2 Years After Ownership Change, Fitz Is Thriving

Categories: All In

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Murder by Death downstairs at Fitz in July
Has it really been two years already since Jagi Katial and Omar Afra became the new owner-operators of Fitzgerald's? Apparently so, because the Free Press Summer Fest partners celebrated their second anniversary at the rickety old live music club on White Oak a couple weeks back with a weekend's worth of bands, headlined by the Walkmen. Time flies, as they say.

When the pair bought the club from longtime owner Sara Fitzgerald, who opened the place back in 1977, local music fans were pleased to see the place remain open, but a little unsure what would become of a historic venue where a lot of happy memories have been made.

Two years later, it's pretty safe to say that the takeover has been a resounding success. That's why we toasted Fitzgerald's as the city's Best Live Music Venue in this year's Best of Houston issue.

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Photo by Marco Torres
Kashmere Stage Band rocks Fitz, July 2012
Today, quality shows can be seen throughout the week both upstairs and down at the former Polish meeting hall. Before I started writing for Rocks Off last year, it had been almost a decade since I'd stepped inside Fitz, and I get the feeling my story was typical. My first show back was local rap luminaries Lil' Flip and K-Rino downstairs. Both have been on the scene for a minute, and I'm pretty darn sure they never played Fitz back when.

If anyone worried that the Summer Fest brain trust would set Fitzgerald's to indie 24/7 two years ago, they're probably resting pretty easy by now. In the last year, I've seen classic rock, hip-hop, EDM, punk, post-punk, psych and -- oh, yes -- metal shows at Fitz. And they still brought in all the best indie bands, both local and national.

But even those of us who get paid to come early and stay late couldn't hope to catch everything good in the past two years. I decided to talk to some folks who might've. Last week, I contacted a few of the people who have invested significant chunks of their lives into Fitzgerald's re-launch to learn what had changed, what hadn't and what had made everything worth it.

"I had not been to Fitz for about 16 years before we went there to talk to the previous management about taking over," co-owner Jagi Katial says. "One thing that I know has probably changed is the type of and quantity of acts that play Fitz. I would say we have the best bands on the touring and local levels playing the room on any given night."

And aside from the urinals, pray tell, what has changed the least?

"The room itself," he says. "We cleaned it up, painted and dressed up some areas, but I always felt that the two rooms had the right feel already. So we did as little as possible to alter the way the rooms' layout felt."

Spoken like a true Houstonian. It's nice to have the place in the hands of music fans who grew up going to shows there. It's helped keep Fitzgerald's familiar.

"There is a certain effect Fitzgerald's has on the people that derives from the rich history of the building," says venue manager Brian Smith. "There have been historic events happening here since 1918. I feel like when people attend concerts here they are becoming a part of that history."


Location Info

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Fitzgerald's

2706 White Oak, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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9 comments
WestSideBob
WestSideBob topcommenter

I was introduced to The Bonedaddys @ Fitz.  I'll have to sort through the fog and try to remember others, but The Daddys really stood out for me.  I'm betting Phineas Gauge played there too now that I think of it.  Loved those guys. 

boogerboogersone
boogerboogersone

Upstairs my favs was Frank Turner, Andrew W.K. and the English Beat, Downstairs, Local Houston band the Watermarks, and they have Stella!

Mike Atala
Mike Atala

Congrats Fitz! "so glad they made it freshy fresh AFTER I moved to San Antonio" ;-)

Fuzzz
Fuzzz

You know that indie isn't a genre, yeah?

claymonster
claymonster

Two recent (well, last year or two) shows that really stood out for me: the Sideshow Tramps "Revelator" album release concert, and Band of Skulls. In the first case, it was like an ecstatic tent revival with all the snake oil, gospel, grit and gyratin' you could ask for. In the second - I've never heard it sound so good and so loud in that room. Just awesome.

It's always been nice to catch a tour-end Kings X show there as well.

I don't know her name, but I have to give a huge thumbs up for the girl who is the resident sound engineer. People throw the "hardest working person in show business" term around a lot, but she may have actually earned it. She's A1, A2, stage manager and stagehand all at the same time. Bravo!

nokutanluna
nokutanluna

 @Fuzzz It's an appropriate umbrella term that even the masses understand.

NathanSmith
NathanSmith

 @claymonster I caught Band of Skulls at Buzzfest in the spring. I imagine they must have sounded huge at Fitz!

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