April 22, 2011
Better than: having to stuff used ear plugs in my ears.
On Friday night, at The Loft, William Fitzsimmons brought the quiet.
Interesting, too, since throughout the entire 90-minute set performed by the Pennsylvania-raised Fitzsimmons performed there seemed to be a tonal tug of war in the venue.
Downstairs, in the Jack Daniel's Saloon, local country outfit the Chris Rivers Band was playing to a rowdy crowd. And whenever the doors to the Loft's outside patio would open, the music from downstairs would grow louder and even overpower the goings-on inside of the Loft.
Fitzsimmons even joked about it at one point, as if to share his frustration, but only to shed it with his pleasingly abrasive wit.
And yet that was just one of the many battles between loud and quiet one this night.
The other was more intriguing and added an enriching quality to the show: As delicate as Fitzsimmons' singing voice is, his regular speaking voice is smooth and low. As one fragile and intricately performed tune -- most of the singer's catalog, let's face it -- would end, Fitzsimmons would hurl profanity-filled jokes of self-deprecation toward himself as he endeared himself more and more to the crowd with his banter than with the songs that the crowd was clearly eating-up.
Who knew that a sensitive folkie could be so foul and hilarious at the same time?
As a version of Travis Tritt's "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" shook the floor of the room from below, Fitzsimmons more than capably soldiered on, fully understanding that it was he who had the crowd in his grasp, not the band downstairs.
With a dark knit cap covering his head, the bespectacled and insanely bearded performer opened with "Passion Play" and showcased a gentle, warm vocal performance that blanketed the couple of hundred fans as he played a large chunk of tunes from his recent, beautiful record, Gold in the Shadow.
He jokingly admitted that his older songs sound the same as his new ones, but such is not a bad thing. Selections from the new collection such as "The Tide Pulls From the Moon" and "Beautiful Girl" fit ideally next to tunes from his back catalog such as "Afterall," "If You Would Come Back Home" and "Find It In Me," the last of which saw his backing band kicking things up into an atmospheric realm as a banjo was plucked ever so spryly on the side.
Speaking again of quietness: Even the regular set-closing number, "The Winter From Her Leaving," featured all four of Fitzsimmons' band members at the front of the stage in a rootsy, jangly pickin' session that was almost too polite for its own good. After a relatively upbeat, plugged-in "Fade and Return" opened the encore set, Fitzsimmons predictably brought the volume down to close out the evening.
Fittingly, he also brought the members of the band with him, off of the stage, and onto the venue's main floor for an intimate, special ending that his admirers made sure to crowd around him for.
But without any amplification, it was hard to tell what song was performed with so many people circling around him.
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Still: Nice and quiet, indeed.
Personal Bias: None. I enjoy a healthy dose of modern folk, but that's about it.
By the Way: The opening band, Slow Runner, was a solid enough group. For the most part, they displayed harmless electro-pop that had just enough bounce and ambience to carry some distinction. After their set, however, they became the backing band for Fitzsimmons, and as a result, made their opening set feel like a Pantera show, as they, you know, weren't as quiet.
Random Note: All of the mentions about how quiet the performance was aren't meant as a slight at anyone, especially Fitzsimmons, whose work I enjoy. But it was crazy odd to be able to hear the creeks in the wooden floor over the music as girls with especially clunky shows would walk past me. Odd.