Phantogram

Nearly a decade ago, Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter were just friends from middle school living back in their hometown of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., after previous music and art aspirations dissolved.

Having become disillusioned with her art degree from Champlain College in Vermont, Barthel returned home, where she reconnected with Carter after the guitarist left his brother's band in New York City and came home to work on solo material between server shifts in the tourist-rich town.

Carter began showing Barthel his hip-hop- and electronic-inspired instrumentals for feedback, but when he heard his longtime friend sing improvised lyrics over his beats for the first time, he asked if she would like to collaborate.

"... (I)t turns out she was super-good at singing and playing piano," Carter told USA Today in a recent interview.

In a barn on Carter's family farm surrounded by the scenic views of Saratoga Springs, 200 miles outside of New York City, Phantogram was born, producing ethereal trip-hop.

The duo's 2009 debut, "Eyelid Movies," rose to No. 7 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart behind the singles "Mouthful of Diamonds" and "When I'm Small."

The 2011 EP "Nightlife" followed in success with the singles "Don't Move" and "As Far As I Can See," propelling it to the No. 1 slot on the Heatseekers chart.

February's LP "Voices," energized by singles "Fall In Love" and "Black Out Days," has become the pair's most commercially and critically successful recording yet, soaring to No. 11 on the Billboard 200 in a matter of months and garnering press attention for the group.

Phantogram will perform Thursday at the Music Farm, 32 Ann St., with Bad Things. Tickets are $20-$23 and are available online at Ticketfly.com or at the Music Farm box office. Doors open at 8 p.m. with the show starting at 9 p.m.

Call 577-6989 or go to www.musicfarm.com for more.

Fastball

Fastball's story is the kind that inspires so many to hang on to their dream, or maybe even to start pursuing it.

In 1995, the indie pop trio was new to its Austin club scene but gained support quickly from local fans. So much so that Hollywood Records signed the group and released its debut, "Make Your Mama Proud," just one year later.

But the climb to the top is rarely that easy, and the album suffered poor critical reviews and puny sales.

Lead singer and songwriter Tony Scalzo continued working nights at a bagel shop to make ends meet, he and his bandmates uncertain of whether they should keep going.

Hollywood Records gave them a second chance, and the band recorded "All the Pain Money Can Buy" in 1998.

A song Scalzo wrote about a news article he read in which an elderly Texas couple, the wife with Alzheimer's and the husband recovering from a recent brain surgery, left for a nearby festival only to be found in a ravine in Hot Springs, Ark., dead in their car together. He called the song "The Way" and says he pictures them "taking off to have fun, like they did when they first met."

"The Way" struck a chord with the nation and became an overnight hit, igniting the record's sales to 1 million in less than six months and topping the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart for nearly two months.

Scalzo quit his bagel job, and the band has made three albums since. He released a solo album last year while Fastball prepares to finish its latest release.

Fastball will perform Friday at The Windjammer, 1008 Ocean Blvd., with Matt Mackelcan. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 the day of the show, and are available at the door or online at The-Windjammer.com. Doors open at 9 p.m. with the show starting at 10 p.m.

Call 886-8596 or go to the venue's website.

Keller Williams

Anyone who has ever heard Keller Williams play knows that words can do little to describe his one-man orchestra; it's something you have to see for yourself.

Whether you want to call him a guitar genius or just a well-practiced worker of his trade, the one constant in any description of Williams is that he is unlike any other artist.

Even though his babyface and shaggy, college-bro hair might suggest otherwise, Williams is actually a veteran of the jam and bluegrass circuit, having been an active musician within it for more than 20 years.

The self-taught guitarist began his career in the late '80s around his native Fredericksburg, Va. He soon joined The String Cheese Incident, Larry Keel, Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman, and other revolutionizing jam and bluegrass acts of the early '90s on the road.

Despite never having any major commercial breakthrough, Williams has released nearly 20 albums, not including his work with side projects and other artists.

Keller Williams will perform Saturday at The Windjammer, 1008 Ocean Blvd. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 the day of the show, and are available at the door or online at The-Windjammer.com. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Call 886-8596 for more.