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.