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Friday, September 3, 2010

Fitz and the Tantrums Play to a Tame Crowd at Popscene

Posted By on Fri, Sep 3, 2010 at 8:58 AM

Fitz & The Tantrums 
@ Popscene
September 2, 2010 

Better than: Refusing to allow Thursday to function as the new Friday. 

Fitz and the Tantrums are an anomaly in the indie music scene. All the super-serious Canadian post-rock bands, shy-spoken Midwestern pretty boys, and unmovable New Yorkers with grooveless guitars have a lot going for them, but one thing that they generally don't have is soul. The unpretentious joyous energy that comes from soul, Motown and R&B is refreshing right now because it seethes with a sincerity that's usually lacking in the typical indie audience. You don't see many people singing along and clapping their hands at the shows of Interpol, dancing to The Strokes, or swaying to the biggest crescendos of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Such movements are almost always a physical manifestation of honest and passionate emotions -- merriment, excitement, fervor and feeling. Among some crowds, showing these things still isn't cool -- even after the success of candor-filled bands like Arcade Fire.

Last night at Popscene, Fitz and the Tantrums violently spat in the face of this behavior.

Every song performed during their set involved gang shouts, hand-claps and honest attempts to get the audience participating. If such techniques were going to work at any venue, it should be Popscene, a club with a disco ball, a place that specializes in getting dance-puddles going pretty early in the night. But sadly, last night's small audience didn't match the bands' energy.

Of course, last night was a weekday night approaching the Labor Day weekend, meaning people are probably resting up for their respective parties and vacations. Plus, the last time Fitz and company played San Francisco, they sold out the Independent, which suggests that there's serious potential for their brand of hokey Motown revival to find its place. There's something about a band willing to sing shamelessly about love -- without dressing it in dry wit -- and constantly remind the audience to "have a good time" that feels anything but cool, yet resonates on a deeper, more human level. But by the very end of the show, most in the small crowd that was left were willing to participate, so apparently this incredibly charismatic group made a few converts.

Critic's Notebook 
Personal bias: I didn't need to hear yet another cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," and all the awesome jam breakdowns in the world couldn't change that. Closing with it left a rather nasty taste in my mouth.

Sound report: Incredibly well balanced, as is usual for Popscene, though I wish they could have raised the vocals a little higher to really accentuate the more soaring moments of Noele Scaggs' skyrocketing wails. But between the kinetic organ solos and aggressive saxophone freak-outs, there was more than enough focus on technical impressiveness to go around. 

The crowd: Some friendly Canadians on a road trip decided to spend their last night in the city at this show, convinced solely by this band's super-awesome music video. Check it out, though this music is definitely best experienced live.

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Aron Fischer


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