On a blistery cold February evening more akin to their native state, two Wisconsin-based bands, PHOX and Field Report, put on a warm and intimate show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. The members of PHOX all met while attending high school in Baraboo, Wisconsin, about an hour south of Madison, and recorded their 2014 self-titled album at Justin Vernon’s home studio in Eau Claire, WI. In the midst of a long tour, they have upcoming dates at Coachella, Sasquatch!, and Bonnaroo.
Field Report, an anagram of lead singer Chris Porterfield’s last name, was first to go on, marking the first time the bands shared a stage while sharing a label on Brooklyn-based Partisan Records. At times vulnerable and emotionally brooding, Porterfield’s voice resonated a weather resistance that came from years of being knocked down by life. “The body remembers what the mind forgets,” Porterfield tellingly exclaimed during their highlight song, “Home (Leave the Lights On).” For the rest of the set no one took their eyes off him.
Centered on Monica Martin’s sultry vocals, PHOX shined during their entertaining set. With a playful and self-deprecating openness between songs, Martin, 25, created an instant connection with the audience, at one point saying, “It’s gonna get sad, then really sad, then happy, then really happy. Just prepare your heart for that.” From the warm glow of wooden matinee signs, the talented band, featuring Zach Johnston (guitar/mandolin), Matt Holmen (guitar) Jason Krunnfusz (guitar/vocals), Matteo Roberts (keyboard), and Davey Roberts (drums), ran through their entire discography. Interestingly, Matteo and Zach composed the soundtrack of “The Dam Keeper”, an animated short-film that is up for an Oscar.
At times measured and controlled, the band’s sound gave Martin the chance to showcase her uniquely textured vocals at length, at one point gathering together with a ukulele, mandolin, and acoustic guitars, for a set of engaging stripped-down songs. Not to be pigeonholed in one style, they later reached energetic highs with two of their stronger songs, “Blue and White”, from their 2013 EP Confetti, and “Slow Motion”, the most popular song off their full-length album. PHOX, whose members range between 24-27 years old, will be a treat to keep up with as they progressively get a bigger following after this summer’s festival experience.
Photos by Aaron Glick (@aaronsglick)