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SHOW REVIEW: Fitz & The Tantrums, Pensacola, FL

Fitz and the TantrumsI don’t exactly remember how it was that I first stumbled upon Fitz and The Tantrums. But what I do know is that ever since that first time hearing them, their name has always lingered around in the chaotic library of music I have built within the confines of my mind. While I never dug too deep into their discography, I had enough sense to know that when I saw the promo poster for their concert at Vinyl Music Hall, I would make it a point to be at this show.

I arrive at the venue just after 7 and upon waiting in line for 20 minutes or so, finally make my way through the doors. By the time the opening act takes the stage, the venue is already at full capacity and I overhear a confirmation that tonight’s show did in fact end up selling out. The first band introduce themselves as Kopecky Family Band from Nashville, TN and despite the band name, they aren’t actually related; they just decided to name themselves after vocalist/keyboardist Kelsey Kopecky. The band consists of Kelsey and five guys, one of them being Gabe Simon, who shares the role of lead singer with Kelsey. The alternating vocals between Gabe and Kelsey make me think of something along the lines of Of Monsters and Men with a touch of Grouplove or maybe Cotton Jones. By the end of their set, we have seen the use of trombones, maracas, a cello, a xylophone, a lap guitar, whistling, and all this on top of three guitars, a bass, a keyboard, a drum set and floor toms for Kelsey to beat on. They easily win the crowd over with their southern charm and lively stage presence. Before they perform their last song, they inform the crowd that they sponsor a child from Ecuador and if any of us would like to help support their child, they can do so at their merch table. I don’t know exactly what I expected from an opening band for Fitz and The Tantrums, but Kopecky Family certainly exceeded any expectations I held.

After spending the last 45 minutes or so crammed up against a high traffic bar for the first band, I decide that I’d like to enjoy Fitz and The Tantrums with a bit more breathing room, so I head over towards the water fountain and bathroom area where there’s a decent size opening. Right in sync with me as I finish off my beer, the lights cut off, Fitz and The Tantrums come out on stage and the huge neon light heart they have on stage (modeled after the cover of their new album, More Than Just A Dream) lights up with alternating shades of pink, red, and light blue. It doesn’t take long for that indie neo-soul feel that their music has, to take over the crowd and get everybody’s hands up in the air either clapping, snapping, or just swaying back and forth. The first six songs flow together seamlessly, providing an even mix of songs from both More Than Just A Dream and Pickin’ Up The Pieces. As “Spark” comes to an end, vocalist Noelle Scaggs, gets the crowd’s clapping in sync with the beat of the drummer’s kick drum and introduces us to the rest of the band. They then ease their way into a full blown cover of the ’80s hit by Eurythmics, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” assigning to us the duty of shouting out, “Movin on!” in response to front man Michael Fitzpatrick (aka Fitz) and Noelle singing, “Keep your head up!”

After all that fun, Fitz takes a moment to paint a mental picture for all of us. He conjures up the feeling of “a day where your boss lets you take a half day, you get in your car and your favorite song is on the radio, there’s no traffic at all on the drive home, and everything is going perfectly.  But then when you get home, you hear your love-making song playing, and you call out to your girlfriend or boyfriend but get no answer and as you make your way towards the bedroom, you find your significant other in bed with someone else. This is a song about when that happens.” The music starts up and it’s “House On Fire” from More Than Just A Dream. The next few songs come from that album as well, including the infectious (no pun intended) hit, “Out Of My League.” This is clearly one of the standout tracks from the album as the crowd just erupts when the opening lyrics “More than just a dream,” are sung. For the next song, “Last Raindrop,” everybody leaves the stage except for Noelle, Fitz, and their saxophone player, James King. They perform it as a duet and the way they look singing to each other standing right in front of the huge glowing heart on stage with King on the sax is enough to take anyone’s breath away. After that super emotional display, they go right back into the foot stompin, finger snappin sound they’re known for and go out with a bang with “Dear Mr. President” and “L.O.V.”

The crowd isn’t about to let that be the end of the night though, and after just a couple minutes of applause Fitz walks back out on stage, empties out a bottle of water on his head, looks at us and says, “It’s hot in here! But you guys are gonna have to make it even hotter! You guys gotta wake the dead! Let’s see what you got!” With that, the band walks out and they go into their hit from Pickin’ Up The Pieces, “MoneyGrabber.” After “MoneyGrabber” ends, Fitz has the entire crowd crouch down and get low. He doesn’t move on until every last person in the room is “getting low.” As soon as he’s satisfied, they start up what is arguably the most danceable track from More Than Just A Dream, “The Walker,” and everybody jumps up and the entire room is dancing. Driven by whistling and a steady drumbeat, this is an excellent way to end the night. This is definitely one of the best shows I have ever been to and I will definitely be recommending both of these bands to anyone looking for a good show to go to.

You can purchase a CD or buy concert tickets here, and check out their setlist here.

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Josh Morton

I'm a journalism student at UWF in my junior year currently living just outside of Pensacola, FL. I'm 27 years old. I like music. Lots of music. Live music. Headphone music. Car speaker music is real good. Food is also real good. Too good. I eat sushi with chopsticks because it makes me feel more legit.

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