Fitz & the Tantrums
Few modern bands have so effortlessly captured the sound and feel of 1960s Motown acts better than Fitz & the Tantrums. The noticeably guitar-free ensemble features the emotionally charged interplay between vocalists Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, buoyed by the stellar musicianship of saxophonist James King, bassist Joseph Karnes, keyboardist Jeremy Ruzumna and drummer John Wicks. The band's 2009 full-length debut, "Pickin' Up the Pieces," spawned the hit single "MoneyGrabber," leading to live performances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Conan" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
"We did a whole tour through the Midwest and the Northeast when it was the dead of winter. ... There was one night we played in Columbus, Ohio, that was one of the greatest shows we ever did because the crowd was just raucous, and insane and into it. But as soon as I stepped out on the stoop -- I had never been in an ice storm before because I'm from California -- I didn't know what was going on. I had my sax on my back, stepped out on the stoop, went backwards, landed on my horn and then bounced on my ass down 10 steps. So that sucked. ... I had to get through two and a half more weeks of tour with a bad back. ... I had sprung on fancy Sorel snow boots. I thought I was the pimp. But they're useless against ice. I gotta get the ice-climbing gear next time we go to Ohio in the wintertime.
"But that's really not a bad gig; that was just a bad fall. Other gigs I can tell you about were from when I did a lot of touring with hip-hop artists. ... We were out with the Hip-Hop Live tour in 2007. We were backing Ghostface Killah, Brother Ali and Rakim. ... We were in Baltimore -- roughest crowd of the tour and a rough part of town. We were backstage waiting to go on. Ghostface slayed it. Brother Ali came out and did a good job, but the whole crowd was chanting 'Rakim. Rakim. Rakim.'
"They wanted him onstage now -- and he wasn't coming. Didn't show up. Twenty minutes went by, half an hour went by, 45 minutes. Same deal. We were playing our songs and they wanted nothing to do with that. They were booing us off the stage. Finally, the promoter had to come on and say, 'Rakim won't be making it tonight because he's stuck in traffic' -- which is total bullshit. We all knew Rakim had taken the opportunity the night before to hang at his house in New York and left with not enough time to get to Baltimore.
"They started rioting. (The promoters) locked us backstage in the green room until the cops could show up and clear it out. We couldn't come out to see what was going on, but we heard everything. That was kind of surreal. ... I think it was full-blown rioting outside. The security couldn't handle it. There were people throwing bottles. The cops finally had to come and break it up. But they are like, 'You are not to leave this room until the situation is under control.'
"It was a good couple hours before we could leave there."
— James King, Fitz & the Tantrums