Langhorne Slim at Fitzgerald's, 10/22/2013
Photos by Jim Bricker
Langhorne Slim & the Law Fitzgerald's October 22, 2013
On a cool early-autumn evening, Langhorne Slim and his band The Law brought Friday-night energy to a Tuesday-night performance, and while Fitzgerald's wasn't packed out, it was full of adoring fans new and old. At times you could hear a pin drop; others it was a barnstormer, but at all times it was the performance of the month and you most likely missed it.
The Pennsylvania foursome was on a mission to bring a good time to Houston Tuesday, and with great songs, humorous stories and the ability to keep a room captive for nearly two hours, they came through on their proclaimed promise. Langhorne Slim, lesser-known by his birth name Sean Scolnick, was on point with quips on life, love and everyday happenings, making the show feel at times more like an afternoon conversation at a coffee shop rather than a musical performance.
The show started much earlier than I figured, unfortunately forcing me to miss opener Johnny Fritz née Johnny Corndawg. I've seen him on a couple different occasions, and I love that dude. Hopefully he gave the Houston crowd who did make it out early a performance worthy of his ample songwriting skills. (Try Google or YouTube.)
Langhorne Slim came to stage unassumingly, the band taking their spots behind their respective instruments - the standard piano, drums, stand-up bass and acoustic guitar. While they've been a steady force on the same scene as The Avett Brothers, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Josh Ritter and Justin Townes Earle, Langhorne and the Law have stamped out quite a name for themselves over the past couple years. Now, with spots on popular late-night talk shows and their songs in several major commercials, they're finally starting to get their dues paid in full.
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Off the top of your head, you might be unfamiliar with Langhorne Slim, but if you think back to last year (I know, a long time ago) and you remember that Traveler's Insurance commercial with all of those floating umbrellas. That was them. "If you got worries, then you're like me, don't worry now." Sound familiar? Well, they do a whole lot more than that 30 seconds of that song, and you should probably check them out as soon as you can.
The Law started with high energy and didn't let up until the end of the night. Even the pair of acoustic segments that found the crowd awestruck and enveloped in Slim's storytelling had a buzz about them. The best part of the evening to me, other than the great show on stage, was the super-attentive crowd. While it wasn't overly packed -- it was a Tuesday in Houston, after all -- everyone who purchased a ticket did so with the intention of enjoying the show. That's my favorite part of a weekday show: it weeds out all the terrible people who talk their way through the night while getting sloppy drunk, only to piss off the band and cause them never to return.
This wasn't Langhorne Slim's first trip to Houston, he's actually played here on several occasions. Last time came not too terribly long ago, when he played the downstairs room at Fitz to an equally-sized crowd. The band's most memorable experience here -- at least for Slim -- was opening up for that infamous Two Gallants show at Walter's on Washington several years ago, where everything went to hell after a simple noise complaint.
Unfortunately, in the skirmish with the officer, one member of Two Gallants was thrown onto Slim's stand-up bass, shattering it to pieces. While it made for a good story, I'm sure it ruined the day of several people involved. Slim referenced that night on a few different occasions, one time even calling out to a friend who helped out with the law stuff afterwards.
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Tuesday's performance this night was thankfully cop-free, and full of great music. The stand-up bass made it all the way through the night as well. They performed quite a few songs of their latest album, 2012's The Way We Move, but also touched on older material, specifically from Be Set Free and Langhorne Slim. Slim has a tendency to never play the same set back to back, bringing it back to the old-school way of creating a set list: have your core songs, and play whatever comes to mind in between those fan favorites.
"Collette" was a treat to hear, as was "Cinderella." "Nobody But You" was turned into a revival, while the call and response during "It's Time to Love Your Man" transformed Fitzgerald's into the darkest and dingiest of Chicago blues clubs. My favorite moments, though, came when The Law took to the side stage to let Slim perform a couple acoustic numbers. He told stories of love lost, love gained and family.
The most heartfelt moment of the night came before an ode to his Grandpa, "Song For Sid," that had him telling of his grandfather's downplayed genius, and how Slim "borrowed" several of his song ideas from the words of both of his elders. It brought tears to several faces around the room. Hell, even I was a bit choked up.
The set was definitely one of the better ones, mixing humor with a pension for great songcrafting. The crowd ate up every single word of Slim's, whether in song or out of it, and even added quite a bit to the show themselves with sing and clap-a-long's and conversation with the band throughout. While I'm sure they're playing to busier crowds in other markets, making more money on ticket sales and merch, I doubt they'll get to play for such an adoring collective of people in any other city this tour.
Houston really made this writer proud last night, and by the look on Slim's face before departing the stage, I'm pretty sure this show meant a little something to him too.
Personal Bias: I've been a fan for years. I had tickets to that Two Gallants show just for Langhorne Slim, but had to cancel my plans to go. Looking back, I'm glad I wasn't there for that craziness.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Sorry man, the price of admission is you're now a wolf"
"I don't know why you had to wait five years, I'm sure I've been around, so that's your fault"
"I was talking to this girl in New York, it didn't work out," said Langhorne. "First Base," came a shout from the crowd. "Well, if texting is first base, I was hitting grand slams"
"Everything was alright until I got cute, fuck that mess"
"I hate when guys with guitars tell stories. It's fucking annoying. I'm gonna do it anyway"
"She only took the cats, and she should because she has a house"
The Crowd: a mixed bag of mostly white thirtysomethings having a good Tuesday night out. A lot of sluggish people are sipping coffee at desks right now wishing they were back to where they were 12 hours ago.
Random Notebook Dump: There was this girl in the second row silently dancing and mouthing word for word every song they performed. She was a trip to watch. She was having more fun at that moment than I've ever had at any point in my life. And I've had some pretty amazing times in my years.
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