For more photos from Thursday's reopening, see our slideshow here.
"I want this place to be the nexus of local music. It's going to be the anti-Mangos," Omar Afra told Rocks Off as he points out the changes made to the second floor of Fitzgerald's on Thursday night as its first night of grand re-opening festivities wound down.
"I remember coming here in seventh and eighth grade, with cigarettes, and asking the bartender if it was cool to smoke," Afra reminisced. "He said, "What the hell do you think? It's a nightclub."
We were under the main stage area's new chandelier. It was one of the first things we noticed, and gives the upstairs room a ballroom vibe.
For Afra, the Pegstar team and most of the older folks (read: over 25) milling around Thursday night catching up with friends, Fitzgerald's was our first introduction to punk and indie culture. It now rests in more than capable hands that understand the venue's sentimental and regional value.
The place, both upstairs and down, has been completely repainted, mostly flat black and maroon. The walls are decorated with show posters from local artists like Jermaine Rogers, Dann Miller and Shelby Hohl. A Morrissey print sits on the wall next to one for Robert Ellis' Summer Fest appearance, to bring home the Houston aspect. (Blind presale passes for Summer Fest 2011 are now on sale at freepresssummerfest.com, by the way.)
Regal red wallpaper covers much of the second floor's walls. The venue has four working bars. The showcase is the bar downstairs, which was hella busy Thursday night with the new bartenders learning the computer system. The hipster girl ordering 25 shots for her friends probably didn't help matters. Someone's economy is going to be in the gutter this weekend, more than likely.
Balaclavas bassist Brian Harrison came up with his own description of the new Fitz.
"It reminds me of a cheaper, dirtier House of Blues." he said as we waited for that aforementioned lass to get her fruity girl-shots.
A beer bar is out back on the patio, which will soon have food and a full line of alcohol besides the suds. The bar upstairs remains intact, and another was installed on the balcony right above it, which is cash only for now. Watch that trip coming down from the balcony. Afra should be installing another railing and extra lighting soon. Rocks Off almost took the inaugural fall down the stairs.
The second-floor patio has been repainted a healthy vintage green instead of the pale white it was before, which was done in haste to cover to graffiti. That patio was always famous for punk graffiti during our own Fitz-stomping days.
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Thursday night's free show included national act The Drums as enticement, and they packed out the main stage area. Younger kids were comparing them to New Order or a happier Joy Division throughout the night but that's a great exaggeration. The band isn't quite there, yet but lead singer Jonathan Pierce has the Ian Curtis stage moves down in spades.
Downstairs, Legsweeper got things started around 9 p.m., with Cosmic Sound coming up behind. The venue was doused in baptismal sweat for Black Congress' co-headlining slot next to the life-addled Weird Party around 11 p.m. It was a pleasure seeing the place packed out on the first night.
The only downside we saw last night straight out was finding decent parking in the area, which is iffy in the residential neighborhood surrounding the place. Once Fitz plants its feet down, it should get better as more business comes in to revitalize the area.
The I-10 intersection up the street is getting spruced up as well, which will bring in more traffic and spending.