January 27th at Brighton Music Hall
By: Helen Hennessy
Going to a Phox show is kind of like existing in your favorite indie movie. Everyone – the band and crowd – is a little better looking than people are in real life, the music is simultaneously powerful and playful, and for approximately two hours you feel like everything is going to work out just fine.
The night started with a performance by the tender soft rock band Cuddle Magic. While their tunes were not exactly my style, I could still appreciate their experimental approach. The band utilised horns, woodwinds, acoustic guitars, along with digital instrumentation.This cool combination of technology is part of what I find so exciting about contemporary music. Some critics of new music will lament at the use of electric instruments, but if you are well read on the current scene, you will know that the majority of bands are like Cuddle Magic, and mix the old and the new to create original work. Cuddle Magic definitely falls into the category of “softboy” music that is coming out of Brooklyn right now. While I would rather see artists stand up for themselves a bit more than constantly lament their broken hearts, if tenderness is what you connect with, Cuddle Magic may be your new favorite band.
Once Phox took the stage, I could tell that this show would be different from the other times I have seen them live. Every member of the band radiated a new confidence not seen from them before, and this was especially true for the band’s frontwoman, Monica Martin. The previous times I have seen Phox, Monica was visibly nervous onstage–which did not retract from her talent in the slightest, but did create a more tentative energy. This time around, Monica came on smiling with her head up, and kept that vibe through the whole performance. Her voice was steady and strong, as she joked with the audience and laughed at her own minor mistakes. Her energy spread though out the crowd and made the show feel like a massive party with old friends.
One of the best parts of the show was Monica’s solo moment, in which she played a few new songs. I particularly enjoyed the second song she played, about a friend of hers who flirts with men by being mean to them. Hopefully I am not outing myself too much, but I think most people have felt the pain of not being able to express our feelings effectively, especially when potential romance is involved. Monica’s humorous expression of this dilemma made me feel less alone, one of the powers of great music.
The Phox standards like “1936”, “Slow Motion”, and “Evil” became massive sing-alongs, proving the crowd was populated by diehard fans. The comradery of an audience that harmonizes with the band is a feeling that is hard to replicate, and it is definitely not something that can be forced. Phox only has one full length album, and it was clear that this crowd had worn their copies out. Other highlights included a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, where the band joked about their Midwestern background (hotdish may have even been mentioned), and Monica ending the show by reminding the audience to “tip your bartenders and punch a nazi.”
Long story short, I have quite the soft spot for Phox–I have now written about them for three separate media outlets–so this show being part of their farewell tour made it extremely bittersweet. But as Chaucer once said “all good things must come to an end, and thankfully members of Phox have already started new side projects, so it’s all good.”