While some bands took to the road in between the first and second weekends of ACL Fest, Phoenix went back to school. The French dance rock band played a secret show at Anderson High School in Northwest Austin on Monday, just one night after packing the Bud Light stage at Zilker Park. Monday’s secret set was filmed for an upcoming seventh season episode of PBS’ “Live From the Artists Den” series, which features artists performing in non-traditional and often historic settings.
Those lucky enough to attend the invitation-only taping, including many high schoolers, lined up around the Anderson campus before doors opened at 6:30 p.m. Promoters for the show said the campus location, inspired by Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video, was the band’s idea. As Phoenix lead singer Thomas Mars explained toward the end of the set, the band believes it’s important for kids to see rock shows before they reach the magic age of 21 required for entry to many clubs.
Youth was in no short supply in the school gym, with an eager crowd that roared at the slightest mention of the word “Anderson.” (At least one spirited student shouted “Westlake sucks” in response to a greeting from Mars.)
As for the concert itself, the setlist was identical to the one the band tore through the previous night at ACL Fest. The dazzling light show was understandably downgraded for the venue, but the sheer size of the band’s sound remained deafening. Mars’ understated persona played effectively in the intimate gym, which allowed for more crowd work. When soon as the familiar synths of “1901” sounded, the singer invited the crowd’s front rows up on stage to dance. In the case of some eager fans, it was also an invitation to touch Mars’ face.
After a reprise of opening number “Entertainment,” Phoenix bid Anderson High adieu around 9. Good thing, too, because it was a school night.