Concert Review | Fitz and the Tantrums at Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC

All Photos By Aggie Donkar

Walking into the large, beautifully converted river-mill space that is The Haw River Ballroom, you almost forget where you are. And the now completed journey you just made along with 700 like-minded, similarly dressed pilgrims from civilization, seems like one of those feverish dreams you startle yourself awake from.

The crowd seemed poised for a libatious evening filled with arm waving and vertical hopping. I, for one, had grand illusions of finally shedding all inhibitions and just fucking letting myself go with no regard for those around me. Rhythm and prior-dance ability be damned. It was time to get fawnky with Fitz and them Tantrums.

Hunter Hunted, another LA-area band, had opening honors — doing a fine job of bringing their radio-ready brand of pop to the live setting.  They not only sounded great, they literally looked like a film-band. You know, if Judd Apatow were to cast a band for a movie about struggling LA kids looking to make it big, I have no doubt he would just break down and cast Hunter Hunted.

As for the FATT set, I’m not sure exactly what I expected.  Admittedly — I’d never seem them perform live, even on late night TV, so basically I had the music and a picture of the band.  Suffice to say, I was more-than-pleasantly surprised. The energy that they exude from that stage, especially while directed at a guy who is accustomed to seeing shy-indie-rock-kids on stage, is almost overwhelming.  Each and every band member seems to be truly excited-as-shit to be there. They even took special time to acknowledge an elementary school-aged girl who, judging by her knowledge of the songs, was quite possibly their biggest fan in attendance that evening. (She was also attending with her well-into-their-eighties grandparents…awww.)

Most noticeably is the role that Noelle Scaggs plays in the live-set. She COMMANDS the stage, and (sorry Fitz,) is one of those performers who demands your attention and fucking gets it.  I mean, as an awkwardly tall white-guy from a small town, I didn’t even know a body could move like that.  I’m convinced her spine is double jointed…for real. She. Was. Amazing.

They blew through a perfectly orchestrated set of new and old, and despite a bit of apprehension surrounding how they would mix their new, post-throwback, sound with those classic jams found on their debut album, I was shocked at how well new tracks like the “Out of my League,” “Break the Walls” and “The Walker” mixed with “Winds of Change” and “MoneyGrabber.”  Honestly, seeing them live made the musical progression make perfect sense, where before, it felt as if they’d abandoned their previous, Staxx-ish sound for something more accessible.

I left with a fresh outlook — accessible isn’t bad. Everyone should have an opportunity to enjoy nights like these.

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