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Review: Grouplove closes down Orpheum with bright, beachy concert

12

June

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I’ve always liked Orpheum. Not loved, exactly. But liked.

The people who run it and work there are cool, and well-respected in the Tampa music community. I thought the brick backdrop was photogenic, and the stage was plenty intimate, even if you were on the upper tier, near the bar. And while I’ve heard a couple of complaints about the sound over the years, I always thought it was pretty great.

But the place always seemed half finished, like they never finished building it. The stage sat catty-corner to a weird array of boxes and ductwork, so it was off center from the floor. And the bar was more functional than cool and dive-y. Point is, I can’t complain too much about Orpheum moving to a new, larger space on Seventh Avenue.

At least the club was able to go out with a bang Saturday night, booking as its final headliner an L.A. indie rock quintet with plenty of chops and promise: Grouplove.

This is what Orpheum has always done best – booking solid acts before they outgrew its tiny walls. Modest Mouse, Against Me!, Iron & Wine, the Ting Tings, even, um, the Jonas Brothers (yes, really) all played the venue at one point or another.

Grouplove is so fresh that they’ve only released an EP – a full-length is due in September – but they’ve already made a splash with critical praise abroad, an appearance on Last Call with Carson Daly and a tour opening for Florence and the Machine. Truth is, I’d probably be at this show even if it weren’t Orpheum’s final concert.

Grouplove are often compared to slacker-ish ‘90s bands like Pavement or the Pixies, though I also hear elements of artists as disparate as Weezer, Blur, Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire. Imagine all of those bands collaborating on a cover of Len’s Steal My Sunshine – you’d get Grouplove.

They proved their mettle on Naked Kids, a skip-day paean to drop tops and flip flops with vocal harmonies that are positively Fleet Foxy. Their closer, and their most notable hit to date, is Colours, a quirky yet rousing number that had fans dancing and cheering, and the band jumping and stomping onstage. One imagines it’ll be a huge crowd-pleaser in a much larger setting – you just know festivals will be itching to book Grouplove before long. (Seriously, shouldn't they be at Bonnaroo this weekend? What gives?)

Throughout the night, band members traded lead vocals on a variety of songs, with lead singer/guitarist Christian Zucconi and effervescent keyboardist Hannah Hooper sharing center stage. We also got to hear a couple of new songs, including the upbeat Tongue Tied and new single Itchin’ On a Photograph.

Grouplove gave Tampa lots of love on this stop, starting with an acoustic performance at Tampa alternative radio station 97X, continuing with a trip to the beach, and then from the stage, with Zucconi praising 97X “for being the first station in America to add Colours to radio.” At the end of the night, he promised Grouplove would be back in Tampa soon, which we don’t doubt – with 97X on their bandwagon, could a slot at this year’s Next Big Thing be in the cards?

The show ended relatively early, about 10:30 or so, leaving plenty of time for fans to toast Orpheum one last time. The hot rumor is that Fuma Bella, the teeny-tiny but consistently phenomenal cocktail bar next door, might be interested in taking over the space. Time will tell. For now, the Orpheum has a new website, where it's already listing a few new, intriguing shows, including the Millionaires on June 28 and Hawthorne Heights on Sept. 8.

Me, I left after the show. When the music ended at Orpheum, it was time to call it a night.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt* (Sorry for the horrendous cell-phone photo; here's one that's a little better.)

[Last modified: Sunday, June 12, 2011 12:38am]

    

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