Houston Is Officially Smitten With Tune-Yards
Pied piper Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards
Photos by Jack Gorman (except indicated)
Tune-Yards, Son Lux Fitzgerald's April 10, 2015
If there's something Tune-Yards learned about Houston music fans Friday night at Fitz, it's this: if you win our love once, we're yours forever.
At least, that may have been the circumstance, since the building was packed shoulder to shimmying shoulder for the band's return to Houston after a midsummer-afternoon slot on Free Press Summer Fest 2014. Nearly a year later, it would seem many who caught that stellar performance have learned the lyrics from the band's collective of albums and tabbed songs as "favorites." They've told friends, who are also now swooning over the band's bass and drum-loop-laden indie-pop, it would seem.
At least there was enough love to completely pack the main floor and balcony of Fitzgerald's with adoration, the kind that included extended applause after every song, the sort that had front woman Merrill Garbus uttering "you're making a girl blush up here" by the end of the night.
Of course, there's no way to know for sure this is how Tune-Yards' avid Houston following developed. Could have just happened the old-fashioned way, with new fans catching on to the act by reading blogs and listening to Pandora. But, there may be a way to test the theory, since opener Son Lux is returning to Houston in July.
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
The openers were playing Houston for the first time, according to Ryan Lott. He and bandmates Rafiq Bhatia (guitar) and Ian Chang (drums) weren't necessarily playing for a room full of folks who'd never heard their post-rock offerings before -- many came specifically for Son Lux, who announced a new album in June and shared a cut from it. Midway through the swift set, one blessedly appreciative listener spoke for the whole room when she shouted between songs, "Great job, everybody!" A smile peeled across Lott's face and that was the moment: Son Lux had won Houston's enduring love.
The guess here is Son Lux's promised return to Houston in a few months as a headliner will be as well attended as this inaugural visit and will include even newer fans on the strength of songs like "Easy," "Change is Everything" -- from the new album -- and the show-closer, "Lost It To Trying," whose live performance specifically showed how tight the band is. With heavier beats, some excellent guitar work and Lott's pleading vocals, it was one of the best offerings of the night.
Pity anyone arriving late between sets, since the crowd molded itself into a unified body that could scarcely use another appendage by that point. Possessors of small bladders and smoking habits that left the main floor between acts had virtually no chance to stand front and center once Garbus and bandmate bassist Nate Brenner hit the stage, promptly at 10:15 p.m. as advertised.
They wasted no time getting right into it, either. Way up front on the set list was "Gangsta," to the crowd's delight. The tune is one of the band's better-known, evidenced by the near-entirety of the room mimicking the berserker ambulance-siren vocals that open the song.
The live act is ebullient and infectious, even when the songs are brutally honest and dark. Backing vocalists Moira Smiley and Haley Dekle and percussionist Dani Markham turned songs like "Sink-O," with its "Peace, peace and love" chant, into hand-clapping recess time on the playground. No small feat, since the rest of the song is a dust-to-dust rumination on sitting around waiting to die and having the earth literally swallow you whole.
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"Wait For a Minute" was a highlight, and it too concerns depression. It's also one of the songs that takes the tempo down a few notches to let Garbus' incredible voice take command. Unlike a host of singers from bands with electronic backing -- and maybe because the band's chosen technology is less focused on keys than tribal drumbeats -- her voice booms. She can bring it down to a cool sensuality for lines like "I need you to press me down before my body flies away from me" ("Powa") and crank it up for the audaciously catchy "Water Fountain," a crowd favorite. Other standouts were "Real Thing" and "Bizness," which both got big reactions at their respective bookends.
The love. Houston showed it and, in the end, it was returned.
"I can't tell you what this means to us," Garbus said to the smitten, cheering crowd before leaving. "This is our last club show for a long time, and it's a great way to end them."
Personal Bias: Big fan of Tune-Yards. It's obvious that Garbus and Brenner hear sounds in a way many don't. The cacophony of everyday, waking world life that we try to shut out just to have some sanity is what they transform into the kind of music that reminds a person to soak in everything while you've got the chance. How could a music lover not love that?
The Crowd: Style points to the fellow wearing the midnight-blue shirt punctuated with golden bears, floral print shorts and mismatched argyle socks. Also, the lady with the black tights emblazoned with red lips and two different tennis shoes on. They weren't a couple, but here's hoping they somehow found their ways to one another to become a perfectly mismatched match.
The crowd was present, engaged, appreciative; in other words, the opposite of this:
Overhead In the Crowd: "Do I break up with somebody that I love to see if it works with somebody that I like?"
I'm going to go Willie D here and give you some advice, ma'am, particularly since you and your friends chose to stand in the audience and loudly discuss your double toil and trouble like Macbeth's witches while the rest of us were trying to watch a show. Select the one who will tell you to take your personal problems outside, to a therapist or to Maury. Anywhere where we who have come to hear the music won't have to hear about them.
Random Notebook Dump: Shout-out to Jackson for coming to shoot whatever awesome pics readers are viewing along with this writeup. There's not much sadder than someone whose luck and skills with photography are notoriously bad trying to figure out how to get at least one picture that isn't blurred. It's the happiest of moments when someone who knows what he or she is doing arrives to relieve you of the burdens of your own ignorance. I owe you a beer, my man.
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