The Canvas Waiting, Holy Fiction, Finnegan, The Shallows Fitzgerald's February 11, 2011
We're probably preaching to the choir, but were you at Fitzgerald's Friday? What a show... Oh, you were upstairs? Well, you missed out on a diverse consortium of musicians from around town that rocked our faces off. But don't worry; all the bands will play again, and soon.
First up were the Shallows, a Houston-based four piece with a gritty, bluesy feel. Put more succinctly, they sound like the White Stripes and the Black Keys had a sexy baby. Yes, seriously. Far too few people were there when the Shallows took the stage, but nearly three-quarters through their set, enough people showed up that their voices didn't go unheard.
Their music, which is available for a free download on the band's Bandcamp page, is an ideal mix of spacey rock and grungy blues. If it sounds like much of it was recorded in a church, it's because it was - Houston's Second Baptist Church, to be specific.
The pipe-organ keyboard effect, which was recorded on a real pipe organ but performed on a keyboard during live shows for obvious reasons, made it feel like we were watching an episode of Memphis Blues, and the singers' similar voices (though the backup vocalist's is coarser) blended together nicely.
These native twentysomethings are years beyond where they ought to be musically and are eager to book more shows, so we're looking forward to watching them progress, though we aren't sure how they can get much better.
Finnegan took the stage next, and before they were even finished with the sound check, the downstairs section of Fitz's was packed to the brim. While you might not have heard of or seen Finnegan yet, you're probably familiar with some of the band members. Darin and Taylor Lee of the Literary Greats, cellist Val Young and Sara Van Buskirk make up the nearly-too-talented group, which is why so much hype already surrounds them. And rightfully so.
Intricate harmonies and duet-style vocals, in which Taylor Lee and Buskirk seem to speak ever so delicately to one another, are backed by elaborate melodies that range from eclectic, upbeat indie-rock to slow, pleasant-sounding ballads, one of which is about life as a musician on the road, missing friends and family. Even if you've never been in a band, when you hear it, you can find a way to relate.
By the end of their set, Finnegan had the crowd wrapped around their collaborative finger. They asked the sound guy whether there was time for one more song and were denied, but boos and jeers from the crowd convinced him otherwise and Fitz's managed to keep its customers happy.
Finnegan told us their debut album will be out in March. Until then, the band plans to play plenty of shows and, if you become a fan of the group on Facebook, you can hear a few rough demos, too.
Holy Fiction took the stage next and had big shoes to fill, but would not be intimidated by Finnegan's impressive set. Instead, HF took the energy Finnegan had share with the crowd and built on it.
"We're Holy Fiction," said front man Evan Lecker as Holy Fiction took the stage. "And we're from the Republic of Texas."
The band's spacey key tones, upbeat and gritty guitar riffs and scratchy, trebly vocals. made an interesting sound, though we wouldn't want to guess a genre. This is one of those bands that is so melodic and easy to listen to, you only pay attention to the vocals and lead guitar... ...but without all the other instruments, it would be empty. The keys and violin play a bigger role than fans probably notice.
The headlining act, Austin's The Canvas Waiting, were by far the most underappreciated band of the night. They played their sensitive alt-rock to about the same number of people as the Shallows opened up for, which was a bummer.
Their sound is easy-listening, radio-friendly rock that straddles the line between pop and alternative, and is good enough to make you stop flipping through the stations if you were to hear it on the radio. Don't misinterpret us; it's not a bad thing. In fact, we think there's something to be said for bands that your parents wouldn't hate.
Personal Bias: Aftermath only recently heard of the Shallows and were happy to see that they had an upcoming show. We were even happier when we saw the other bands on the bill. Yee-haw, Houston.
Overheard in the Crowd:
Finnegan: "How much time we got left, Mr. Sound Man? Five minutes?"
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Crowd: "Five hours!!"
Random Notebook Dump: Did you know that, when using Twitter, if you make a reference to Bob Dylan, you'll get a mention from a Twitter account @ro_bot_dylan? Yeah, when we tweeted about Buskirk busting out the harmonica neck brace and how it would make Bob Dylan proud, we got a tweet from that account. Weird, huh?