As Transition Begins, A Few Fitzgerald's Memories For The Road
As Fitzgerald's embarks on a new chapter in its epic history - Saturday's show with Caveman Electric, Peekaboo Theory and others is the last one before shutting down and reopening under new management September 23 - it seems fitting to reminisce about the past. The phrase 'If these walls could talk' seems downright scary for an establishment which has probably held every type of music and motley crew of crowds possible. Although with all the graffiti on them, Fitz's walls almost do talk.
Photos courtesy of Kam Franklin Fishbone's Angelo Moore at Fitzgerald's
For Rocks Off, our first recollection of the name Fitzgerald's comes from our father, who used to renovate houses in the Heights in his early college days. As he set down the hammer on hot summer nights, retreating to the porch, he could hear strains of such greats as Stevie Ray Vaughn cutting through the blanket of humidity.
As the years passed, the sweat from Texas heat continued, bands made names for themselves, and moshing became a standard. Gathering by the amount of posts on Fitzgerald's on the Hands Up Houston message board, there seemed to be some common themes.
- Bathrooms have always been scary, including the men's bathroom that, due to the oddly placed stalls, overlooked the street scenery and traffic on White Oak.
- The building surviving moshing and jumping all these years, including crowd members' limbs and feet coming through the ceiling into the manager's office on the first floor during shows. It's a miracle the building hasn't ever collapsed into itself.
- Band fights, arguments over how to split money between the night's acts, and many visits from the cops. Many brawls occurred, and tear gas was used on one particular incident.
- Teenage nights of bliss: first concert memories, crawling up on stage to scream out lyrics with the band, underage drinking, bad clothing trends and lots of stage diving.
Although Rocks Off couldn't get Fitz's actual walls to talk for an interview (we tried), three local music figures chimed in with their favorite memories of the Heights landmark:
Chris Johnson, KUHF's afternoon classical-music host:
My roommate in college was Jason Bird who was the sax player for Los Skarnales. Although there is much from those days that I do not remember, I'm pretty sure the first time I went to Fitz's was to see them. It was '97 or '98 and would have involved much pre-show drinking in the parking lot.
I'll never forget what Felipe (their lead singer) said to me. I was a nervously shy person at the time, especially around new people. He asked me if I wanted a beer and, being embarrassed that I was penniless and beerless, I responded, 'Ah man, I don't have any money.' He tossed me a Corona from the cooler in the back of the truck we were next to and said, 'I didn't ask you if you had any money bro. I asked you if you wanted a beer! Vato!'
Later that night I was outside on the upstairs patio and there where so many people there that I seriously thought we might all crash down on the people by the front door.
I was also there when they turned the downstairs area into a Tiki Room. That was crazy.
The DJ's name was Lucky and he would spin all swing/ska/surf and there were lots of women's bras hanging all over the walls... including my friend Elsa's oversized brassiere. She was proud...felt like she had made her mark on the place.
My favorite other shows where Latch Key Kids and DJ Spooky. Spooky did this song he called '5 Minutes of Bass' where he played around with feedback with his upright bass. It was pretty mind-expanding!