Tapes 'n Tapes Fitzgerald's February 17, 2011
Thursday night, music fans of Houston faced a tough decision: We had to decide between shows by two stellar bands that infiltrated our fare city on the very same night. While we headed to Fitzgerald's to see Minneapolis indie-rockers Tapes 'n Tapes, Canadian collective Broken Social Scene played across town at Warehouse Live. Our lives are so full of tough hipster decisions; we should always be this lucky.
Considering it's still dipping into frigid teen temperatures in the band's hometown of Minneapolis (that's called "winter" outside of Texas), we're sure the Minnesota quartet was pleased to be in Houston Thursday, as our balmy 70-degree temperature felt like anything but winter.
Tapes 'n Tapes, currently touring in support of their third album, this year's Outside, took the Fitz stage fashionably late, to a visibly enthused crowd.
"What's up, Houston?" singer/guitarist Josh Grier posed simply, before delving into opener, Outside's "On and On." Barely breaking for a collective breath, they continued straight into "Conquest," from 2008's Walk it Off.
Just a few songs into the set and two things were already clear: Tapes 'n Tapes were there with the sole purpose to deliver as many songs as they could cram into their set, and the crowd was there to contentedly soak them up. As each song concluded, another immediately started; T'nT delivered an array of tracks spanning their discography; while new material was most prominently featured, frequent revisits to their 2005 self-released debut The Loon, were made, including the obvious crowd-pleaser and venue-appropriate "In Houston."
"Everyone likes to come out on Thursday nights in Houston, I guess!" Grier appreciatively acknowledged to his lively crowd. The band, in a rare break from delivering their crammed set list, addressed the crowd as they recalled their last visit to Houston, at Super Happy Fun Land. "I remember that place had a ton of cats around," Grier reflected.
"Cats are great, but [keyboardist] Matt [Kretzman] is highly allergic to them! So, we like it here at Fitz."
Outisde's playful "One in the World" further livened the crowd, with its jangly guitar and giddy-up drumbeat. As the set progressed, T'nT proved their understanding of the importance of a balanced set list; erratic songs like "One in the World" were tempered by mellow ones like Loon track and set highlight "Omaha."
"Hidee Ho" was another set standout, Grier's manic "Hey! Hey!" shriek tastefully dancing into frenzied Frank Black territory. The song is a perfect example of what has become trademark T'nT; it's simultaneously reserved and in-your-face. T'nT are masters of the build-up and break-down.
Songs like "Hidee Ho" and "10 Gallon Ascots" are teases in the best way possible; they're moody and slow-building, but eventually morph into blatantly obtrusive rock breakdowns. It is, in part, the blend of these stylistic tendencies that makes T'nT laudable, especially live. Simply put, they are a modestly unassuming indie powerhouse.
As the clock pushed 12:30 a.m., neither the band nor the feisty crowd showed any signs of wear. "Freak Out," easily the band's most raucous of songs, closed the set, its building momentum crowning into a near two-step beat. "Will you see me in the light," Grier sang. "I hope you do, I hope you stay, and never leave." Sadly, T'nT did leave - the stage - directly after serving up that sentiment.
Luckily, the rather curious "Olé, olé, olé!" chant front the crowd swayed the band back to the stage for an encore, during which they pulled out one last oldie-but-goodie, Loon-era's "Jakov's Suite." Kretzman abandoned his keyboard to stand atop an amp and play tambourine, as the band closed out their set with as much spirit as they opened it.
It felt like a treat to see them in the intimate setting of Fitzgerald's--not to mention, among such visibly avid fans of the band. It was a happenin' night of live music in Houston, and for that we are always grateful; but after taking in last night's Tapes 'n Tapes show, we walked away certain we were in the right place.
Personal Bias: One of the strongest T'nT shows I've seen. Oberhofer was an appropriate and solid choice for opener.
The Crowd: twenty- and thirtysomethings; fans of local opener Tax the Wolf (Ahem: Not "the Fox").
Overheard Seen in the Crowd: The dedicated Dancing Dude in front of the soundboard. All. Night. Long.
Random Notebook Dump: I appreciate T'nT's literal representation at their merch booth; they were selling cassette tapes!
On and On Conquest Just Drums Desert Plane Demon Apple In Houston Hang Them All Hidee Ho One in the World Cowbell Outro 10 Gallon Ascots Omaha Badaboom The Saddest of All Keys Insistor The Dirty Dirty Freak Out
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