It’s been seven years since Phantom Planet played a “proper show” in Los Angeles. But at the Lodge Room on Friday, May 10 (after a last-minute shift from Downtown’s Resident), it seemed like the band and Angelenos hadn’t missed a beat. The show, the second of a trio of Southern California reunion shows, drew a packed house that got to a see a band firing on all cylinders.
It’s been 16 years since their song “California” ended up as the theme to The O.C. and drew them more attention, and 11 years since their last album. It would have been forgivable to view it as a nostalgia show cash in, this time for the Los Angeles early 2000s alternative rock scene instead of the 1980s arena bands currently touring. But Phantom Planet, by all appearances, are back and with a creative energy that feels very in the present. The band reunited earlier in 2019 and recorded a new single. Since early May the group has been playing shows and is working on a new album, currently untitled.
It turns out that Phantom Planet is a band best experienced live. The set opened with cheers as Phantom Planet unleashed “By the Bed,” which quickly had the crowd singing. The track’s steady build set the stage for the blistering drums and heavy guitar riffs that made up the rest of the 15-song show. Another early song, “Geronimo,” added a hardcore element. Then a searing rendition of “Always On My Mind,” “1st Things 1st” and clear crowd favorite “Knowitall” followed later.
One thing that was immediately clear in Phantom Planet’s Lodge Room show, and something that would be echoed when they played the We Rise festival later that month in Donwtown L.A., was that as intense as the band could play, there is a humility and openness to the group when performing live. The members joked with each other, chatted casually to the crowd, and regularly engaged the audience, whether to choose a song (“Lonely Day” beat out “Ship Lost at Sea”) or get them to collectively sing some notes.
The other big sign that Phantom Planet wasn’t just into doing a nostalgia-driven reunion came two-thirds of the way through the first set, when the band played the first single off their new album, “Balisong.” The audience seemed pretty familiar with it, cheering when it kicked in and joining in to sing along with the words. The bass-heavy track had an evil edge to it that felt fresh, like an evolution of the sound the band had developed over two decades.
“I can’t tell you how much this means to us that you could come, thank you so much,” Greenwald said as the song died down.
The energy of the show was really summed up in the last track: “Big Brat.” After the second chorus, Greenwald had the crowd quiet. He asked, promising that he hadn’t put on that much weight in the years since their last show, if they could carry him from the stage to the bar on the other side of the Lodge Room. With some cheers in response, he then asked everyone to start humming, quietly. Like a maestro, Greenwald leapt onto the crowd with wild abandon, diving into the chorus. He was swiftly moved to the bar, where he triumphantly stood up, somehow with a drink in hand. He knocked it back and led the audience into shouts of “Stand back!”
Phantom Planet’s fifth studio album is due out later this year.