Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Live Review: The Phantom Band @ Hoxton Bar + Grill 12/3/09

Scotland’s best kept secret no longer, The Phantom Band are all set to ascend to the dizzy heights of the bigtime this year. About time, too: this Glaswegian six-piece have been six years in the making, apparently spending their time between rehearsals working on the most convincing display of ginger facial hair this side of Family Ness.

Recently, though, The Phantom Band have been collecting acolytes with enviable rapidity, and tonight they play with the perceptible swagger of a band no longer content to sit on the sidelines. Their music is made to be heard in a live environment – it swells and bulges through the sticky back room in Hoxton, transporting all those present far from their sweaty confines and into the mistiest, most magnificent depths of the Scottish Highlands. Led into the mountains by the pied-piper call of the melodica (bagpipes for times of economic hardship?) in ‘Crocodile’, we are lulled with the sparse sea-shanty hymnal of ‘Island’, before being punched in the gut by the wrenching, distorted riff of ‘Half-Hound’.

All those years masterminding their plan for world domination have endowed The Phantom Band with an obviously refined sonic vision that seems to entail more instruments than your average orchestra, and new ways of playing them, too - although at one point pedal-man Greg Yale looks particularly lost on a banjo, as though he might never have seen one before. Frontman Rick Anthony extends his arms out over the audience in a weird conjouring motion throughout, while most of the rest of the band sport screwed up faces of concentration.

Well they might concentrate, too, as The Phantom Band specialise in distended, proggy Scot-rock that tends not so much to surpass as to shit all over the three-minute mark. With time constraints disregarded, atmospherics and attention to detail are paramount, though they indulge in wonderfully light-hearted touches, including an unexpected barbershop chorus in the anthemic ‘Throwing Bones’. If only one band is predestined to dominate the smaller stages during the coming festival season, The Phantom Band are it.

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