Last Night: The Low Anthem At Fitzgerald's

The Low Anthem Fitzgerald's May 2, 2011

In another lifetime, and another location, Fitzgerald's could have been a barn. Every time we see a show upstairs, Aftermath halfway expects an owl to swoop out of the rafters and sink its talons into an errant field mouse.

Note to exterminators/Health Dept.: As far as we know, Fitz's does not have a rodent problem, nor any issues with birds of prey. The preceding paragraph was put there purely for effect, because all that was missing at out-of-time Rhode Island group The Low Anthem's sparsely attended but shockingly good show Monday night were a few bales of hay scattered about the stage and some cattle softly lowing nearby.

Freshly churned butter cooling in a brook out back wouldn't have been misplaced either.

Although we missed the first three songs of the set - note to promoters: If you tell us a band is going on at 10:30 p.m., please don't allow them to go on at 10 p.m. - it might have been for the best. When we walked in, the four core members of Low Anthem were hard at work on banjo, electric bass, drums and - we think - a hammered dulcimer, or something close to it.

When we see an instrument that requires mallets onstage, unless we are at the symphony or a Latin-jazz show, it normally sets off all kinds of "precious" alarm bells in Aftermath's head. But this was a ghostly, minimal tune in the barely-there vein of Low or Smog (Bill Callahan, whatever), enhanced by the ethereal waves of tremolo Jocie Adams was creating with those mallets.

The faint volume level didn't have a prayer of drowning out the steady thump of drums coming up from the show downstairs, which is when The Low Anthem completely disarmed us.

"I want to introduce the band downstairs," one of Adams' male bandmates said. "They're called Double Kick Fetus."

And instead of yielding any ground, the quartet gathered around one microphone in the middle of the stage and sang the hymnlike "Ghost Woman Blues," marginal acoustic guitar and lonesome clarinet framing the close harmonies of people who have been singing together for a long, long time - possibly, judging by their ages, since long before they were even born.

Or maybe not.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray