Concert Review + Photos | Phosphorescent at The Firebird in St. Louis

All photos + words by Jason Gonulsen

Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent isn’t who you think he is, even when you’re certain you have him figured out.

There was the glowing vibe surrounding  “Song For Zula” last year, vaulting Houck into the category of one of those songwriters who hit gold — and for the right reasons: it’s a fabulous song. But “Song For Zula” came easy to most listeners because of its immediacy — the bass line, the words — everything fit perfectly. It was a huge wind from another world that hit you straight on, and it felt good.

As a performer, though, Houck likes and prefers other angles. He’s clearly the leader of Phosphoresecnt, a band that features seven touring members, all very focused, mechanical even. But while having a blue collar persona (yes, he even rolled up his sleeves), Houck also likes the occasional bell or whistle, and this is where things get interesting: he wears an I (heart) Miami hat for a couple of songs, he plays the lounge singer (with mixed results) during “Song For Zula,” he loops the hell out of “Wolves,” sparking something inside him, inside of us.

He explains that “My Dove, My Lamb” “has some length,” which I took as, “yes, I know a 10-minute solo acoustic version of an aching song isn’t everyone’s bag, but I’m going to do it anyway.”  His performance doesn’t ever take you exactly where you think it’s headed. 

Maybe that’s a good thing, but it’s also what makes a Phosphorescent show a tough experience: because Houck is challenging us for every minute we’re standing there. In end, he goes Crazy Horse on us, turning “At Death, A Proclomation” into an extended noise-jam, losing some, but gaining many more.

And maybe that’s just how Phosphorescent rolls: in and out of consciousness, but always within view.

Love is a burning thing.

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