The Best Fitz Shows of the Pegstar Era
Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! sings the Transgender Dysphoria Blues at Fitz, March 2014
Photo by David Ensminger
It’s been an amazing five years for Pegstar at Fitzgerald’s, as the Houston company that started with a humble 9/11 benefit at Numbers ushered the historic Heights venue into an era of unprecedented success, going a long way to rescue Houston’s reputation as a viable stop for touring indie musicians in the process. As the Pegstar moves on to prepare to open the new White Oak Music Hall — see pegstar.net for a list of shows it’s producing at other local venues in the meantime, as well as periodic status updates on the WOMH — we thought it would be a good time to reflect on our writers’ most memorable Fitz nights from those years. If what follows seems a little weighted toward more recent years, it’s either because the shows kept getting better or our memories were just getting too crowded. Either way, it’s been a helluva ride.
3/16/2014: I've seen plenty of great shows at Fitzgerald's in the last five years, but I will never forget Against Me!'s performance. On tour in support of their sixth studio album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, the band showcased a renewed energy as Laura Jane Grace sang candidly of the struggles that come with being transgender. Heartfelt and emotive, the show wasn't without its fair share of laughs as well. There was no posturing from the band or the fans, and it was one of if not the most riotous, enjoyable shows I've ever seen at Fitz. MATTHEW KEEVER
Photo by Jack Gorman
ANTEMASQUE, LE BUTCHERETTES
8/4/2014: I didn't know what to expect from Antemasque given that at the time they had played less than ten shows together as a band. But it's Omar and Cedric of At the Drive-In/The Mars Volta, and when those two come to town together you show up. Antemasque turned out to be a powerhouse, tight and energetic, and with a crowd that was completely in love with their music. They didn't make it easy for themselves either, bringing one of the best live acts in modern music as their opener. Le Butcherettes killed, as they always do, because that's what they do. I could watch them 100 times over and never be bored. Together it was one of the best nights of live music I've covered for the Press. CORY GARCIA
6/26-27/2014: Last summer, I got the chance to see two of the heaviest, most engrossing live acts play Fitzgerald's on the same weekend. The first night, the shoegaze-inspired black metal group Deafheaven played the inside stage, topping off a bill that featured the slower yet immensely powerful Pallbearer, and the chaotic, experimental metal group Wreck & Reference. By the time Deafheaven took the stage, the tightly packed room erupted as the group played songs from their breakout record, 2013's emotionally devastating Sunbather. The set was one of the most entrancing I had seen, and it was only a warmup for what would take place two nights later on the stage upstairs. That night, Michael Gira led the current incarnation of Swans through two hours of demented chaos. He ordered the air conditioning to be turned off, which given the fact that it was July made for a highly uncomfortable room, but the heat added to the way the music made everyone feel. It was a test of endurance and a spiritual revival that capped off a weekend of music I'll always remember. DAVID SACKLLAH
Photo by Jack Gorman
KIESZA, BETTY WHO
4/2/2015: I wish I appreciated Kiesza's music just a little bit more, because as much I enjoyed this show, it would have gone down as one of my favorites ever if I was just a little more familiar/in love with her songs. As it stands, both artists put on fantastic performances, and I can totally understand why Kiesza is a headliner. That said, my heart belongs to Ms. Who, who was just fantastic as she performed songs from one of my favorite albums of 2014, Take Me When You Go. This was a really fun show, all bubblegum and dancey and light. I like deep, sad catharsis probably more than the next guy, but getting the other end of the spectrum, when it's like this, can be just as good. CORY GARCIA
1/3/2013: I’ve talked with many musicians from and around Houston and none would exclude a Fitzgerald’s gig from their career highlights. Many who have never played there mention how awesome a show at Fitz would be and, from close-hand experience, I’d say they were right. Back in 2013, Days N Daze (my son’s band) was tabbed to open for Leftover Crack, a band that hugely influenced what my kid and his bandmates do. DND had played downstairs before, but getting to mike up on the upper tier’s stage and kick it backstage with Stza and crew gave the band an immediate shot of Red Bull-on-crack (leftover crack!) momentum. The show itself was insane, with Juicy Karkass busting crusty rhymes and local ska heroes Fuska working the crowd into a frenzy ahead of the gooood…the baaad…and the Leftover Crack! Point is, a local band gigging at Fitz is more than just one for the scrapbook — it always has and should continue to help area bands reach a higher level of visibility and success. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
LOS SKARNALES' 20TH ANNIVERSARY
6/20/2014: Some venues and bands were absolutely made for each other, which has never been more true than with Fitzgerald's and Los Skarnales. Before I even hit the legal drinking age, I remember catching los vatos rudos of ska tear up the dark and extremely loud Fitz stage. Pure energy and love for the music and their fans fueled each and every show. Temporary hearing loss and bruises from the mosh pit were standard fare, as were the cold cervezas and Lone Stars that flowed freely during each set. All if this culminated into a Skarnales atomic bomb for their 20th anniversary show that hot June night last year. It began with a mariachi band serving as the opening act, and lead us through a journey of Houston ska/punk/rock/cumbia history. From the original Desorden trio to the newly appointed band members and almost everyone in between, this would prove to be one of the greatest shows in Fitzgerald's and Houston's music history. MARCO TORRES
MENOMENA/MAN MAN/TIM KASHER
I've had a hard time choosing just one, so I'm going to cheat and say it's a three-way tie between Menomena in 2012 and Man Man and Tim Kasher, both in 2013. When Menomena came through, they were fresh off of their most recent album and down a member, but still managed to pull off their signature avant-garde rock that makes you feel every emotion possible. With Man Man, I will never forget how much fun I had dancing in the sold-out crowd; it remains one of my favorite live reviews for the Houston Press to this day. With Tim Kasher, it was so amazing and intimate — he played on a Sunday night upstairs, yet I felt like I was at a living-room show. ALYSSA DUPREE
AMANDA PALMER & THE GRAND THEFT ORCHESTRA
9/18/2012: Sometimes you catch shows before you can truly appreciate what someone is up to. You still enjoy the show, but you will then look back on it with regret because you know if you could see it now you'd love it more. That's basically how I look back at this show: it was an experience that I enjoyed, but I would have enjoyed it more had I gotten the chance to really listen to more of Palmer's music before I went. Sure, her personality can be...off-putting, at times, but she knows how to put on a show that feels like a production, even in a small space like Fitz. Plus, one of the opener's was a saxophone duo named Ronald Reagan, who did exclusively '80s covers. Outstanding. CORY GARCIA
ST. PAUL & THE BROKEN BONES
2/6/2015: The large crew from Alabama drew a crowd that packed the place seemingly well beyond capacity. It was cool outside, but the venue was so packed that it became a sauna, with sweat seemingly dripping off of everybody and everything, including the walls. The large band and instruments did not allow much room to move around on the smaller stage. With the limited physical space constricting the dance moves, lead man Paul Janeway’s energy was redirected to the crowd. The soul band had the crowd moving in their small space that created the familiar, yet odd, swaying movement of the building. Janeway fought through his sore throat and could have had any woman in that place, even with his Pee Wee Herman-esque suit, white athletic socks and golden shoes. The energy and charisma from the Broken Bones left everyone in attendance with an experience they would not soon forget.
Photo by Jack Gorman
4/10/2015: One of the nicest things about Fitzgerald’s in any incarnation has been how close we listeners are to the artists creating the music we love. The best example I can recall of these connections made during the Pegstar years was April 2015’s Tune-Yards show with Son Lux. The ultra-talented Merrill Garbus and company had performed in the wide open at 2014’s Summer Fest, but here, in close confines, the band really experienced the gratitude shared by the audience. “You’re making a girl blush up here,” she muttered at one point and she wasn’t fibbing – we were all close enough to see her face. When a crowd member gleefully shouted “Great job, everybody!” at the end of a well-received Son Lux tune, everyone heard it and laughed warmly, including the band. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
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