Last Night: The Damnwells at Fitzgerald's

The Damnwells Fitzgerald's April 5, 2011

Before playing a single note, Alex Dezen, singer for Brooklyn-based rock band The Damnwells, let the audience know what it was in store. He said the band's new release Nobody Listens to the Band Anymore was full of mid-tempo rock songs and "We're going to play all of them." 

Technically, that was a lie as the band only covered five of the 12 songs on the record, but his point was made. This was not going to be a big, sprawling show filled with varied artistic interpretations of the band's material. Instead, the band buzzed through its catalog of mostly three-minute rock songs with precision.

It was clean. It was focused. But, it was also a little dull.

The show started well enough with "While You Can" from the PMR +1 EP released in 2002 before tearing into the title track from the new release, but the show soon bogged down. As good a live venue as Fitzgerald's may be, it isn't really a listening room and the pacing of the set - loud rock songs descending into quite acoustic tunes - was built more for politely seated guests than fans pushed up against the stage.

Whatever the venue, the band would have done well to stick with the rockers, which represented their best performances of the night. We would have loved to hear more en par with the furious extended outro of "Louisville" and the sturdy backbeat of "I've Got You," both from Air Stereo, their most popular release. 

Dezen certainly surrounded himself with capable players. His back up band featured members of opening act Harper Blynn - Dezen essentially is the Damnwells. While all of the guys could play and did a good job on the slick, Americana-infused rock, most songs were just straight readings of the recordings with only moderate embellishment. As lovely as some of Dezen's acoustic songs may be, they felt like a drag on a set that lasted only about 80 minutes.

Throughout the night, we couldn't help feel like the set played it a little too safe. Maybe it was the use of back-up musicians rather than a full-time "band" or maybe it was the desire to reproduce the songs faithfully as they were recorded, but it left us wondering if listening to the music at home would have been equally as entertaining.

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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke