When a band becomes a fixture on local stages, you start to take them for granted.
The fate befalls even the most exciting musicians. Like a dream romance or a privileged job, eventually the situation settles into a comfortable rhythm where you come to think of greatness as the status quo. Maybe you even nitpick and complain about your blessing more than you appreciate it.
It’s especially easy to think of bands this way in the on-demand era. Of course they’ll be there to bang out sweet sounds for our enjoyment. The only question is whether we opt to show up.
Which brings me to Phantods. Although I’ve sung their praises countless times over the years, allow me to go all Joni Mitchell on you for a moment as I lament the indefinite hiatus of one of this city’s premier rock bands. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?
If Friday’s screening of Arbor Avenue Films’ intro-turned-obituary “Meet the Phantods” wasn’t enough to rekindle an ardent appreciation for this band, you better believe Saturday’s farewell show at Skully’s did the trick.
Gretchen King exhorted us to view this gig as more wake than funeral, and her ensemble provided ample ammunition for celebration. King in particular demonstrated stage presence that would have been unthinkable in the band’s earlier days — hands and body moving in cooperation with her considerable vocal powers. “I had this weird dream the other night that Maynard from Tool asked me to join a new band with him,” King said before the encore. It was just a dream, but whatever she does next will be worth hearing.
That said, it’s difficult to imagine her apart from the rest of Phantods. They played with passion and precision, their quirks still shining through after years of sonic refinement. The number of would-be hits was dumbfounding — so many songbird-sweet pop tunes delivered with a heft and aggression usually reserved for much uglier music. The old songs were uniformly great. The new songs were uniformly great. Bands either get better or get stale, and Phantods have never been better than they were Saturday.