Tuesday, July 31, 2018

LIVE MUSIC FEVIEW:FITNESS

"Honestly, I don’t know if we’re even trying to spread any ‘message.’  We just hope that people enjoy what we think is cool, and to maybe inspire other musicians to make the music THEY want.."
~ Kenny Carkeet, from ALLACCESS

Carkeet (left) & Collins
Photo credit: ALLACCESS
Back when I started this blog I'd just discovered a band called AWOLNATION.  I saw them live, on my own, (a first for me), in a really small venue and the experience kind of blew my mind.  The drummer for the band was a guy named Kenny Carkeet, who I met briefly the second time I saw them play.  After the show, I made an effort to thank him and, yes, to have him sign a t-shirt for me, which he did willingly and for which some day my girls will thank me...maybe?  Fast forward to 2016.  I happened to see a post on Instagram about Carkeet's departure from AWOLNATION, so I reached out directly to see what he was up to.  Turns out, after an incredible run with AWOL (they're huge now), Carkeet decided to go out on his own with his friend Max Collins, formerly of EVE6, and together they formed the band FITNESS.  Why FITNESS? I asked.  Just tried to think of the worst marketable name he told me.  Well played.  I spent some time listening to the album and not surprisingly I liked what I heard.  A few weeks later I reached back out to see if they were touring and as luck would have it they were coming to Somerville in July.  Done and done.  I roped a few other gals in (Sunday night motivation can be minimal on my own) and bought the tickets.  Which brings us to last Sunday evening.  Oh my, what a night.  The band was on fire.  The company was amazing.  The venue was...um....interesting?  Here's how it all unfolded.

pre-dinner w/ Laura

Around 6pm I scooped Laura and Dina up in Winchester as we were planning to grab a bite in Somerville before the show.  Laura, who lives in Winchester with me, is often my wingman for these shows, bless her.  And Dina, an old and dear friend, was in town from CA for the weekend which was an unexpected bonus.  She's got the whole Cali/punk thing going for sure.  And for the record, yes, Dina is wearing a fanny pack.  Supposedly they're back in style.  Jury's out as far as I'm concerned.

Dina w/ fanny pack

We met up with Dina's friend, Amy, also from CA and in town visiting family, for dinner at the Five Horses Tavern.  Great restaurant, great service.  Although, oddly, they were out of seltzer water.  Fitness wasn't going to be playing until 8:45 so we enjoyed a leisurely meal and spent some time catching each other up on our lives.  As you may know, I don't get out a ton, so just the dinner part of this evening was a treat in and of itself.

OFF TO THE SHOW

Around 8:15 we finished up and headed over to the Once Ballroom, a venue so small that if you sneezed when you were walking by you wouldn't notice it.  Which we were more than happy about as a more intimate show is always preferred over a sold out stadium these days.  We walked in and showed our IDs, (he asked) and then made our way into the main event.  Okay, so this was different.  The space was more like a living room with a few tables and chairs and a small area in the middle, complete with lamp and oriental rug, where the bands played.  When we walked in, there were about 20 people already enjoying the first band.  And no one was saying a word.  Nothing.  We were laughing about something as we walked in and everyone immediately stared at us and gave us the stink eye.  So, we shut up pretty quickly so as not to annoy those around us.  That was a first for me at a live show.

Please Don't Touch The Curtains
(yes, that means you)

We settled in to a small high top table and turned our attention to the the opening act, a super mellow female duo wearing matching pink wigs.  Again, the "crowd" was very focused and basically silent so we did our best to both listen and talk without disrupting the vibe.  Not easy.

Max Collins

Right at 8:45, Fitness took the stage.  Lead singer, Collins, came on and greeted us with Thank you for coming out early tonight.  Little did he know that it was fifteen minutes before bedtime for me.  Yep, I'm a winner.  The minute they started playing there was an immediate shift in the atmosphere as Collins has a very big presence as well as a very loud voice and he threw both right at us in full force.  His head was inches below the ceiling and as he jumped around I couldn't help but feel that he was on the verge of knocking himself out.  His energy was amazing and he poured it into his singing; his passion for each song almost tangible.  The band has a fresh, hard-angled sound; very intense but also digestible.


Carkeet plays guitar, keyboards and "basically everything else", Collins' words when he introduced us to his bandmate.  He is the melodic springboard, if you will.  Up until this point, I've only see him in his role as a drummer with AWOL.  So, it was really cool to watch him display his talent in a different way.  One of the main reasons he left AWOL is so he could do his own writing and producing without all the limitations that have been placed on him in the past.  You can tell he's thrilled about this new role and the direction they're going on the whole.  Sadly, we only got to hear about 5 or 6 songs before the next band took the stage.  No encores at the Once Ballroom.  But I heard enough in that hour to know that this band is at the start of something big and they are undoubtedly destined for acclaim, both critical and beyond.  Personally, I am really fired up to follow their journey.

post show w/ CARKEET

After their set, I made my way over to the merch table to re-introduce myself.  Fortunately, he remembered our conversation on Instagram and me as RWM so it didn't look too weird that I was standing there waiting to say "hi" and get a picture.  Or maybe it did and he's just a super nice guy.  Either way, I let him know that I'd loved what I'd heard and that I'm really looking forward to seeing them in a bigger venue where it doesn't look strange for me to talk to those around me, stand up or maybe even dance a bit.  We both laughed at that.  He told me they were really just getting their project underway, trying new things out and experimenting with the songs they picked and the show in general.  I could tell how excited it he is about the whole thing as we talked.  That was also really cool.


After the show, we took some time to explore the Once Ballroom a bit more.  I mean, this place was...I'm struggling to put it into words.  Apparently, according to Alex the bouncer, it used to be a mob hangout.  Not a shocker.  We spent some time in the back half of the room soaking it all in.  Pink walls, gold chairs, skull and feather headdress on the side table.  So much to take in.  We also discovered big piles of things like books and games....

Connect 4 anyone?

...and this thing which looks like a shrine of some sort.  Or maybe a torture device.  Hard to say.


I won't even get into what we saw in the basement.  Yes, Alex took us down there to check it out.  Very bizarre, all of it.  Don't ask why we went down there.  I have no idea.

Post-show with Alex, the bouncer

Getting out to see live music is not as easy as it used to be when I started this blog.  Life is busier, both for myself and for my kids, my training is more intense and, well, let's just say I'm not quite as motivated to get out on a week night as I used to be.  Tranlastion...I'm older.  But, that said, I'm still managing to find the time and hope I always do even if the shows are few and far between.  And a live experience, even a small and rather bizarre one like this, is always work the trek.  You just never know what you'll hear and see but you'll undoubtedly never forget it.

Listen to this:
Karate by Fitness

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