Baths, Generationals, Houses and Gringo Star at Fitzgerald's, 6/20/2013
Thursday night Fitzgerald's played host to two different shows, with Generationals and Gringo Star in the bigger upstairs room, and Baths and Houses taking over the smaller downstairs area. Both shows pulled in about the same amount of people, a smattering of Houston's youth spread out among both venues.
Gringo Star had been performing for a bit upon my arrival, and from the looks of it were keeping their audience quite captivated. The Atlanta quartet played their instruments loud, sang their songs with the confidence of veterans and had no problem making fans of the 50 or so kids that made it out early without any knowledge of the openers.
They had a solid garage-rock sound, reminding me at times of fellow Georgians The Whigs, only a bit less on the polished side. The set was super-enjoyable, and gave me hope for the ensuing Genrationals performance.
I'm not going to lie, though; the whole time I was hoping for a Spanglish cover of "Yellow Submarine." As could be imagined, that never happened, although I'm sure Mr. Starkey would be pretty happy with his namesake being used for such great things.
Downstairs, Houses were just getting their set started to a swelling crowd of youngsters. I've come to realize over the past few years that I'm getting old, and am no longer the target demographic for bands such as these. Not saying it's bad, it wasn't at all, actually Houses were really good, it's just pushed to a much younger crowd -- kids who were barely out of diapers when I was drinking Mickey's grenades and thrashing around to Operation Ivy.
They were a bit one-note at times during their set, and seem to have some room to improve, but the hype they've received over the past few months is definitely deserved. The best parts of the set came with their spellbinding instrumental work that hit several exciting peaks throughout. They were fun to watch, too, with all four members putting their all into the short performance.
After Houses finished, Generationals were getting their turn upstairs, headlining a half-full room of excited customers. They had the crowd jumping around even before they played a note, which was noticed by the band as they laid mention of it being their best crowd in Houston to date.
I'm not familiar with their touring history in the Bayou City, but being from New Orleans, I'm sure they've cut their teeth here on a few occasions. But that's the great thing about a successful touring act -- they get to see their crowds grow before their very eyes, and with such catchy pop sensibilities, they have nowhere to go but up.
Their tunes were fun and high-energy; at times I heard Passion Pit, other times The Rembrandts. Sometimes it sounded like Hockey, and then soon after, Weezer. So many great pop-rock bands all wrapped up into one.
The only group of the night I was really familiar with was the closer, Baths, the stage name of L.A-based classically-trained musician Will Wiesenfeld. He has played Houston numerous times, but this was his first time (correct me if I'm wrong) headlining his own gig, opening for notable indie acts including Cold War Kids, Scissor Sisters and El Ten Eleven, each time leaving the crowd longing for more.
But this show was a bit different than the others, as for the first time Baths featured a second member. The unnamed assailant (Kevin?) seemed to take over most of the mixing duties, while Wiesenfeld seamlessly jumped around from his own mixer to the keyboard to the vocals.
His old show featured him putting together his own form of electronica by skillfully tapping away at a programmed drum pad, with random vocals thrown in for more of a side effect. Now, the show has changed, and for the better. There was only so far he could go with just a drum pad and a microphone; now he has the ability to slow down and own his music.
He also proved his talent is more than just pushing buttons, especially when layering classical piano into the electronic fold. His vocals weren't too shabby either, as they seemed to be much more of the focus than in shows past.
For a guy who probably sits around in his room day in and day out while crafting new songs, his personality seemed to shine even brighter than his music at times - which wasn't too difficult since many of his songs spotlight a host of depressing topics.
The back-and-forth banter between Wiesenfeld and the attentive crowd was actually quite entertaining. He had a quick wit, but didn't come off as an asshole like many other people in his shoes. At one point towards the end, some presumably single girl in the audience yelled out "you're beautiful!" Every other girl in the audience started to cheer,
Baths smiled and quickly exited stage left as if they were teasing said ladies.
Coming back within seconds, Wiesenfeld sent out a wink and an undistinguishable quip to the adoring gaggle of girls and finished up the rest of the set.
Going into my Thursday, I didn't expect much to come out of it, but I walked away with three new bands to give a second listen to, and a refresher course in a group that I've already loved live.
I really enjoy walking into a show with not much of a background for the group or groups I'm about to see. If they are good, then they'll make me a fan for life. To be a success in the music industry, or at least in my eyes, you have to not only have a strong knack for songwriting, but also the ability to perform a solid live show.
If you can't perform your music as good as or better than what you've put to record, you should flat-out not be making music at all. All four of these bands should unequivocally be making music.
Personal Bias: I came for Baths and I got Generationals, Houses and Gringo Star along with it. That's called net gain. Everyone strives for net gain.
The Crowd: School's out for summer.
Overheard In the Crowd: A young girl no older than 18 says to her male counterpart in reference to Generationals "do you even know who these people are?" I didn't either, so don't feel bad, dude.
Random Notebook Dump: "I wonder how many people can spot that this is a Cure cover?" - during Generationals spirited take on "Friday I'm In Love." "Maybe the people standing towards the back?"