Many bands would use the opportunity of a light crowd to work on new songs and timing, play it safe and get back on the road quickly. Slim’s was noticeably under-attended Saturday night for Philadelphia-based power pop quintet Free Energy. That’s a bit surprising, since their 2010 debut album, Stuck on Nothing, was produced by LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy, on his DFA label, and since their independent follow-up, 2013’s Love Sign, attracted top-notch reviews coast to coast.
When singer Paul Sprangers, guitarists Scott Wells and Sheridan Fox, bassist Evan Wells and drummer Nicholas Shuminsky headlined a Noise Pop show at Brick & Mortar in February, it got crowded and sweaty early on. One would think that it should still be relatively easy to fill the room on a Saturday evening, even if residents of Slim’s neighborhood weren’t familiar with the music.
No matter – Free Energy were unfazed.
Mixing hook-laden songs from both albums, Free Energy led a modest dance party from opener “Hey Tonight” through to the encore. Ten minutes in, those at the front likely forgot that this show turned intimate, for they were dancing like nobody was watching (of course, since there was ample room to move around, it was easy to survey everyone’s dancing style).
“It’s so amazing, everybody dancing here,” Sprangers noted roughly an hour later. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Indeed, by the end, the 40 or so people at the front of the stage were boogying, and getting rewarded for it with personalized attention, birthday wishes and even individual-serving fruit snacks (quick aside: Free Energy probably need to add healthier snacks to their rider).
Sprangers and co. bursted with energy for the length of the show; the singer adopting some of Mick Jagger’s stage jitters, while Scott Wells and Fox hammered at guitar solos from some sort of parallel universe where the ‘70s are alive and well, and music tells you to dance, chase girls and have fun.
Perhaps album No. 3 (already in the works) will have the sales to back-up the band’s critical acclaim. If so, Free Energy will be playing to a packed room the next time they return.
Follow Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.