Review: Phoenix turns Live 105’s BFD kaleidoscopic

Phoenix, Thomas Mars

Photos: Alessio Neri

MOUNTAIN VIEW — Thomas Mars and Phoenix brought their traveling Italian disco show to radio station Live 105’s BFD festival at the Shoreline Amphitheatre Saturday. The Parisians, the final of 25 acts to perform at the annual radio station start of summer show, played three songs off Ti Amo, their newest album that had been released the day before.

Phoenix performed on an LED dancefloor that was reflected back to the crowd by a mirror nearly the size of the stage itself.  At times, the floor swirled with colors and “lights” like a true disco. At other times it played the role of virtual reality tool, making it look as though the band played atop a tropical island (on “Lisztomania”) or descending down a deep elevator shaft. The amount of thought that went into the stage production must have been significant; for the mirror to project to the crowd correctly, the imagery on the actual LED screen/floor had to be reversed. At times, strobes and lasers played significant roles, bouncing off the mirrors to create prisms. It was if if the concert was taking place inside a kaleidoscope.

Mars and the band played a very electronic dance-heavy set that featured, besides the new material, many songs off of 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. “Girlfriend,” “1901,” “Lisztomania” and “Lasso” got the loudest fan reactions.

“Trying To Be Cool” off 2014’s Bankrupt!, showed off the band’s guitar-driven hooks. “If I Ever Feel Better” was another crowdpleaser, with a guitar break-down mid-song.

Mars, who wasn’t as talkative on this night, focused on squeezing as many songs as possible into the Phoenix’s hour-long set. The band opened with the new album’s rambunctious title track before diverting into an inauspicious start when, on the second song, a keyboard or synth malfunctioned. Mars and guitarist Christian Mazzalai quickly improvised, performing “Countdown” by themselves, with Mars climbing into the crowd. Other new tracks performed were “J-Boy” and “Role Model.” Before the latter, Mars told a story about his first time visiting the Bay Area in 1994, when he was 14, and ending up in “scary” East Palo Alto. Phoenix finished out its set with their biggest commercial hit, “1901.”

Glasgow’s Franz Ferdinand brought some energetic dance-punk to BFD. Frontman Alex Kapranos, who’s shouldering a bigger load because guitarist Nick McCarthy is on hiatus, brought the “cool” factor to the festival. Opening with “The Dark Of The Matinée,” from the the band’s self-titled debut, Kapranos was all scissor kicks and expressive dance moves; his bright red shoes and leopard print jacket bring the always in motion. “Do You Want To” was the evening’s first wake-up call to many of the people with seated tickets (of which there actually wasn’t that many, but that’s a separate story). That Kapranos was able to get attendees up close to sing the “Lucky lucky” refrain in the song was a huge accomplishment.  The band also played two newer tracks, “Paper Cages” and “Tuck & Jim.”

Franz Ferdinand was tight with catchy hooks and solid bass lines provided by Bob Hardy. When newcomers Dino Bardot and Julian Corrie joined Kapranos on guitars, the band was at its most cohesive.  Franz Ferdinand ended its too-short set with a three-fisted punch of “Ulysses,” “Take Me Out” and “This Fire.”

Cold War Kids covered a good range of their material, including “Hang Me Up To Dry” and “We Used to Vacation,” from their first album, Robbers & Cowards. The band also played new bluesy, psychedelic song “Love is Mystical,” with a big catchy chorus. Singer Nathan Willet mentioned that he heard the song on the radio on the drive over to Shoreline. He also took a moment to encourage immigrants coming to the U.S. before launching into “Mexican Dogs.”

Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness easily won the most engaging frontman award. McMahon, formerly of Jack’s Mannequin and Something Corporate, worked the stage, sang from atop his baby grand piano and casually strolled down the aisles to the law, passing to gun hugs, stage hands, take photos and even kiss and serenade a baby—all mid-song. When McMahon sat down and played the piano, he showed he’s got chops, especially on “Island Radio,” from the band’s new album, Zombies on Broadway.

Other highlights:

  • Oakland’s SWMRS, fresh off a rousing BottleRock performance, were pure energy earlier in the day. Singer-guitarist Cole Becker incited to move like it had no business doing for such an early time slot.
  • WATERS, formerly from the Bay Area, were playing their third consecutive BFD and struck a chord with new track “Molly is a Babe,” a power-pop anthem with catchy harmonies.
  • Oakland artist Birthday, played a set of lo-fi bedroom electronica ranging from upbeat dream-pop to down-tempo melancholia. It helped that he was able to hit the high notes.

  • The set by Berkeley brothers Breandain and Christopher Langlois of Nine Pound Shadow featured some beautiful psychedelic folk with harmonies that sounded like they could have been from the ’60s.
  • The combination of minimalistic sound and soaring vocals made Philadelphia’s Marian Hill an early highlight. Singer Samantha Gongol’s vocals on “Whisky” and “One Time” were sultry and airy. Jeremy Lloyd and touring saxophonist Steve Davit had their own moments to shine,  performing some hip-hop, down-tempo breaks.
  • LP, clad in black, played a ukulele while whistling over her electronic dance songs. Her band blended rhythm seamlessly, creating a full, lush sound. She also added some hip-hop beats.
  • Powers was the only band to play in the EDM DJ tent. Performing against Taking Back Sunday, Powers packed their space to the gills. Mike Del Rio and Crista Ru layered Euro pop over a dance base, and brought their set home with “Classic,” The Knocks’ song on which they guest.

Follow writer Rachel Goodman at and photography editor Alessio Neri at and

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