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At the annual South by Southwest convention in Austin, Texas, there are a kabillion bands to see. I usually prepare by listening to a torrent of band-submitted mp3s, which can tally anywhere from 800 to 1000 or more. Of those, I think I liked 75-100 bands last year. I think I only loved 10 enough to check out additional tracks. One of those was the L.A.-based Fitz and the Tantrums.
When I first discovered them, they all looked really handsome, dressed sharp, and played Stax-style blue-eyed soul—-all good things. But a crafty producer, studio tricks, and Photoshop can turn any William Hung into a Julio Iglesias—-I was skeptical. It turned out that Fitz and the Tantrums were just as good live and were, hands down, one of the best things I saw over my four days in Austin.
Monday night at the Rock & Roll Hotel was a similarly great. Fitz & Co. went on almost two hours late because their plane was delayed, which isn’t the best way to endear a band to an audience. But playing tracks from their recent full-length release, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, as well as previewing one from their next release in progress, Fitz and the Tantrums generated so much dancing during their set that few in the crowd seemed to care about the delay or the time. Lead singer Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick and his female counterpart, Noelle Scaggs, were a modern-day Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, artfully playing off each other and the audience, and, well, they can really sing. Musically, the band was tight and practiced, right down to the tambourine playing. They were enthusiastic and engaging, but it wasn’t so overly affected that you felt like it was an act. It was thrilling to see six people as excited to play for the crowd as the crowd was to see them play.
I swear I’m not being paid by the band to write this piece, but I really can’t say enough good things about them. Fitz and the Tantrums are a band whose set you don’t leave to hit the bar, or go to the bathroom, or make a phone call-you’re having too much fun dancing your ass off. How many times can you honestly say you’ve seen a band who makes that happen to every single person in an audience?
(You can see the rest of the photos from the show here.)