Over the Weekend: Free Energy, Foxy Shazam and Hollerado at The Loft

Free Energy, Foxy Shazam and Hollerado
The Loft
October 22, 2010

Better than: listening to politicians try to inspire hope with the upcoming elections.

Philadelphia-based power-pop group Free Energy has been climbing very fast since their March 2010 debut album Stuck on Nothing, a critical success that's seen  the band scoring a Shawn White Target commercial and earning an opening slot for Weezer later this year.

But does the band live up to all that tubular hype? You bet.

Theirs isn't necessarily the most creative music, but Free Energy does make refreshingly hopeful power-pop without the hipster irony or the pretentious indie cred that's so prevalent in today's music scene.

And the band had plenty to overcome: Fans of the overly flamboyant opening act Foxy Shazam clamored to get their pictures taken with lead singer Eric Nally as Free Energy started its set. The rest of the audience, it seemed, was intent on watching the Rangers pound the Yankees.

None of this seemed to matter to the surprisingly humble Free Energy, though, which, within this jungle of of a party, simply tuned up its instruments and prepared for their show on stage.

Starting with its titular song, "Free Energy," the band forced its positive energy into the room, casting a feeling of being lost in the '70s about the stage. It was as if high school skaters combined an ear for The Cars and a feel for The Knack and an undeniable charm.

This style continued throughout the band's set, which, indeed, comes off better in live settings than on record. Their guitar bending provided feel good emotion, without showing off, and frontman Paul Sprangers' genuine enthusiasm was similarly endearing

That, really, is the genius of Free Energy: They aren't trying to show off or be cool or be rock stars. They truly just appear to be a group of simple guys with a love for the '70s, with the skills and voices to back it up.

Of course, their simplicity and charm also seems to be their Achilles heel: The band's songs are catchy, sure, but not altogether infectious. They're skilled players, sure, but no virtuosos. And their '70s power pop charm is accessible and fun, but fails to help them make their own identity.

Nevertheless, their set was truly a great experience, offering up an appeal that reaches to the rock and mall-punk sets alike.

Earlier in the night, the first opening act, the Ontario-based Hollerado, won over the crowd within a few songs. With Local Natives-like harmonies meeting Beach Boys sensibilities and Spoon's rhythmic groove, it's no wonder that the band has earned Jack White's praise and opened for The Dead Weather. Plus, the the drummer showed off some immensely skilled free-form solos.

The real stars of the night, though, were the second openers: Foxy Shazam, whose audience was drunk and partying throughout their set. Mixing the soundscape of Cake with the extravagance and flamboyancy of Queen, this bad truly knew how to throw a rock star party, even if their flamboyancy felt a bit forced.

They were also funny at times, though: At one point in the show, Nally swallowed three lit cigarettes as if to show off how rebellious he is. And while that's not really rebellious--more likely, it's plain stupid (and his sour-looking face probably would agree)--their fun offerings helped ensure the party feel of the night.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: I admit I actually did not like Free Energy the first time I heard them on record. But they really turned me into a believer with their live show.

By The Way: You can download the Free Energy song "
Dream City

" courtesy of the band.

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