Phantom Tails CD Release Show with Fort Wilson Riot and Reckless Ones at the Hexagon Bar

Phantom Tails perform their CD release show at the Hexagon Bar in Minneapolis, July 9, 2010. © Tony Nelson

If you were to see the four guys of Phantom Tails anywhere but on stage, you probably wouldn’t expect them to be rock stars. They have more of a grunge-hipster vibe, the kind that might be comfortable living out of a van. In that respect, the guys from Phantom Tails look nothing like what they sound like, because what Phantom Tails sounds like is solid, bone-rattling, hair-tossing, fist-pumping, whole-body-jamming rock ‘n’ roll.

That was exactly the kind of sound that was delivered Friday night at the group’s CD “unleash” show at the Hexagon Bar. After being prepped by the furious sounds of Fort Wilson Riot and the rockabilly awesomeness of Reckless Ones, the crowd was buzzed and ready for the headlining Phantom Tails.

The four-piece band, with members formerly of Plastic Chord, has by now gained a reputation for their psychedelic riffs and overall intensity. A live show from them feels like listening to music inside a kaleidoscope: a singular platform that forces you to concentrate your senses on the experience alone, where suddenly you’re seeing sound and hearing color. (Okay, maybe multicolored strobe lights help.)

Whatever they did, the audience went for it. “These guys are fucking awesome!” yelled a dude to his friend between songs, before getting back to maniacal dancing.

The entire set last night was pulled straight out of their new album, Sounds of the Hunchback Whale, and while I’d like to avoid using the word “trippy” to describe the feel, I kind of feel like it’s appropriate and justified by the genre. The eight-song dynamo is heavy on all the right things, but particularly standout notes are the electric keyboard styling of Sergio Hernandez and lead singer Orion Treon’s metallic voice. There’s just enough noise, just enough guitar, and just enough surreal effects that you can take your pick listening to it at 2 a.m. and either keep dancing or take a moment to sit on the curb with a cigarette. The playlist reads simultaneously like a requiem for the original psychedelic rock of the 60’s (if you listen super close, you’ll pick up the trickle-down influence of The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane) and an anthem for the gritty underside of the current music scene.

The audience at the Hex definitely felt like pledging something, at least, as Phantom Tails had barely ended their set when the crowd started cheering, screaming, and demanding one more song.

“You guys want us to play one more song?” Treon asked, smiling and tuning his guitar. “I mean, it really doesn’t take much coaxing…”

Rock stars? Maybe not conventional ones, but Phantom Tails definitely delivers.

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