Formerly known as “the band with the guy from ‘Rushmore,’ ” Phantom Planet packed Irving Plaza Friday night with fervent young fans – mostly of the female persuasion.
Although “the guy from ‘Rushmore,’ ” drummer Jason Schwartzman, left to pursue his acting career, the ladies still had something to scream about. Lead singer/guitarist Alex Greenwald, a former Gap model clad in torn, skintight jeans, was an instant heartthrob. It also didn’t hurt that guitarists Jacques Brautbar and Darren Robinson, bassist Sam Farrar and new drummer Jeff Conrad were easy on the eyes.
“Hello New York!” Greenwald greeted the enthusiastic audience as the group delved into “Knowitall,” “Making a Killing,” “1st Things 1st” and “Badd Business,” all from Phantom Planet, which came out in January. The new tunes are significantly different from those on the band’s previous albums, as Phantom Planet have unapologetically traded in their sunny, sing-along pop anthems for snotty Strokes-style garage rock.
The crowd nearly swooned when Greenwald dedicated “Always on My Mind,” from 2002’s The Guest, to “all the ladies in the audience.” When he stepped off the stage and attempted to crowd-surf while singing, fans unabashedly groped his tiny frame. After Greenwald was rescued by security, Phantom Planet ended their set with “Big Brat,” the first single from their new album. Midway through, Greenwald climbed the platform next to the stage and asked the audience, “Will you catch me?” When he let himself fall backwards into the sea of people, they gladly obliged. Greenwald gave a sly smile as he apologized for “clunking a few heads” and finished the rest of the song.
After several minutes of earsplitting, nonstop shrieks, the band slowly straggled back onto the stage for the encore. Brautbar explained, “We’re going to need some audience participation for this next song. Even the hipsters in the back who might be too cool – just let it go.” And everyone did let loose when the quintet broke into their breakthrough track, “California,” a catchy, feel-good homage to their home state and the theme song to Fox’s “The O.C.”
The fivesome closed the night with the crowd-pleasing “All Over Again,” featuring a rowdy drum solo by newcomer Conrad, who easily meshed with the rest of the band. It wasn’t long before Farrar and Greenwald joined in, equipped with their own set of drumsticks. Following the trio’s crazed bout of furious drumming, Greenwald returned to his mic for the finale, in which he frantically chanted lines that summed up the events of the night: “You are crowding me in/ I want to get out/ This is the end/ All over again.” Phantom Planet then departed the stage, leaving the screaming crowd wanting more.