Last Night: Free Energy At Fitzgerald's
Photos by Marc Brubaker
Free Energy Fitzgerald's February 3, 2011
See pics from last night's set in our slideshow.
"This cold does some crazy shit to Houston," remarked Free Energy front man Paul Sprangers to his sparse but devotedly enthusiastic Fitzgerald's crowd Thursday. The band played to an uncharacteristically small trickle of people; it seems most of the city opted to heed the news' myriad weather warnings and instead stay indoors next to a crackling fire.
The Philadelphia quintet is (still) touring in support of their acclaimed debut, last year's Stuck On Nothing. Though the EP was highly praised, it also warranted some slipshod power-pop labels. But what's interesting about Stuck On Nothing is its backstory; the album was produced by LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy and released on Murphy's dance-heavy label, DFA Records.
Delving deeper into Nothing reveals more intricately creative details to the otherwise hook-heavy pop album. Free Energy strolled onstage at 11 p.m.; their gangly bodies, mustached faces and long hair made them more so resemble fictional Almost Famous group Stillwater than a modern-day rock band. Nothing track "All I Know" opened the set, Sprangers instantaneously commanding the crowd's attention with his Jagger-like dance moves and theatrical karate kicks.
"Free Energy" seemed to thaw the crowd, as they began to bob their hooded heads and eventually peel off layers of scarves and sweaters, dancing to the song's persistent cowbell backbeat. "This is all we've got tonight," Sprangers belted, his sweaty unkempt hair framing his face. "We are young and still alive, now the time is on our side," he continued, revealing the band's signature adolescent anthem song-style.
It's no secret that Free Energy sponges some inspiration from '70s classic and glam-rock pioneers like Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick and David Bowie; listeners can hear emphatically clear '70s guitar tones, punchy pop riffs and vocal harmonies in their songs. Though the band adds their own finesse to their evident heroes, they wear their influences on their sleeves - quite literally on Thursday, as guitarist Scott Wells donned a Bad Company T-shirt.
"C'mon Let's Dance," a fun, Ramones-esque number, kept the now full-on dance party afloat, while Sprangers peppered in a hilariously unexpected and spontaneous LMFAO/Jersey Shore "Shots" nod during "Something In Common," the singer bouncing up and down like a pogo stick.
The band repeatedly acknowledged the inclement weather while genuinely thanking the crowd for braving the cold conditions to attend their show; they even dedicated their appropriate and impressively viable cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" to their Houston crowd.
When an overly eager fan in the front row professed her love (among other things) to Sprangers, proclaiming that she'd like to "see them more often," the ever-charismatic front man responded in agreement, initiating a band/crowd-pact, promising we'd all reunite in exactly one year, at Fitzgerald's. Unsurprisingly, fans cheered in approval.
The wildly infectious "Bang Pop" sing-along was a certain highlight of the evening, while a solid delivery of Nothing's "Hope Child" closed out the set.
It became more and more difficult to resist Sprangers' insistence to dance and sing along with each song. The band looked like they were genuinely enjoying themselves too, which became a contagious vibe. Sprangers and guitarist Geoff Bucknum maintained their fresh-faced smiles, often making eye contact with the crowd, engaging them in the show and seemingly unfazed by the sparse crowd.
Ultimately, it was a fun, feel-good kind of show. Free Energy is a fun, feel-good kind of band; however, the band supports that slapdash sentiment with quality pop songs and undeniably infectious hooks.
Free Energy is not necessarily groundbreaking innovators; in fact, their glam-pop recording and choreographed stage antics might even appear clichéd. But the difference is they are unapologetically authentic in their every move. They don't seem like they're necessarily embracing or attempting to resurrect past decades; they are genuine to their core - which ultimately transfers as refreshingly endearing.
Considering this particular writer had previously seen Free Energy in a considerably larger setting (last year's Pitchfork Festival), it seemed lucky to catch them in such a cozily intimate space as Fitzgerald's. We'd venture to guess the quasi-secret Free Energy still remains can only be kept so for a short matter of time; while we fear the inevitable (bands can't write songs like "Bang Pop" and successfully deflect mainstream dude-bros), their foreseeable success will surely be deserved.
One needed a damn good reason to leave their house on a night like last night (in Houston, at least). We surmise those in attendance will agree when we say Free Energy was indeed a worthy reason to venture out into the city's freakishly plummeting temperatures.
We eagerly await their next visit to Houston. Next year, same time, same place - right, Free Energy?
Personal Bias: I was initially disappointed at the small turnout, but by the end of the night, felt fortunate to see a budding band amongst so few people and true fans.
The Crowd: Was mostly bundled-up early 20-somethings and those jumpstarting Friday's inevitable snow-day with Fitz' beer specials.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I heard we might get 3-feet of snow tonight."
Random Notebook Dump: If Free Energy were to release a cardio DVD, I'd totally buy it.
All I Know Free Energy Dream City C'mon Let's Dance Something In Common I Won't Back Down (Tom Petty cover) (New song) Light Love Backscratcher (New) Bang Pop Hope Child
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.