The Felice Brothers at Fitzgerald's, 9/25/2014

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The Felice Brothers Fitzgerald's September 25, 2014

Without a doubt, the best shows to come through town are those that basically go unnoticed. Whether they don't get enough advertising or another big-name event or two in town is taking the crowds away, there is nothing better than a non-packed show at a smaller venue such as Fitzgerald's downstairs.

The Felice Brothers played said venue last night, and with so many things going on around town Thursday night, such as FPH's Sammy Awards and the mega-Tom Petty gig at Toyota Center, attendance at this show seemed much lighter than it could have been.

Which is not a bad thing -- for the fans, at least. It's already tough enough sweating through a show in the storied venue when it's half full, but the lack of the extra bodies in the room only brought a light dew on the brow rather than the full-on back sweat it sometimes does. Well, until the dancing began. Fitz, please fix your air conditioner.

But even though the room was only half full, the crowd really brought their all to the show. A bit hesitant at first, patrons slowly but surely made their way to the stage, starting to dance and sing along to the New York-based act's folk- and bluegrass-based stylings.

While the folk tag might give you the impression that they're just another acoustic group, the Felice Brothers are far from that. Originally a set of three brothers from the Catskills, the group got their start playing NYC subways. Competing with all the noises that come from that venue just to make a hopeful buck, they quickly adapted their folksy sound to be as loud as their acoustic instruments could emit.

And with their jangly, almost Dylan-esque approach to their music, it's a surprise that room wasn't packed from front to back regardless of the other events in Houston. But even though the room wasn't full, they still played to the very back of the room like they just stepped out onstage at Radio City Music Hall to a packed house.

And that's what I love about The Felice Brothers. They always bring their all, and with the incredible depth of their catalog (ten records in the past ten years), you never know what they'll play. With a set list scribbled on a cardboard beer box in a font only recognizable to the band, they worked their way through song by song, adding and replacing on the fly if the moment felt right.

Which happened quite a bit. After glancing at the set list late into their performance, I noticed several songs they skipped over, but also that they played many more songs than listed and didn't skimp on their classics. Opener "Iron Mike" and "Whiskey In My Whiskey" were early highlights, while "Frankie's Gun" (my personal favorite) and "Penn Station" came later to the delight of the entire, sweat-drenched audience.

Story continues on the next page.

Finishing without an encore, even after a somewhat pitiful attempt from the crowd to resurrect the group, the show ended without much hoopla, just like it started. The show was incredibly underated from the get-go, but ended up being one of the better shows to hit a Houston stage this year. These guys really know what they're doing.

And while I might be a bit a bit selfish in the fact that I enjoyed less people in attendance, which gives the crowd a bit of room to swing their elbows, it's a bummer to think that the band probably feels the opposite, which is why we lose bands to the bigger markets in Austin and Dallas on the regular. Houston is a great place to see a show from a fan's perspective, but if I were a band that saw a half-full room that's already small enough as is, I'd probably think twice about returning.

But even though this crowd was small, they were mighty. They danced, sang and shouted along throughout the show, giving their all from front to back. Thankfully, the band fed off the energy and gave us one hell of a performance. And because of that fact alone, I'm sure the Felice Brothers will be returning to Houston sometime soon.

A Good Place to Start: "Division St./T For Texas"

Personal Bias: I've been following these guys for seven or eight years now, and am flabbergasted that they're not bigger than they are. They deserve to be. Although, it was pretty cool when "Frankie's Gun" was used in Eastbound & Down. Kenny Fucking Powers approved.

The Crowd: Small, but really into it.

Overheard In the Crowd: I got a chance to talk to Under The Volcano's Peter Mitchell for a while which is always a good time. We both didn't know a soul there other than each other. Where were you, Houston?

Random Notebook Dump: I finally got a chance to see openers Spirit Family Reunion, a band I've missed on several occasions and have always wanted to see. They didn't disappoint, either. Their banjo- and washboard-fueled brand of bluegrass fit perfectly as a warm-up to The Felice Brothers.


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