A lot of questions were on my mind Saturday when walking up to Fitzgerald's grand reopening. What had become of the classic venue? Was it in capable hands that could deliver high-caliber shows? Those questions were put to rest as Bun B ushered in a new era for the music venue.
The chatter of the crowd was growing and the lights were off, and Bun was pacing behind the stage with the swagger of a veteran. His eyes looked calculated and the room was still as Mayor Annise Parker took the stage to give a few words. She told the crowd that she received a text message a few hours earlier from Bun, asking if she would come to his show and introduce him. I can’t think of a single rapper who can text the mayor like that.
Bun B rolled through his set like a Metro bus with no brakes. With a legend like him, it’s nearly impossible to have a lackluster set. Every song jams and every single song elicits a response from the crowd. He had an arsenal of hits and delivered each one to the crowd like they were starving children on Thanksgiving. In fact, I don’t think they were silent or still the entire time Bun was on; it was one of those shows where the crowd was all about it.
Bun's voice is just one of those that locks you into the sound and takes you for a ride no matter how old it gets. His flow is still strong and smooth, like that of a younger man in his prime. His delivery is like watching an amazing chef prepare your meal right before your eyes – witnessing someone execute their craft with the highest skill and the deepest respect possible.
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He showed so much energy and love for the city that at one point a fan handed him an Astros jersey and he wore it during the song. He kept performing encores because the crowd couldn’t get enough. I imagine if Bun never got tired he could have rapped for a few years upstairs and the crowd would have kept rocking with him the entire time. The last time I saw Bun was at FPSF for “Welcome to Houston,” so to see him have his own proper full-length set was awesome to witness in a familiar environment like Fitz.
As for the venue's new 'do, the first thing I noticed when I walked in was the fresh coat of black paint. The second was was when walking up the stairs, my nipples became as stiff as a piece of cardboard. The newly upgraded AC system must have been doing a tremendous job, because the entire second floor was an icebox. It was refreshing, and something I had never experienced in all my years of shooting at Fitz.
As I was adjusting to the newly improved chilly atmosphere of the upstairs I noticed the new tenants have done away with the double doors leading to the outside balcony, a small but welcome change in my book. I hated shuffling between those doors and either spilling something or bumping someone.
Walking outside onto the balcony to warm up, I noticed that dozens of chairs littered the floor. People were sitting in groups chatting, smoking or just relaxing. It was another small change from the past, where people usually just stood around and would get pissed if you walked by too closely. The lighting and sound were both on point during the sets, and I didn't notice any technical hiccups. The bathrooms were painted up and clean and I'm curious to see how long that lasts.
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Openers Def Perception started their set with a small crowd, but had the entire room moving by the end. Their mix of heavy funk and hip-hop, backed by rapid fire vocals, makes it hard to stay still for too long. They executed their set with accuracy while visibly having fun with it. Getting them to open for proved good as they get the crowd hyped up for Bun B.
It seems like Fitzgerald's is in good hands with the new management. While the name hasn't changed, the renovations are a very welcome difference to the old grounds. Rather just throwing a few buckets of paint and calling it done, the current administration is really working to push the venue into a new chapter.
It was clear that they're not done, either — more good news for music fans.