Art Basel Indie Rock Night Plagued By Audio Problems, Late Start

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’m a huge supporter of Miami nightclub Grand Central: I’ve granted glowing reviews of three of its concerts in the past few months. But the club missed the boat for this past Thursday’s last-minute Art Basel spectacular with two of the hippest New York bands around: electronic rock group Phantogram and new wave-tinged chill-pop actTwin Shadow.

The free event was sponsored by Toyota as part of its Antics initiative – an attempt to hawk the latest in Toyota wares in the guise of small music festivals, gallery shows and other youth-targeted events. So the place was littered with representatives and props from our country’s least favorite manufacturer of imported cars: One automobile was converted into a unique photo booth; in another, a video game system was installed in the trunk. Toyota vendors circled the room offering free candy for no apparent reason (not complaining: SweeTarts are welcome at any club event).

The club swelled with people, more than other time I’ve visited Grand Central. Connected as it was with Art Basel, the show featured artists painting garbage cans in the back of the club, which was pretty cool. Everything about the show was nice except for the ostensible purpose of the night – the music. Phantogram didn’t take the stage until midnight, and Twin Shadow finally went on at 1:20 a.m. These times are a stretch even for a weekend, let alone a school night.

But the biggest disappointment from Thursday’s show was that after two hours of waiting, Phantogram’s set was diluted by audio problems, rendering it times unlistenable. The vocals sounded like mush half of the time, and the bowel-shaking bass was amped up so high it was positively pulverizing. An impressive act on record, Phantogram left me bored and frustrated as a live act.

Sound problems did not plague Twin Shadow’s impressive set, but I couldn’t stay for the entirety of it. Front man George Lewis Jr., who was raised in Miami, talked a lot between songs, which I normally enjoy. But on Thursday, his verbosity slowed down an already late-starting set; it was nearly 2 a.m., and I had only heard five songs. Unlike with Phantogram, what I did hear made me love Twin Shadow’s album, titled “Forget,” even more. The band sped up songs that were slower on the record and vice versa, and Lewis broke the wall between audience and performer by climbing into the crowd.

Discussing the lack of cool bands that come all the way down to South Florida, Lewis assured us that Twin Shadow would be back soon. I hope their next show here will be under less problematic conditions.