The Fritz & Wild Root Heat Up a Chilly Florida Night
The Fritz may claim to be from Asheville, North Carolina, but they surely do love to play in Florida. This brief run found them in Tampa and Boca Raton before heading to The Green Parrot for three nights in Key West. Once home, they’ll gear up for New Year’s Eve at The Charleston Pour House splitting the bill with Toubab Krewe, more Asheville denizens.
Their first Florida stop was at Skipper’s Smokehouse on a chillier-than-usual Wednesday December evening. Also on the show were Wild Root, a great trio from Sarasota. The constant for this band has been guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Paul Fournier. This latest iteration was dynamite; he was backed by a terrific rhythm section: Travar Scott on bass and vocals and Caleb Sanders on drums.
Almost all of the material is written by Fournier, beginning with a really solid “SciFly” and “Now I Got It.” Wild Root successfully mixes rock, fusion, R&B, Latin, and hip hop throughout their sets. Fournier pours himself into his performances, passion clearly on display. And it was a blast watching Scott, an excellent player who rocks that bottom.
They offered a fine cover of “Can’t Hide Love,” the Earth, Wind and Fire classic, then some hip hop flavors with “Late Night Snack” and solid jazz fusion funk on “Heart Needs.” Somewhere along the line he turned Sanders loose on drum kit for a tasty solo. Fournier told us at length about the tune “Memento,” which he wrote at 19 at the time of the local BP oil spill, also referencing former band mates. Scott had a great solo slot here.
They called Jamar Woods, keyboard wizard for The Fritz, to join them for a jaw-dropping version of Lettuce’s “Squadlive” before closing with the band’s new release, a nice tune called “Say, Oh!” Bravo, gentlemen!
[WILD ROOT: SciFly, Now You Got It, Tesla Man, Can’t Hide Love, Late Night Snack, Heart Needs, Love, Really?, Break It Down, Jungle, Memento, Squadlive, Say, Oh!]
Before we get to The Fritz, a word about the sound engineer at Skipper’s. The sound this evening was brilliant: not too loud, perfectly balanced. Bravo again!
Two+ stunning hours of funk and rock proceeded to pour out as The Fritz threw down a massive dance party, launching with “Voices,” Woods’ synths dancing all around. A really jammy electric piano solo led them into “Sound. Habits. Blame.,” also featuring a piano solo and Jamie Hendrickson once again abusing his wah-wah pedal as he shredded on guitar.
The clarity of sound was critical for the opening of “You,” with Mikey Spice on bongos. Never heard bongos this effective before. After the first couple of choruses, Mikey Spice and Mike Tillis had a superb percussion jam, Woods grabbing the ever-popular cowbell and Hendrickson wailing on that James Brown guitar. They twisted “You” into “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” which was awesome. Woods then slowed the proceedings enough to speculate: “Did they mean ‘All he left us was alone’ or ‘a loan’?” We were all cracking up when Hendrickson said, “The first one. The second one is stupid!” The tune worked into a “Soul Sacrifice” thing, organ heavy, before finally returning to “You.” WOW!
There were so many highlights. “Stuck In Between,” of course, CRUSHED with synths and funky chunky guitar. “Sex Machine” was sandwiched in the middle of “Casual Mistakes.” The band dedicated “You Send Me” to Cassandra and Justin before “partying like it’s 2019,” with, of course, “1999.”
They absolutely romped through the brilliant “A Better Way” from Natural Mind near the end. Hendrickson soloed, then Woods on clavinet, Jake O’Connor on a HOT bass solo, and Woods ago, a deluxe long version of this masterpiece. It looked like they were done, but, all grins, they returned for [Song I don’t remember], which led to Woods singing “Roxanne.” And they still weren’t ready to quit.
Somebody called “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).” Hendrickson said, “I think we can do that!” It was a decent if not perfect attempt, but it went gold when they morphed it into “Seven Nation Army.” Now that was hot! Bravo a third time! [Not one damn shot of Hendrickson.]
[THE FRITZ: Voices, Sound. Habits. Blame., You > Papa Was a Rolling Stone > Soul Sacrifice tease > You, (long piano intro)?, Stuck In Between, ?, Casual Mistakes > Sex Machine > Casual Mistakes, Walk Away? > Drums > Walk Away?, You Send Me, 1999, A Better Way, ? > Roxanne, PYT > Seven Nation Army]