We’ve already established that my musical tastes are a little iffy; as I’ve been digitalizing my music collection, I’ve come across plenty of cds that I’s not necessarily proud of. Some of my musical choices I’ll defend to the death, even though I know most people wouldn’t agree with me (e.g. Journey and Billy Joel). I actually don’t listen to the radio that much – in the car I am more of a podcast person while at work I tend to listen to classical music all day because that is noncontroversial (and makes me sound smart) – so music tends to be my weakest pop culture category.
In recent years, I’ve made more of an effort to not only keep up with the music that is popular, but to try to discover other smaller bands that I may enjoy. Now that I’m in my thirties, I’ve become very subconscious that the surest way to sound like an old fogey is to have no idea who the kids are listening to these days. I’ll never fully keep up, but now that I am far more involved in social media and blogging, it has become a lot easier to know what is going on in the world of music. I also try to ask my friends for music recommendations whenever possible; I used to just hand my iPod over to a friend that was far more into music than I was, which is why sometimes I look at my playlists and have no idea what I am about to listen to. Sometimes I discover a band that will go on to become pretty popular (I was an early fan of Vampire Weekend), while other times I just wind up liking a more obscure band that not many people know (I’ve met very few people that have ever heard of What Made Milwaukee Famous). Either way is OK; if I like the music that’s all that really matters.
The late night talk shows have become a good source for new music as well; both Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien are musicians and like to highlight newer artists on their respective late night programs (Jay Leno, unsurprisingly, tends to a step behind these guys). Both Fallon and O’Brien feature a wide spectrum of artists on their show, so I’ve been exposed to a lot of musical acts that I may not have been aware of. Fallon often talks music with his guests as well, asking them what they are listening to, which is how I discovered Lorde before “Royals” hit it big. I keep a running list of bands and singers that I want to check out and then head to Spotify to give them a listen.
It was on Conan that I first discovered Fitz and the Tantrums in February 2011. I’d never heard of them before, but from the first moments of “MoneyGrabber” I knew I was going to be a fan. They had a cool sound that a lot of bands don’t have and the song was ridiculously catchy.
I made a note of them that night and the next day I was downloading their cd and listening to it in pretty heavy rotation. This put me ahead of Rolling Stone magazine, which named them as a “band to watch” in April 2011. I was very bummed that they were doing a free show at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when I was in Cleveland in July of 2011, since it conflicted with my reason for being in town (Yankee game). So when I heard that they were rolling into town this week, I decided that this was my chance to finally see them.
Now, I’d gotten used to no one seeming to have heard of the band every time that I mentioned them. If I brought them up as a band that I liked, all I got back were a lot of blank stare and “Never heard of them.” It was getting to the point where I was beginning to think I imagined the band completely. A few friends were aware of who they were, but for the most part I was fairly certain that I was one of the few people who paid them any attention. When the tickets went on sale for the show, I didn’t even bother to ask anyone if they wanted to go as I figured I’d spend a lot of time just trying to hunt someone down who had any idea as to who I was talking about.
I typically don’t mind going to shows by myself; after missing out on far too many shows because no one wanted to go or people taking way too long to get back to me, I decided to just take the bull by the horns and go by myself if it was something I wanted to do. I was a little less thrilled to be going alone to this show since I don’t particularly like the venue; it’s a smaller club in a strip mall and the show is all General Admission and standing room only. This tends to be an issue for someone like me that if 5 foot nothing and has issues with personal space (I prefer to know the person who is constantly bumping into me). The idea of standing all night was not all that appealing either; to quote Elaine Benes quoting Winston Churchill “Why stand when you can sit?” After a yucky day at work that had me very cranky, I actually considered scrapping the show altogether. Going to bed early seemed more appealing than being out late at a concert.
Cooler heads prevailed, however, and I decided to make the colossal effort to get up off my comfy couch and drive to the show. I figured that I would really regret it if I didn’t go. As I have posted on my refrigerator, “If you are too tired to go out tonight, just think how you’ll feel at seventy three.” I had somehow missed that this show was a double bill with the band Capital Cities, who I wasn’t tremendously familiar with beyond their current radio hit “Safe and Sound.”
I decided I wasn’t going to even bother trying to jockey for position close to the stage and would just chill out in the back where it would be less crowded. I was curious how many people would actually be there; how many people in the Capital Region were actually fans of these bands?
As it turned out, way more than I expected. The parking lot was full of cars and the venue was already pretty backed. Even the back, which is usually fairly open, was getting pretty crowded. Apparently I was just asking the wrong people; the 518 was more than aware of who Fitz and the Tantrums were. The crowd also skewed younger than I would have anticipated. My company in the back of the venue was a lot of parents who were clearly chaperoning their children (it was a 16 and older show). At least I wasn’t the oldest person there.
Both Capital Cities and Fitz and the Tantrums were great. Capital Cities went on first and really won me over. The band features two lead singers, which is a little unusual, but their voices worked so well together that I enjoyed their set immensely. I’ll definitely be downloading their cd In a Tidal Wave of Mystery. They also threw in a few covers and their version of “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees was quite enjoyable. That’s a pretty iconic song, but they still managed to make it somewhat their own with the pacing and arrangement. The band boasts a pretty impressive trumped player (who also doubles as the trombone player). The one man horn section really added to their overall sound. They were able to get the crowd to do “the Capital Cites Shuffle,” which I was thankfully able to avoid participating in given my perch in the back (I am not much for dancing). It was a pretty easy dance, but it was kind of cool to see everyone doing the same thing. At their end of their set they asked people in the audience to twirl jackets or other extra clothing over their heads which created an impressive visual, though I did briefly flash back to my experience at a Buffalo Bills/Pittsburgh Steelers game where I was hit in the back of the head by twirling “Terrible Towels” for most of the game. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by Capital Cities. They were really enjoyable and a lot of fun.
After a brief intermission, where the EMT was sent into the women’s bathroom for some unknown issue, Fitz and the Tantrums took the stage. They were as good as I had hoped that they would be and were high energy. They encouraged a lot of audience participation be asking us to clap along, which I was happy to participate in. After being in sorority, I’m kind of conditioned to clap along whenever people start clapping in public. It’s a reflex. They kicked off their set with a fantastic cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” and then launched into their songs. Fitz looked more casual than I expected, since when I saw them perform on Conan he was in a suit. He was more dressed down for this performance, which I didn’t blame him for since the venue was getting pretty warm with all the people crammed inside. The audience was having a blast – everyone was jumping up and down and just generally having a really good time – and I may have even swayed a little to the music when appropriate. I was prepared to be a little underwhelmed, but they really were great live. I’d definitely see them again.
I even made it home by midnight, which was a nice surprise. It made for a slightly sleep morning this morning but I am glad that I made the decision to go to the show. Perhaps it was because these are bands that are still trying to make a name for themselves or the smaller venue, but both Capital Cities and Fitz and the Tantrums really brought the energy and completely owned the crowd. If you are looking for some new bands, I’d recommend checking them both out.
Setlists (from setlist.fm):
Patience Gets Us Nowhere Fast
Stayin’ Alive/Undone (Weezer)
Farrah Fawcett Hair
I Sold My Bed But Not My Stereo
Safe and Sound
Fitz and the Tantrums
Pickin’ Up the Pieces
News 4 U
Don’t Gotta Work It Out
Breakin’ the Chains of Love
Break the Walls
Keepin’ Our Eyes Out
House on Fire
Out of My League