May 24th, 2011
Loopster Live: Here We Go Magic with Caveman at Fitzgerald’s
A little more than 13 months ago, I took a hand-me-down camera to my first concert. Taking shots like any stalwart photo-journalist, I attempted to document the choral experience. The result ended up being less than spectacular. Each shot turned out a fuzzy, over-saturated mess by the time I (and photoshop) got through with them. I even took to using my flash (a collection of concert photographers just gasped audibly). The opener for that show was Here We Go Magic. At that time, the band from Brooklyn was following around White Rabbits. On Saturday everything was different: Here We Go Magic was headlining the tour that counted Fitzgerald’s as a stop and I had a new arsenal of camera equipment and the (almost) know-how to use it.
Two nights before, I had missed the opener to Wanda Jackson. At the time, one more coffee topped up with bourbon seemed like a better idea than being punctual. “The show will go on,” but it will go on when I’m ready for it. Not so, my friends. On Monday night, I made sure that I would be at the doors as they opened. Unfortunately, they were locked, but I’ll take being too early over being too late.
Fitzgerald’s isn’t much to behold when it’s empty. A few people here. A few there. Nothing spectacular, really. I could pass off as any other dive bar with a decent patio in town. Members of Here We Go Magic float around taking in the lack of scenery and have quiet conversations with each other. Conversations about how much fun it is to play in Houston, I imagine.
By the time I’m in need of a second beer, Caveman is taking the stage, strapping into their instrument of choice and addressing the crowd of a few dozen ready for the beat. I’m not hip enough to have known who they were before they showed up before my very eyes, but as percussion rips through the air it’s apparent that I’ve been missing out. It also appears I’ll be missing out on that second beverage because gravity pulls me toward the stage.
They remind me of one of my recent favorite bands, Local Natives. That’s what genres are supposed to do, make things easier to categorize, so the “Afro-beat” sticker slung on Caveman works well. I’m most interested by the presence of the tom in front of leadman Matthew Iwanusa. The dueling drums trend is one that’s worthy of my support. The tambourine’s time in the lead singer’s spotlight is finally over.
Each of Caveman’s song seem to power through the vocals to get to the good part, the instrumental jam sessions held every three minutes. Their play at once reminds you of something from Broken Social Scene and maybe even some Explosions in the Sky. It’s hard to put your finger on it, especially when you get caught up in the moment of the music. Honestly, playing the “association game” with a band is a bit of a disservice. Maybe I just say that because I’m really bad at it. Either way, before I knew it, Caveman was wrapping up the only way they should: pounding the shit out of the skins in front of them to the point of breaking.
After a short intermission, the men and women of the hour took the stage. Here We Go Magic have had a envious couple years of touring with the likes of the aforementioned White Rabbits, New Pornographers, Dr. Dog, Broken Social Scene and The Walkmen. Their 2009 eponymous album was released by Austin’s Western Vinyl record label and then a second effort, Pigeons (Secretly Canadian) barely a year after. The Brooklyn quintet has been busy, and the polish shows in their live performance.
Luke Temple led the band with an unaffected air, as if he didn’t even realize the crowd had materialized before him. All that matters is the music. Crowd-pleasing be damned. But that didn’t stop the ravenous indie-music loving Houstonians from pushing up against the stage, idols right at their fingertips. Fan interaction came from guitarist Michael Bloch when he asked about the score in the nightly NBA playoff game, but he quickly retreated when he realized that he was surrounded by probable Rockets fans.
There is an ethereal quality of Here We Go Magic’s songs. Live, you can’t really hear discern Temple’s lyrics when the band accelerates their sound, but they play an active role in complementing musically. They float on top of jangling guitars and the waves created by keyboardist Kristina Lieberson. All of this sits on top of the plucky pace and determination of bassist Jennifer Turner and the lanky Peter Hale whirling behind the drum kit.
The concert all built up to “Collector” the favorite single off of the 2010 album. Fans embodied the frantic energy of the song, bouncing from foot to foot as the first faint smile finally cracked through Temple’s facade. As Here We Go Magic summed up their show and headed to the backroom (only to be coaxed out for an encore), the lead singer grabbed the hands of two fans still thrust in the air and said, “I love these guys.” Maybe he had known we, the crowd, had been there and had only gotten caught up in the music as we had. Now I just hope these pesky photos turn out so I didn’t waste my chance at redemption.