Fountains of Wayne was exhausted, its effects pedals weren't working, and the crowd was only half full at the Great American Music Hall last Thursday night. But for some reason, despite the band's jet lag and the shortcomings of its borrowed equipment, the show sounded good. In fact, it sounded fantastic.
The smallish crowd had the excited energy of a sold-out show – it sang/shouted along to every word of every song the band played from its massive catalog, even the newest additions. Though the audience varied greatly in age – most were going gray, but the boys in front of me didn't have two armpit hairs to rub together – they were unified by their enthusiasm and apparent passion for a great pop hook. "Thank you for not going to see Ray Davies at the Fillmore tonight," joked bassist Adam Schlesinger. "He's very talented."
Fountains of Wayne has been churning out catchy riffs and hilariously poignant lyrics for 16 years. Despite a somewhat confusing Grammy win (the band won best new artist in 2007, seven years into its career) and the international popularity of MILF-honoring single "Stacey's Mom,” the band never managed to break through to lasting mainstream success.
Apparently undaunted by this continued obscurity, FOW has managed to avoid a painful fadeout. After so many years together, the band members don't seem to carry any tension – they exude an air of casual confidence on stage.
Fountains of Wayne's tight songwriting and humble persistence has earned it a devoted core of fans, from people who have been listening to them from their first album to tweens who were born after the band was started.
And there we stood, beers in hand on a weeknight. Everywhere I looked people were smiling, hugging, dancing, laughing. Before the band had even come onstage, onlookers were singing along with the instrumental introduction to the first song, and they didn't quiet down until after the house lights came on.