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Image Credit: Anna Webber/WireImage.comPhoenix saved the best part of their concert at Madison Square Garden last night for the very end of the final encore. That was when the band’s French frères, Daft Punk, showed up out of nowhere and drove the already-excited crowd into utter frenzy. Clad in their signature robot helmets, the reclusive duo stood silently on stage at a console and began unleashing serious beats. These soon resolved into a version of “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” with Phoenix crunching gamely along, then a tantalizing snippet of “Around the World.” Finally, Daft Punk hung around and added some space-age laser synth buzz to “1901,” Phoenix’s last song of the night. According to Stereogum, it was the first time Daft Punk has performed in public since 2007. That, folks, is how you do a proper encore. (Check out shaky YouTube video of the whole thing at Pitchfork.)

By bringing out Daft Punk, Phoenix tacked on a OMG-awesome flourish to what had already been a very satisfying concert. It’s impressive that the band was able to fill a venue as big as the Garden and seem at home in that cavernous space. At the start of 2009, Phoenix was still best known to Francophiles, MP3-blog readers, and people who pay close attention to the music in commercials. Now they are one of the biggest indie rock acts going. In fact, even that understates the case. Phoenix is still technically “indie” in that Glassnote Records, a boutique independent label, releases their albums in the U.S. — but to see 20,000 dazzled young fans pumping their fists in the air and mouthing every word to anthems like “Lisztomania” and “Run Run Run” last night was to know that these guys have grown into real, live arena rock stars. Don’t be surprised if they’re selling out even huger venues in another year or two.

Earlier in the night, Phoenix’s opening acts represented two very different poles of the indie globe. First up were Wavves with a quick and dirty 15-minute set while the venue was still less than a quarter full. The trio specializes in disheveled pop-punk, where the whole point is to look like they barely bothered rehearsing. “You see me, I don’t care,” lead singer Nathan Williams snarled over and over in opening number “To the Dregs.” There were some sticky melodies lurking under all that attitude, but the crowd didn’t seem to care much, either.

Wavves paled next to what followed, a characteristically virtuoso set from Dirty Projectors. The latter band brought the meticulous instrumental interplay from their albums to vivid life, filling the room with forceful vocal harmonies and fidgety guitar parts. (Shame on the audience for failing to dance to “Stillness is the Move,” though.) Dirty Projectors’ music is arty and weird, and it totally worked in this setting. They’ll probably never have the crossover pop appeal of a band like Phoenix, but kudos to the headliners for bringing them out on tour.

Were any of you at the Garden last night? Seeing Phoenix later in this tour? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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