Few bands heed the call of "more cowbell!" as voraciously as Free Energy. A go-for-broke, Thin Lizzy-lovin' outfit from Minnesota, Free Energy live up to their name. We hadn't seen as many fists flying since the last Pacquiao bout. (No joke, one fella in the audience had a choreographed tae-bo routine for "Street Survivor.") Singer Paul Sprangers dared to get super sweaty, and onlookers in the front row tried to lick Scott Wells' guitar as he shredded through his own killer licks.
Free Energy, hot on the heels of the release of their second full-length, Love Sign (Free Energy Records), brought the Bootleg Bar crowd on March 1 to frenetic levels. It was a gradual swell to this riot-- openers the Chances had a beautiful lull to them. Girl-girl-boy vocals meshed perfectly in lovelorn Patsy Cline-does-do-wop tomes. But it didn't feel like the right gig for them, as concertgoers jabbered loudly over their softer moments.
Wake Up Lucid definitely woke up the Bootleg, with their snarling homage to early Black Keys and a drip of Mudhoney. But their grooves came off as a little self-indulgent, as guitarist/front man Ryan Baca hid behind his shaggy hair and arsenal of foot pedals. Nevertheless, the songs had an elephantine stomp to them, which was admirable.
But Free Energy's catalyst is for the people, by the people. Sprangers would hold the mic out to the faithful, jump around like a kangaroo on Starbucks Blonde Roast and blast a tambourine like he was punishing it. In this hipster hotbed just outside Echo Park, this enthusiasm was wonderfully out of place. It's like the group had just time-traveled from the 1970s after someone yelled the magic words "hello, Cleveland!" and they barely had time to trim their mustaches. (Drummer Nicholas Shuminsky is pretty much the lost member of Stillwater.) In a perfect world, Free Energy would be playing the Staples Center; and that night's occupier of the gigantic sports center, Morrissey, would have brought his mope fest to this tiny room. Rock this mighty deserves an appropriate stage.
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