It’s not often that a buzzed-about band will call it quits and embark on a farewell tour after only one album. But it seems that the small band from the 12,000-strong town of Baraboo, WI, have bigger things in mind than the music of their debut album that they've furiously toured on for the last two years. For their devoted fans and those just getting on board the PHOX train, this was the ideal send-off, complete with witty banter, impromptu covers, and a charming performance from singer Monica Martin that was a sign of things to come.
In a humorous start, the band had the crowd remove their hats for the national anthem (in reality, a hilarious rendition of the 20th Century Fox intro played on the recorder). But once the show was rolling, PHOX commanded the crowd’s full attention. The band was arranged in a circular pattern on stage lined by Christmas lights, and Martin took center stage, which for better or worse gave the impression that the show was about Martin first and foremost. However, her serene and subdued vocals paired with the band’s Paul Simon-like melodies on songs like “Kingfisher” (aided by two members of opening band Cuddle Magic) were relaxing.
Of course, this was a farewell show, but you'd never know it from how laid back and high-spirited the band seemed to be that night. Not a song went by without some bantering between band members, and on multiple occasions, the band broke out impromptu covers like Kansas’s “Carry On Wayward Son”, Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So”, and Vulfpeck’s “Christmas in LA” through to the first chorus, where the songs ultimately broke down once PHOX remembered they still had their own songs to play. And in what was a precursor of what’s still to come from her, Martin played two solo songs on her guitar (including one as-of-yet untitled song) and received some boisterous applause from the crowd.
Although the band is calling it quits for now after just one album, there is still a lot for fans to be excited about, especially Martin’s future musical career that seems to be more aspirational than precious indie-folk music. But the quirky band from Baraboo gained a strong following because of their captivating music, so it’s sad to see them go. For those that missed out, there’s always the lucrative casino tour a few decades from now.
Opening for PHOX was Brooklyn band Cuddle Magic, a band inspired by music from Ghana and a mashup of popular genres. The unique six-piece band opted to substitute a bass clarinet in place of a bass guitar, giving their melodies a unique drive underpinning the synths, acoustic guitar, and selection of other brass instruments. The highlight of the set was an in-the-pit acoustic performance of “Round and Round”, where the band dazzled the crowd with lush three-part harmonies. Their latest album, Ashes/Axis, was released on January 27 through Northern Spy Records.