Phosphorescent is a 7-piece band led by a rhinestone cowboy. It is the moniker for one Matthew Houck, who has been recording and performing (and presumably wearing tight pants and a cowboy hat) under the name since 2001. Houck visited The Sinclair with his troupe of musicians last night for a highly anticipated show that had been sold out for weeks, and they did not disappoint.
The band took the stage one after the other, giving a casual wave to the audience as they wound their way through the various flowers and sticks of burning incense before taking aim behind their instruments of choice. Two percussionists, a pair of keyboardists, a bassist and a lead guitarist formed a ring around Houck before launching into some lo-fi, indie folk rock with a not-so-subtle dousing of country. Phosphorescent has the manpower to create rich soundscapes, and indeed each instrumentalist supplemented the cross-genre latticework, purposefully and without vanity, always keeping an eye on the man in the center of the ring.
There’s no question of who’s running this show: Houck writes the songs, forefronts the stage, and flaunts a vocal style that differentiates Phosphorescent from many other alternative country/indie rock bands. He sings with a Tom Petty laze, and emanates a charming Springsteen hoarseness that makes his effort seem all the more authentic. And somewhere embedded within the music there’s a melancholic seductiveness that flows through the room, as if Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” is stuck in your head while Houck is delivering one of his unconventional vocal arpeggios and waggling his hat at you during a steel guitar solo.
Phosphorescent played a satisfyingly complete set before all but Houck left the stage, giving the singer space to personally swoon his audience. His mini-set was highlighted by the song “Wolves,” a simple piece that culminated in Houck perpetually looping his vocals so that he could harmonize with himself until the resulting cacophony resembled a vociferous pack of; yeah you guessed it, wolves.
After thunderous applause, the band joined Houck back onstage for a two-song encore. Untimely technical problems cut the sound from the vocalist’s guitar, but Phosphorescent handled the situation seamlessly and ended the show with one of the most powerful jams this observer has ever experienced—just one of those riffs that you never wanted to end. But alas, as with all good things, end it did. But you can be sure; this same observer will attend Phosphorescent’s next Boston performance, if for no other reason than to watch Houck ride off into the sunset.