Bombay Bicycle Club at Fitzgerald’s
Published: Friday, November 2, 2012
Updated: Friday, November 2, 2012 02:11
Whoever said Austin was the only place in Texas to experience good music was terribly misinformed. Fitzgerald’s, one of the oldest and most widely recognized live music venues in Houston, recently hosted Bombay Bicycle Club as a stop on the band’s American tour. The indie rock band from London performed a show of which even the hippest of hipsters in Austin would approve.
For all the music junkies at Rice University, Fitzgerald’s mainly hosts shows by the obscure bands you claim to have heard and loved first. For the rest of you lay listeners, Fitzgerald’s is a great place to take a break from the top-40 radio standards and delve into a new musical experience.
After a short 15-minute drive from campus, a few other Rice students and I pulled up into a dated neighborhood. At night, under the muted glow of the fluorescent lights of streetlamps and restaurant signs, the neighborhood looked like the setting of a classic American horror movie. An unexpected number of people formed a line comparable only to those at Disney World, awaiting their musical liberation in the borderline-rundown, two-story, white-shingled Fitzgerald’s.
The building itself looked and felt like a revamped old western saloon, with ornate and slightly out-of-place chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings. The concert was on the upper floor in a homey space in front of a small stage. When I imagined an intimate hole-in-the-wall music venue, the image of Fitzgerald’s was pretty close to what came to mind.
Demographically, the audience fit comfortably into the indie music scene stereotype. Looking around, I saw no less than 70 percent of the people in thick-rimmed glasses, plaid shirts, unkempt facial hair or a combination thereof. The room smelled of alcohol, smoke and body odor, but in a cozy, not completely unpleasant, way.
After an hour of waiting in musical limbo, the crowd cheered halfheartedly to see the opener finally arrive onstage. The members of Tiger Waves, a small band with roots in Austin, explained that they were late because their old Dodge Ram’s makeshift cardboard sunroof blew off in their rainy road trip down to Houston. That excuse, coupled with the lead singer’s dingy red HEB polo, placed Tiger Waves in the stereotypical mold of an underground band. As for musicality, the band’s style was laid back and very chill yet somehow exploding with a quiet energy. I, however, spent the duration of the set mesmerized by the drummer, who was very possibly the offspring of Harry Styles and Andrew Garfield.
When Bombay Bicycle Club walked on stage, the members were met with a resonating cheer. A much more clean-cut and charismatic group than the opening act, the band’s presence demanded attention. As a fan only familiar with the band’s better-known songs, I did not know exactly what to expect, but from the moment it started playing, I knew it would be a good show.
The set list was well constructed, shifting back and forth between styles, tempos and popularity of songs. The simple layering of light bass, guitar, drum and vocal lines in a mellow groove, so often associated with popular Bombay Bicycle Club songs such as “Shuffle” and “Always Like This,” begged for subtle head-bobbing and toe-tapping. These songs were masterfully interjected by the heavier, raucous style of the band’s lesser-known songs. Lead singer Jack Steadman connected with the crowd but seemed to serenade an internalized audience, smiling slightly through each song as he kept his eyes either closed or fixed on a spot above the audience’s heads.
Time seemed to stop yet pass quickly, and before long, through the roaring applause after the encore, Steadman was telling us the band members would be around after the concert if anyone wanted to meet them. We capitalized on the opportunity and pushed our way to the front of the meet-and-greet line. The band members were exactly what they seemed like on stage: genuine, laid-back and charismatic. After signing our ticket stubs, they gladly posed, throwing up the Rice University owl hand sign with us for a picture.
The Bombay Bicycle Club’s concert epitomized the vibe of Fitzgerald’s. Fitzgerald’s is not a venue where you sing your lungs out to every word of every song. Rather, it is a venue where, whether you know the band or not, you sway with the crowd members and nod in appreciation of the hole-in-the-wall venue you just found in this world of Toyota Centers and Houses of Blues.