicking here.

Phantogram Setlist:

“Funeral Pyre“
“Don’t Move”
“Black Out Days”
“Turning Into Stone”
“You’re Mine”
“Same Old Blues”
“Mouthful of Diamonds”
“Howling at the Moon”
“Celebrating Nothing”
“When I’m Small”
“Futuristic Casket”
“Barking Dog”
“Cruel World”
“Fall in Love”

“You Don’t Get Me High Anymore”


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