The Upstate Beat: Phantogram returns home Saturday for DJ set at PearlPalooza

Sarah Barthel and Joshua Carter of Phantogram.

Sarah Barthel and Joshua Carter of Phantogram.

Fourteen years ago, I wrote a cover story for “Metroland,” the now-defunct Capital Region alternative newsweekly, about Charlie Everywhere, a little-known music group from Greenwich. The duo’s members — Sarah Barthel and Joshua Carter — were living in a downtown Saratoga Springs apartment and making dreamy electronic pop music over Carter’s glitchy hip-hop beats. The pair had performed a few gigs at Saratoga’s King’s Tavern and local VFW halls.

At the time, Barthel and Carter — friends since junior high school — had just recorded an album in a barn at Carter’s family’s house among the farm fields of Easton. The album contained an entrancing song called “Mouthful of Diamonds.” Several years later, I heard it playing in the dressing room at a Gap.

By that point, the duo had signed to Barsuk Records, released their debut album, “Eyelid Movies,” and changed their name to Phantogram. They soon became one of the biggest musical acts to ever emerge from the Capital Region, playing major festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo while collaborating with major stars like rapper Big Boi and pop singer Miley Cyrus. Their modernistic synth-pop songs have been featured in movie soundtracks, video games and Gillette razor commercials.

It’s a big deal when Phantogram return to the area, as they do on Saturday to headline PearlPalooza, downtown Albany’s free, all-ages music festival, which takes place on North Pearl Street near Sheridan Avenue.

One thing to keep in mind: this is billed as a DJ set, as opposed to a live performance. On past tours, Barthel and Carter augmented their sound with drummer Chris Carhart and keyboardist Nick Shelestak. Instead of a band playing, this time, the duo will spin a mix of their recorded songs along with tunes they like for a special DJ set. 

PearlPalooza kicks off with a street-wide, all-levels yoga class at 11 a.m. BattleaXXX, an awesome and hilarious trio of hard-rocking women from Albany — AC/DC meets Zappa — play at noon followed by alt-rock solo act Precious Metals from Troy, genre-blending Arizona singer-songwriter the Kaleidoscope Kid, and Los Angeles rock quartet Whole Damn Mess.

Outlaw Festival Returns to SPAC

There are several guarantees at Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival, which returns to Saratoga Performing Arts Center this Sunday at 3:25 p.m.

Willie will bring his beat-up Martin guitar named Trigger, which has been on tour with the country music icon since 1969. He’ll open with his signature tune, “Whiskey River” and follow with classics like “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “On the Road Again” and “You Were Always on My Mind.” He won’t sing every tune; at 89 years old, his voice can’t take it. But he’ll sing enough.

There will be an impeccable slate of opening acts: this time, Billy Strings, The Avett Brothers, Brittney Spencer and Larkin Poe. The festival’s Outlaw Village will feature vendors selling everything from tie-dyes to t-shirts for Willie’s Reserve: Nelson’s brand of cannabis grown by independent farmers. And at some point during the evening, you’ll think “I’m so lucky to see Willie Nelson while I still have the chance.”

The Week Ahead

— Modern guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque leads a superstar funk group, His Funk Brothers, at Caffe Lena tonight, deftly combining the sounds of funk, world music and jazz to create a sound of their own. 7 p.m.

— West Coast indie folk band Vetiver journey to the Hangar on the Hudson (675 River St, Troy) on Friday at 8 p.m.

— The original shock-rocker Alice Cooper brings his enjoyable B-movie theatrics, live boa constrictor and always thrilling hard rock antics to the Palace Theater (19 Clinton Ave., Albany) on Friday at 8 p.m.

— Long-running jazz fusion outfit Spyro Gyra, one of the most commercially successful pop-jazz groups, fills the historic Cohoes Music Hall (58 Remsen St., Cohoes) with groovy jazz sounds on Fridau with the Brian Patneaude Quartet opening. 8 p.m.

Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Life and Arts

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