Before I saw PHOX last Sunday at the Crocodile in Seattle, I’d never heard the name. And now? Now I want to hear PHOX all the time: popping up in every romantic or heartfelt movie soundtrack, setting the ambiance of every café I frequent, playing softly somewhere nearby each time some new guy sweeps me off my feet.
PHOX epitomizes understated perfection. At first, seeing seven people on stage, I worried that the sound might be too muddy, too many parts occurring at once. Not the case. Each member contributed such thoughtfully arranged parts with such care and varied dynamics.
Honestly, it’s a wonder to me that they aren’t bigger than they are.
Front woman Monica Martin – so cute with her almost-awkward banter and quirky qualifying phrases – has such a classically beautiful, rich voice. It melted into the room and filled every crevice and gap (not that many existed), washing over the audience until we felt transported to another dimension: a world of beauty, sadness, and tenderness created inside each song.
“Blue and White,” which I certainly hope to see on their next album, captured my heart the most. The slow and somber instrumental beginning drew me in, making my heart ache and chills run up my arms, and I couldn’t help but close my eyes to soak in the heartbreaking emotion behind the words: “I belong to me alone.”
Keyboardist Matteo Roberts also stood out , playing tasteful parts that sometimes flowed underneath the core of the song, but then, at the most appropriate moments, stole the focus even if only for a few measures with impeccably crafted riffs.
Really, though, it’s hard to pick favorites: each member plays so well and all are so in tune with each other. Simply put, PHOX is absolutely phenomenal.
Trails and Ways, an Oakland four piece currently on tour with PHOX, also played a killer set that night, bringing a funkier sound to the Crocodile. Most notably, everyone sang so on key and in tune with each other, even singing perfect unison lines, which I often think to be harder than harmonizing. And, beyond that, everybody sang, and not just backup vocals. This is an impressive group of multi-talented musicians.
Matt Bishop of Hey Marseilles opened the night with a solo acoustic set, and I would certainly pay to see him play any time. He sings in a way that stands apart from other vocalists, something I can only describe by saying that his voice is truly an instrument that he has practiced, honed, and now wields the same way the rest of us play keyboard or guitar. He has mastered his voice, and it rises and falls, lulls and excites upon his command. He’s a pleasure to watch.
(In addition to contributing to NadaMucho.com, Adrienne publishes a blog called Reaching Notoriety. The photo at the top of this article is by Jim Toohey from Phox’s performance at the Capitol Hill Block Party last year.)