Fitz and the Tantrums, Saints of Valory, Ivy Levan Fitzgerald's July 11, 2013
Tough to say if the temperature was hotter inside or outside Fitzgerald's on Thursday night. While it was a typically steamy July evening out on White Oak Boulevard, it was just as humid indoors, where a sellout crowd packed into the old club's upstairs room for the indie soul-pop band Fitz and the Tantrums -- possibly the most appropriately named group to ever play the joint.
If fans weren't already sweating by the time opening act Ivy Levan hit the stage, their collective pulse certainly quickened in a hurry. The slinky chanteuse showed off some enticing moves as she belted out an intriguing mix of noirish pop and rockabilly-infused R&B, backed by a band clad in black ski masks.
The standup bass provided a swingin' backbeat, but there was more than a little hip-hop attitude in the mix on songs like "Money" from her debut EP, Introducing the Dame. Until a proper genre name can be dreamed up for the music she's making, "fierce" is about the best descriptor we've got. Maybe "sexy."
Up next, Austin's Saints of Valory proved a little easier to classify. The band pumped out radio-friendly alterna-pop in the vein of Coldplay, led by Chris Martin soundalike bassist/vocalist Gavin Jasper. Their set was extraordinarily polished for a group that's been together for less than three years, full of big hooks primed for arenas.
They've got a ways to go until they get there, but by the time the Saints capped off their performance with a band-wide drum orgy, the slightly skeptical audience seemed ready to hear more from them. Seems like only a matter of time before they crack the rotation on the Buzz.
Faces in the capacity crowd lit up brighter than the blinding, heart-shaped LED backdrop when Fitz and the Tantrums finally took the stage, however. The soul-pop sextet arrived armed with a full complement of feel-good summer jams -- ideally suited for a hot night on the town.
Though their music is heavily informed by classic Motown hits, it wouldn't be quite accurate to call Fitz and the gang retro revivalists. Synth-driven indie-pop remains the backbone of their sound, but liberal doses of church organ and baritone sax added a soulful groove to the proceedings that had fans testifying throughout. At their uptempo best, the group manages to deftly split the difference between Matt and Kim and Ike and Tina.
Following the example set by tambourine-bashin' counterpoint vocalist Noelle Scaggs, the tightly packed crowd danced joyously in what little space they could manage to songs like "Don't Gotta Work it Out" from the group's 2010 debut, Pickin' Up the Pieces. The sparkling effervescence of new tracks like "Break the Walls" couldn't help but keep fans' hands in the air as the entire room was blinkered by the group's dazzling LED battery.
The relatively dull vocals and perfunctory lyrics from front man Michael Fitzpatrick were a bit of a weak point for the show, but the obvious glee from everyone else onstage -- particularly Scaggs -- made it hard to care much. Despite the sauna-like atmosphere inside the club, the crowd was more than content to boogie down to the band's simple, breezy tunes without the hassle of forging a deep, emotional connection with what they were hearing.
Halfway through Fitz's cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," which was easily the happiest version of the song I'm ever likely to hear, I decided to just put the notebook away and enjoy myself. Hey, it's summer! Fitz and the Tantrums seemed determined to prove that a good party beats art-rock any day, especially a weekday. And as the song goes, who am I to disagree?
Personal Bias: Wasn't exactly looking forward to work this morning.
The Crowd: Upbeat.
Overheard In the Crowd: "She asked me if I peed right there. Right there!"
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Random Notebook Dump Was this the first time that a band with "Fitz" in its name played Fitz?