Free Energy: 02.04.2011

I’ve given up trying to figure out how people do or do not hear about awesome bands coming to town, as well as trying to explain why, after finding out about a particular show, a person decides whether he or she will or will not attend.  The southern leg of Philly rockers Free Energy‘s tour was plagued with historically awful weather, but by the time it rolled into Baton Rouge for a show at the Spanish Moon, the band had escaped the wintry mix that was impeding their march across Texas and potential concert-goers were facing little more than slightly brisker than usual temperatures.

Hell, the conditions were so close to ideal that within minutes of hearing a Free Energy show was going down in a few hours, we were ready to embark on the 90 minute NOLA to BR road trip. Upon our arrival at Spanish Moon, though, we were greeted by a nearly non-existent crowd which only marginally expanded by the time the evening’s entertainment was set to commence.

Counting the regulars shooting pool in the balcony room, the paid attendance of the show could not have been north of 50 or so people, and while playing a rock show in front of tens of thousands of adoring fans undoubtedly requires a special brand of intestinal fortitude, I’d venture to say that the situation we all found ourselves in has to be equally daunting.  But the dudes in Free Energy harnessed a textbook this-could-go-either-way moment and came out of their corner swinging.

Who knows how horribly wrong things may have gone if by the the first verse of opener “Free Energy” (song), the band wasn’t already in mid-set form, with frontman Paul Spranger unapologetically strutting around the stage pointing back at members of the crowd while lead guitarist Scott Wells shredded one bright, jaunty solo after another.  And I can’t imagine how terrible the drive back to New Orleans would have been if those in attendance hadn’t crowded the dozen feet in front of the stage and blissfully bounced around non-stop for the entire duration of the concert. And let’s not even get started on how shitty my first experience at Jack In The Box would have been if it wasn’t on the heels of a spirited cover of disco classic “Funkytown” that featured opening band The Postelles and about a dozen members of the crowd on backing vocals.

Any band can sound like a hey-man-let’s-have-a-good-time rock-and-roll band on an album, specifically one like Stuck On Nothing, which features not just production but session bass from LCD Soundsystem visionary James Murphy, but it takes some real troupers to faithfully recreate that unabashed electricity in a live setting – especially when playing for a crowd inordinately smaller than anyone in their right mind would expect.  The gracious members of Free Energy did just that, taking every opportunity to thank, connect with, and rock the face off as many people as they could.

I’ll never fully understand why so many people in southern Louisiana missed out on Free Energy at The Spanish Moon, but after such an epic show, I couldn’t possibly care less.

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