The Thermals Fitzgerald's June 6, 2013
Thursday night in Houston is usually a safe bet for music, and most any show at a number of venues will be packed. But this was not your typical Thursday, it was a few days after Houston's biggest musical weekend, Free Press Summer Festival. Despite a meager crowd in size Thursday at Fitzgerald's, the Thermals still brought their all to those lucky few in attendance.
The band's set started about ten minutes earlier than originally posted, giving them that much more time to rock the fuck out. They had no problem filling that extra slot of time with a set list of twenty-something songs to feed the fix of the peckish hipsters stalking the front rows.
The band is known for garnering a rowdy crowd, but it was actually quite subdued throughout the first half of the set. You could feel a bit of tiredness throughout the room from the staff to the patrons, which was evident until the music finally took over midway through the Thermals' headlining performance.
The Portland-based group has been on the scene for more than a decade now, with numerous releases under their belt. Starting on famed label Sub Pop, they've made their way from well-known indie Kill Rock Stars to Conor Oberst's Saddle Creek Records for their more recent releases. Having such a storied recording history under their belt only led me to believe they were a band to witness, which brought me to Fitz last night.
I walked upstairs during their first tune, and was immediately taken aback by their in-your-face instrumentals. They had a punk-rock tinge to them, but their music is as far from punk as it gets. I've seen them described as lo-fi in the past, a genre that gained popularity several years back with bands like Times New Viking and Psychedelic Horseshit, but what I've come to realize is that lo-fi only means that a band is turned up to 11, to the point where they are almost distorted because of how damn loud they are. My ears hurt. They're still ringing right now.
But not in a bad way. I thought the Thermals' set was fun as hell. They are an extremely practiced band that hones its talents in the live arena. Yeah, they sounded like early Green Day at times, and yeah, front man Hutch Harris looks like the dude that plays Andy in the Showtime series Weeds, but none of that distracted from the party that ensued for the hour and a half the band was onstage. Their music is just that, party music, but with certain pop sensibilities that allow it to spread throughout a host of other genres from indie-punk to lo-fi and pop-rock - a potpourri of current popular music, if you will.
The crowd was a bit tame at first, but after the Thermals warmed them up, it started to get a bit rowdier. The tiredness that was apparent towards the beginning of the set started to wane as the booze set in. A bit of a pit started to form towards the end of the performance, and only grew bigger and sweatier as the songs got heavier and faster.
While not too familiar with their tunes, I know that their well-known songs were those to close the set, as I noticed more of their die-hard fans shouting along with Harris towards the end. Bassist Kathy Foster and drummer Westin Glass also kept the crowd alive with their booming rhythm to go along with Harris' vocals and guitar attack. It was an all-around kick-ass set, and a perfect cure from the FPSF blues we've all assuredly been feeling all week.
I'm not going to listen to The Thermals on a regular basis. Actually, I probably won't listen to them again until they hit a stage in front of me, but would never miss the opportunity to see them live. It was unfortunate that they had to come to Houston during its biggest musical hangover, and didn't pull the crowd they could or should have, but it made those few who were there feel lucky to have seen such a great band in such an intimate setting.
Personal Bias: Seeing a band I don't know much about on a quiet Thursday night is right up my alley. It is my alley.
The Crowd: The people that were too cool to go to FPSF.
Overheard In the Crowd: Feedback. In between songs the band would add so much feedback that crowd didn't have the aural capacity to hold a conversation.
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Random Notebook Dump: This show should've been at Walter's... on Washington.