Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites of the Lumineers struggled in Brooklyn for a few years, playing to the same few people every night. But they took a risk that paid off, moving out to Denver to showcase their sound replete with twang and Americana. They found multi-instrumentalist Neyla Pekarek out there and soon enough began to open for bands like the Yonder Mountain String Band. Folks out west embraced their sound and their popularity took off. Houston got its first glimpse of their foot-stomping folk showcase on Wednesday night at the sold out upstairs of Fitzgerald’s. In the past two years we’ve seen bands like The Civil Wars, Mumford & Sons, and this year’s FPSF Headliners the Avett Brothers bring acoustic roots stylings to the forefront of the Grammy stage and the Billboard charts. It is hard to avoid grouping the Lumineers in with these bands that would seem more at home atop the bill at the Kerrville Folk Festival than in the mp3 collections of twentysomethings. But timeless music like this is getting a new wave of fans, as it does.
The five piece ensemble brought grace and energy to Fitz’s main stage, with a short but sweet set featuring many of their eponymous album’s songs along with a few covers. A large portion of the crowd obviously had the Lumineers’ album since it went on sale in late April, and they sang along with every line on tracks like “Ho Hey” and “The Big Parade”. Songs like “Charlie Boy” could have been written 80 years ago, and the slower “Dead Sea” was a great way to bring intimacy and pain to the forefront after the more aggressive numbers. It was interesting to see the audience sing songs that were released less than two months ago but appear uninspired when Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” rang out.
The Lumineers were at their best when harmonizing, with a unified sound as each musician came together in instrument and voice. Placing the kick-drum up front gave Jeremiah a chance to leave his simplified trap set and join his bandmates within inches of the adoring fans. Just when we felt the show was reaching its zenith, the band thanked the wall-to-wall crowd and departed the stage after a scant 45 minutes. They encored with the happy “Flapper Girl” and then a mic-less “Darlene” that hushed the crowd and had us stomping along with the chorus as percussion. For their last song the audience was given a choice of “The Talking Heads” or “The Band” and the Heads won out, so we all smiled along to “This Must Be the Place”. Indeed it was.