July 8th, 2011

Music Week in Review: July 8th, 2011

As we often do, we’re giving ourselves a chance to catch up. Over the last week, there were five concerts that we stopped in on. Well, mostly it was Alexander stopping in on them. Paul kind-of-sort-of helped out. From Foster the People to Natasha Bedingfield to Robert Ellis’ CD release party. We caught a little of something for everyone.

Foster the People touched down in the Warehouse Live Studio on Friday July 1st. With their first studio album less than two months old, the sellout crowd was a minor surprise unless you have heard the single “Pumped Up Kicks”. PUK hit #4 on US Billboard’s Rock Tracks, #1 on Alternative charts and Top 40 charting in half a dozen countries.

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However, with 7 months between the single release and the release of Torches, cynical expectations for the live performance were for a focus on presentation over content. The drooling/screaming fans along the barricade served as proof to the band’s LA looks, but the band also presented themselves well with a series of radio-friendly rhythms.

In fact, if there was a complaint, it was that the band members seemed intent on proving proficiency on multiple instruments with a great deal of scurrying around stage as they shifted roles and rearranged placement through the evening, the effect of which was magnified by the tight stage.

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FTP will be returning in less than three months to HOB. I would imagine the crowd to be just as enthusiastic as additional songs become familiar.

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I have to admit that I was a little surprised when no readers jumped at the chance at free tickets for Friday night’s show at Fitzgerald’s. As a fan of Maps and Atlases as well as RX Bandits (who are on their final forever tour), I mistakenly took myself as a “typical reader of The Loop Scoop.” Well, this co-creator was incorrect. There goes my god complex…

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With the doors opening at 6:30, I figured I’d be safe showing up to Fitz around 8:00 for the show. I was wrong. I barely made it in the doors and had a beer in my hand before the third opener came blasting through. Maps and Atlases have made quite a name for themselves it seems (with people that don’t read this site, apparently). We haven’t been doing are part marketing to the free-time barista segment. Always fond of their guitar-picking chops, it’s even more exhilarating seeing the Chicago quartet live. Just another reminder of why I’ll never approach rockstardom. There goes my other god complex…

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When RX Bandits took the stage, they left it all out there for their fans. If this is indeed the last time they’ll play for live crowds as a unit, they certainly left none wanting. Stomping around, slamming their head into the humid night, the crowd cheered on as each bead of sweat streamed down their faces.

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From start to finish, there was an palpable energy. It was one of those shows that you know there’s something special about, but it eludes description. There were no antics or smashed guitars or crowd surfing. Each moment was it’s own and in its own way exciting. It was a show that you really wish could go on forever, even if you were just there on a whim. Or so says my girlfriend.

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My only regret is missing out on the first two openers. I’ll make it up to you on the next tour Zechs Marquise and Happy Body Slow Brain. I promise.

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Steve Earle held court at HOB Wednesday evening. Demonstrating his well-earned reputation for songwriting and a personality big enough for the Toyota Center, the performance gave a room full of fans plenty to be grateful for. With two sets and two encores, the performance lasted nearly three hours with wife Allison Moorer providing an extended break for Earle as she closed out the first set with several of her own songs.

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A seated floor helped keep the crowd noise dulled and contained to the back bar — nothing new for Houston’s concert-going populace, but a little odd when the storyteller is as gifted as Earle. Earle returned the favor with commentary on the energy industry. A “Fuck BP!” with an emphatic middle-finger salute was met with cheers, but a later condemnation, with a measured concession for the associated jobs, of the energy industry received many clear boos, as one would expect in Houston, TX.

Despite that response, Earle seemed genuinely pleased by the overall enthusiasm and support of the crowd. The first set was filled with spoken interludes, the second set was notably more up-tempo, but Earle’s real thanks was expressed in a second, unscripted encore.

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Earle’s recurring role in Treme has provided a forum for he and David Simon to express some insight into the songwriting craft and what constitutes a “classic” song. Wednesday gave us a chance to witness that craft from an American classic.

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Looking for a songwriter/performer with Southern roots? While Steve Earle was giving the master class, Robert Ellis & The Boys demonstrated that a West Coast tour has polished their perfomance well beyond an intro class. Timed to correspond with his new release “Photographs”, Ellis brought the Wednesday faithful back to Fitzgerald’s – dancing and carousing – Ellis has clearly been missed.

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Houston is going through a phase of musical self-awareness that is resulting in cooperation and support not found in previous rounds of musical activity. Much of that can be attributed to the cross-pollination of artists performing in multiple bands, and even more to the fact that there are several bands that are performing at a level that has built a fan-base and is helping get crowds into clubs during the week.

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The next big obstacle for Houston music respectability is to go beyond performing and into true song writing. Ellis has been diligently working that skill — not as obviously seen during his former weekly sets, but more often in his quieter pieces, his solo shows. With his latest album, hopefully that effort will start to get the same recognition for him as a writer as he has earned as performer.

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With her pop idol looks, Natasha Bedingfield is easily categorized as Brit-pop ready for light rock radio. Looking to set that straight, Bedingfield is touring in support of her latest album but also covering an interesting variety of pop, R&B, and light-jazz songs. From the Police to Tracy Chapman, Prince to Sade, Bedingfield is clearly still stretching herself.

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Thursday’s performance at the House of Blues found a mixed audience of mother-daughter bonding, older couples on date night, and a sprinkle of her gay fan club. Playing heavily to the crowd, Bedingfield complimented them frequently and tossed in “Houston” references into several songs for pavlovian cheers. Frankly she didn’t really need to buy the crowds affection. While a dismal night for bartenders, the crowd was very appreciative and responsive.

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Interestingly, Bedingfield seems to be expanding her American music influences from R&B to Country. She gave a glimpse into a new release done with Rascal Flatts (ironically, the band Adele has cited as influencing her after her first album) that is expected on Country radio soon. Combined with the response she received last night, I’d expect Houston to become a regular stop on future tours.

— Alexander

Comments

Tea Jones — Monday, July 11, 2011 9:39 am

What a shame Earle was capped in Treme. I was enjoying his presence. For Earleaholics like myself out there, I highly recommend his Hardcore Troubadour show on XMSirius. It spans the globe of eclectic Americana and alt-country. No K-Mart Cowboy crap.

Alexander — Monday, July 11, 2011 11:59 am

Tea: **SPOILER ALERT**

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