Grouplove, The Belle Brigade, White Arrows @ Fitzgerald’s
Hype can be a big thorn in the side if you can’t live up to it when you stroll into town for a live gig. Hype can also be multiplied ten-fold when you stroll into said venue and kill it. It certainly was the latter rather than the former for all three LA-based groups that took the upstairs stage at Houston’s Fitzgerald’s – headliner Grouplove and opening acts The Belle Brigade and White Arrows.
Read about the show and check out some pictures after the jump
White Arrows were first up, and they were kind of the reason I was at this show in the first place. I’d received several e-mails about the band leading up to the show, and decided to check out their music as I knew they’d be opening for Grouplove in the near future. Already having Grouplove’s EP, and really enjoying it, I figured they wouldn’t be too far off. While the music wasn’t exactly the same, it still fit easily into that same indie rock realm with it’s electonic beats, and almost a tropical feel to their music. They had a solid live presence, and easily quieted the chatty crowd awaiting the night’s later bands. Of the three bands that played on the bill, I find myself coming back to White Arrows material a whole lot more than the other two – especially the awesome white 7″ I picked up at the show. I think bigger things are to come from the group, especially with what seems to be a quite successful tour that they are still apart of.
The Belle Brigade were up next, and didn’t fit into the sound of the other bands that night at all. While they were really good, the direction they took the show in was unexpected, but very much appreciated. I love when bands tour together that don’t necessarily fit together – like the Avett Brothers and Social Distortion – this was one of those pairings. Acoustic guitar fronted with a heavy emphasis on piano and vocals are turned from the usually quiet instruments they are into a frenzy of kick-ass songs. While the entire band is based off of a brother and sister duo, it is really the sister Barbara Gruska that truly takes center stage. Her vocal prowess and stage presence will bring this band into the big time sooner than even they or anyone else can guess. I really dug their sound, and watched their entire shorter-than-usual set with a smile on my face as I bobbed my head along. Great stuff!
I had been listening to Grouplove’s debut eponymous EP for a few months now, especially the catchy-as-hell “Colours” that’s been all over the interwebs and television as of late. While I wasn’t too sure how they were going to base a whole show off of one short EP and some more songs they put out on their first full length, I had a good feeling that they were going to be great live. I was instantly proven right, and with the addition of a few new songs, they had no problem filling in the headliner slot. Each member added something completely different to the mix, with frontman Christian Zucconi bringing a unique take on vocals, keyboardist and vocalist Hannah Hooper all over the place avoiding outstretched arms from the attracted men in the front row, bassist Sean Gadd (son of famous drummer Steve Gadd) hitting the low-end and entertaining the crowd with his English-accented quips, Andrew Wessen not missing a note on his guitar and drummer and producer Ryan Rabin holding it all together throughout the entire performance. I was impressed by all of the tunes they played that night, but the high points came during both “Colours” and Hooper’s standout vocal breakdown in “Naked Kids.” At the very end of the set, they brought out a backlit screen where Hooper took the entire final song to draw out whatever was in her imagination at the time – while I’m sure it’s a different drawing every time, this time it was of an exaggerated woman lying under the stars. It was quite the unique way to end the show, and left everyone enthralled with what was going to appear in her drawing next.
Overall the show was great, enough to keep me from going downstairs to check out one of my favorite Austin/Houston groups The Eastern Sea. Fortunately they started a bit late, so I had the opportunity to take in most of their show as well. It’s rare these days that I go to a show and am completely impressed by every band on the bill. Hopefully all three acts will make their way back to town sometime soon in some shape or form. I’ll assuredly be in attendance.
Check out more photos from the performance