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Phox Gain the Friday Audience’s Trust at Union Transfer

February 16th, 2015

Phox – Union Transfer – February 13, 2015

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It should be difficult for an audience to trust a band. There are reasons to be skeptical. Despite the usual assurances that band X is happy to be performing at venue Y and loves city Z, audience members ought to understand that touring is a grind. It can’t be the case that every show is the best show or that every city is the best city. Still, it’s an act of faith that keeps concertgoers going to shows, to see bands they love or those that intrigue them.

On Friday night at Union Transfer, Phox proved to be truly genuine. The six-member band from Baraboo, Wisc., walked onstage, illuminated by four marquee letters spelling their name. Lead singer Monica Martin stood in the center, surround by the band’s five male members. She nervously cracked her knuckles and fidgeted before diving into the first song, singing with natural confidence. Maudlin and mid-tempo, at first it seemed out of place, as the guitarist in a pink blazer failed his arms, imploring the drummer to play more aggressively, but it was also quintessential Phox: outwardly confident yet inwardly insecure. The songs ache.

Martin gestured to the significance of the night, Valentine’s Day eve. In her typical humorous yet painfully self-aware stage banter, she mentioned how the third song was about “homeboy walking away,” but circled back, saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day is what I’m trying to say.” And then, midway through the set, Phox made an unexpected decision. They stripped away the electric instruments, grabbed their acoustics, huddled around Martin and played songs just like they “did in the living room.” It was an intimate moment and hard to believe it was unscripted. Still, that was Phox. At another point in the show, they called up multiple friends and the opener, Field Report, to sing “You Are My Sunshine.” It was achingly cute and reminiscent of a Gap ad, but it would be wrong to think poorly of such a sincere moment. They earned the audience’s trust and, in doing so, gained their admiration and respect. —Jared Levy | @Playtonic