Friday Night: The Crystal Method at Fitzgerald's

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The Crystal Method Fitzgerald's June 8, 2012

The Crystal Method are not young and sexy. The Las Vegas duo's faces are lined, their midsections are soft and their hairlines are a little fucked-up. Basically, Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland have been around the block a time or two, and they look it.

But while the pair are no longer the faces of mainstream electronic dance music, they're aging surprisingly gracefully in a genre that has traditionally had a very short memory. And they can still be counted on to get bodies moving.

CM has weathered a great many highs and lows in the EDM scene over the past 19 years, from the rise of rave culture to the Family Values Tour to the import of dubstep. The group has enjoyed its fair share of success, including a platinum album (1997's Vegas) and extensive film and video-game soundtrack work. But when Jordan and Kirkland see the crowds (and fees) that artists like Pretty Lights now command, it must be difficult not to wonder if they arrived too early.

On Friday night, as it happens, the group was late. CM's posted set time was 11 p.m., but it was after midnight before they appeared. Local opener GRRRL Parts kept the crowd from getting too antsy, pumping out a continuous mix that kept things festive while the audience filed in a limbered up.

If the booming interest in EDM of the last few years has translated into a new wave of fans for the Crystal Method, it didn't show on Friday. Nearly all of the crowd of a couple hundred or so at Fitz looked old enough to remember the group's Vegas-era salad days. Hey, the late '90s were basically all I knew of the duo going into the show, and it didn't appear that I wasn't alone.

Kirkland told the fans that he and Jordan were honored to play the storied Houston venue for the first time, and as it turned out, the club's environs suited the Crystal Method well. The group has always employed a live show that looks more like a rock concert than a dance party.

There were no lasers, streamers, confetti or big screens onstage Friday, and there were no glowsticks in the crowd. Instead, we got two guys under colored lights, fiddling with an impressive snarl of electronic equipment.

The music was as aggressive as you'd find at any rock show, and the audience responded in kind. As soon as the Crystal Method took over from GRRRL Parts, bodies began to move in earnest. As the crowd bobbed, shuffled and pogoed, intense bass rattled the club's old floorboards. Before long, the sticks up some of the asses in the crowd loosened up considerably. Things got sweaty fast.

A lot of rock and rap found its way into the mix. I picked out snatches of Alex Clare, the Beastie Boys, Black Sabbath and even Slim Thug as CM kept the party rockin.' Jordan and Kirkland took turns at the controls, eliciting electronic whoops from the speakers as audience members lit into their worst, most enthusiastic dance moves. Inhibitions dropped along with the bass.

While Jordan took a turn on the knobs, Kirkland toyed with an iPad, forcing a Muppet-like character to dance spastically on the screen. It was a no less absorbing substitute for the much larger screens employed by the current crop of EDM superstars.

The never-ending mix went on and on into the night. A characteristically Houstonian crowd wasn't shy about relaxing and chatting between the drops, only to bounce with renewed vigor when the intensity of the music ramped up again.

The Crystal Method's set ran long past 1 a.m., and although the audience thinned a bit as the night wore on, those who stayed got wilder and looser as the more voyeuristically inclined fans gradually disappeared.

An orgiastic bit of Fatboy Slim's "Celebrate" dovetailed nicely into material from Vegas as the set drew to a close. Heavy samples from Sabbath's "War Pigs" had as many people in the crowd throwing the horns as throwing down. Jordan and Kirkland praised the venue's energy before wrapping things up.

The show had been a far cry from the brightly-colored, streamer-drenched EDM shows taking place these days at venues like Stereo Live. For a couple of scene vets who have always aspired to rock stardom over clubland supremacy, though, maybe that was the point. The crowd didn't appear to miss the trappings -- at the end of the day (or is it decade?), it's the beat that still reigns supreme.

Personal Bias: Haven't listened to the Crystal Method since the Spawn soundtrack.

The Crowd: It was a bit of a dudefest--Guys outnumbered girls by at least three to one. Late 20s to late 30s, for the most part.

Overheard In the Crowd: "Dude, I'm sweaty as fuck!"

Random Notebook Dump: A couple of guys tossed appeared to be pulling off the old hardcore move of "picking up change" at one point. The Crystal Method definitely appeals to a rock crowd.

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