Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
When Lights, The Mowgli’s, and PHASES hit Irving Plaza in NYC late last month the theme for the night could be summed up in one word – happiness. Each act seemingly had a goal of making sure every single person in the venue left with a smile on their face, and by the end of the night their mission had been accomplished.
PHASES kicked things off, filling the room with a feel-good musical vibe, and an ebullient sound that combines 80s pop-rock with modern synth-pop. Imagine The Go-Go's, but with hard synths, and you’ll start to get an idea of the of the sound of PHASES.
Although all the members were previously in different bands, and the group once went by an alternate name (JJAMZ), lead singer Z Berg told the crowd this was the band’s first official tour as PHASES. Their previous experience showed, as there was nothing about the group that would lead one to believe they were rookies. Z Berg’s vocals were especially impressive, as she nailed every note.
When the band launched into their single, “I’m In Love With My Life,” they set the tone perfectly for the evening.
Up next were The Mowgli’s. I will openly admit they were the one act I was unfamiliar with at the beginning of the night, but judging by the crowd’s reaction to them, and how many people were singing along to their lyrics, I was in the extreme minority.
Musically, The Mowgli’s fall into an interesting place where modern folk meets pop punk. At their core, they have folk aesthetics, but their instruments are plugged in, and their songs occasionally feature pop punk vocals. Lyrically they are overflowing with hope and optimism, so much so that they might be considered the musical equivalent of Prozac.
While some artists span the emotional gamut, The Mowgli’s are all highs, no lows. Based on the crowd’s reaction to their set, that was exactly what their fans came for.
Headlining the night was Lights. I’ve been a fan of Lights since I first saw her on Warped Tour back in 2009. Since then I’ve seen her somewhere in the neighborhood of half a dozen times, with each show being completely different from the previous one. On this night, even the scenery was different, as Lights had a series of screens set up that had illuminated borders that changed colors throughout her performance (lights for Lights!).
With an extensive catalog of songs to choose from, Lights broke her set up into three distinct parts. She started things off with some of her more synth heavy songs, moved to acoustic ballads, and closed everything out with a handful of songs that had more of a pop-rock vibe. This worked out really well, as it gave her the ability to cherry-pick songs from each of her albums, so fans were able to hear both the new music, and some longtime favorite album cuts such as “The Last Thing On Your Mind” from The Listening, and “Peace Sign” from Siberia.
When Lights moved from her synth heavy songs to her acoustic work a number of bags of Reese's peanut butter cups were thrown on stage. She joked that she'd bathe in them (we need that picture, Lights!), and engaged in some crowd interaction. This is something Lights really excels at, as she’s incredibly personable both on and off the stage. She treats everyone in the audience as a friend, even with her crowd growing exponentially over the years.
With her voice, her personality, and her music, everything about a Lights performance equates to happiness. After an 80 minute set, which closed with “Muscle Memory,” and an encore of “Banner,” this was confirmed, as from an onlooker’s perspective it seemed as though everyone left the venue feeling great.
* Final Verdict
The only way I can imagine someone not enjoying this tour is if they have some kind of strange aversion to happiness and good vibes. Ironically, attending one of the remaining tour dates would likely cure that condition.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.