My wife and I went to a concert on Father’s Day. Right here and now I have to admit that I bought the tickets for only one of the three bands playing that night. Every since we first heard the song “MoneyGrabber” by Fitz and the Tantrums on the radio, we have been fans. Sunday night made the third time we have seen the band perform in Indy. Back in 2012, my older son, Graham, and his now-wife Kaitlyn came with my wife and me to a little club in an Indy neighborhood called Broad Ripple to see the band perform. All four of us came away impressed with the band’s energy and musicianship. It was everything that you have about seeing an up-and-coming band in such an intimate club setting.
First, it was a very hot and humid summer night in Indianapolis, so the band was literally sweating through their suits. Then, co-lead singer Noelle Scaggs was a thunderous ball of energy, pushing the crowd to ecstatic new heights of participation. Lead singer and songwriter Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick was every bit as energetic leading the band. The sound of the band landed in a sweet spot somewhere between Sixties Motown, Seventies Stax Soul and 21st century Maroon 5 indie pop/rock, something of an updated version of Daryl Hall & John Oates. But, unlike all of those aforementioned artists and sounds, FATT lacked a guitarist, placing the onus upon a very good keyboardist Jerry Ruzumna and a crack rhythm section of drummer John Wicks and the T-Bone Wolk of the band bassist Joseph Karnes to carry the basic sound. The throwback part of the band is the use of a saxophone, as well as flute, keyboards and whatever else the band needs, by James King. This was a tight band with a great take on a classic sound. The band play so hard that Wick actually busted a drum head during the performance. And, when you are a young band as they were at the time, people were scrambling for a replacement. Fortunately, the club was close to a music store, so within a minutes a new head was being placed as the band gamely continued to blow us away.
A short six months later, FATT returned to Indy to play an outdoor concert a couple of days before the Super Bowl was held in town. Fortunately, it was a relatively warm Super Week, so the weather was good. And, the band killed it that night in front of thousands. Another eights months, FATT returned to Indianapolis, which now seemed to becoming a strong fan base for the band. This time FATT graduated to a bigger venue as they played a bigger club setting. The first time we saw the band, the audience was mainly college-aged millennials and Gen X-ers. But, I noticed at this third concert, the audience was a little bit younger, mainly because the band’s latest single, “Out of My League” was getting big run on pop radio in town. But, since FATT we still in a small setting, you could see the band still working extremely hard to make fans of every person in the audience. And, the audience had a great time dancing the night away.
Since that night, I basically slowed down going to concerts, especially in big venues. I just cannot really take standing for long periods of time at those outdoor amphitheaters since it kills my back. However, FATT were coming to a newer small amphitheater in town where we had never been. So, I bought the tickets. Unfortunately, as you may have heard, Indiana residents have been advised to begin building their own Biblical arks because of the amount of rain we have had. So, the concert, which included COIN and Young the Giant, neither of whom I knew anything about, was moved to the bigger outdoor venue. The difference was a loss in intimacy to which we had gotten accustomed when seeing FATT. However, it was heartening to me to see so many Generation Y kids grooving to FATT. That night gave me hope that these kids were dying to hear “real” music created by real musicians. And, every time there was a sax solo, those kids simply erupted. Horns just may be the biggest missing ingredient in today’s prefabricated music. Come on radio! The kids want something more than the latest boy band, non-real hip hop artist or some crappy pop artist who is a studio creation.
To my ears, Fitz and the Tantrums may just be the perfect band for a post-modern world. They have feet in the electronic present, with their music awash in synth sounds. And, they have their feet in the past, with their living and breathing rhythm section, strong songwriting with pop hooks and melodies and the prominent use of horns. But, they are stretching into the future by marrying current pop textures with rock and soul basics. They are a band that potentially could appeal to a wide range of age groups. As a young Boomer-slash-old Gen X-er, they appeal to me because of the whole auditory and visual experience. They work hard, have the talent and desire to succeed and they have the goods.
So, may I present to you, my favorite current band, Fitz and the Tantrums by listing my favorite 20 songs of theirs from their three studio albums and one EP.
20. “House on Fire” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013)
19. “We Don’t Need Love Songs” (Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1 EP, 2009)
18. “Santa Stole My Lady” (Non-album single, 2010)
17. “Dear Mr. President” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010)
16. “L.O.V.” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010)
15. “Darkest Street” (Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1 EP, 2009)
14. “Spark” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013)
13. “Breakin’ the Chains of Love” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010)
12. “Break the Walls” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013)
11. “Get Right Back” (Fitz and the Tantrums, 2016)
10. “The Walker” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013). One of the bands more well-known songs from its use in commercials. Just a great and fun little pop/dance number.
9. “123456” (Newly released single, 2019). Fitz’ songwriting is beginning to blossom into Daryl Hall area as Fitz is now beginning to meld all of his influences into a big, new sound. We are getting closer to the band’s version of Hall & Oates’ own breakthrough album Voices. Mark my words, within the next three FATT albums, if the band can stay intact, they will explode into the stratosphere.
8. “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010). I absolutely love the neo-soul sound of the first album, but this song actually transcends the niche of that great album and shows the world the path FATT will be following for their career.
7. “Roll Up” (Fitz and the Tantrums, 2016). If there is a FATT song that could be a foreshadow of things to come for this band is this song that only explodes when the band performs it live. Still, it would NEVER be out of place in a dance club either.
6. “HandClap” (Fitz and the Tantrums, 2016). What a simple hook: “I can make your hands clap.” But, if it really were that simple, then why isn’t everyone doing it? Hell, FATT will be teaching my grandkids to dance and talk when at my house with this song, “Roll Up” and “123456.”
5. “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010). Sure, at first, the song seems on the surface to be a little derivative. But, once you see FATT perform it live and listen to it over and over and over, you realize this song is much deeper. I keep beating this old horse, but didn’t Hall & Oates do the very same thing early in their career?
4. “Fools Gold” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013). This may have been released as a single, but it was not an obvious choice for one. Still, it’s a great song, more of a terrific deep cut that only true fans would love than a radio hit, whatever that all means.
3. “Out of My League” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013). This is the band’s “Rich Girl.” It will be their most long-lasting pop song. One day, some rocker will choose that song as being his or her blueprint for their career. Just totally underrated yet eternal.
2. “6am” (More Than Just a Dream, 2013). Here I go again, but this is the band’s “She’s Gone” – the song, that if re-released after their next big hit, will send them into the pantheon of the rock immortals. It’s that good!
1. “MoneyGrabber” (Pickin’ Up the Pieces, 2010). The song that grabbed me by the throat like no other song during the 21st century has everything that makes rock/soul/pop songs so eternal. There’s the quiet soulful verses, followed by the raucous Stax-like chorus and a double countdown middle-eight that only proves that Fitz knows his way around a song as a writer. This is FATT’s song to place in their time capsule.
What can I say? I’m big on Fitz and the Tantrums! There is really some great new music artists out there for us old fogies.