I was a little early to the Troubadour to see Tim Fite perform so I thought I’d try to see if I could get an interview. One of the bouncers told me Tim was around somewhere so after looking around the showroom lazily, alone and bored with staring at the empty stage, I wondered into the bar-room to sit for a few minutes before the show started. Wouldn’t ya know it, my wandering around led me to a seat right next to Fite.
He had a calm, friendly demeanor and surprised me by remembering my name from the MySpace message I’d sent him. It was 20 minutes to showtime so I had to make the interview relatively quick.
When I started off thinking he’d grown up in Brooklyn Fite quickly corrected me. “I grew up in the sticks,” he said telling about the weekend trips to into the City; mom went to the art gallery, Fite & dad went to the record store. It was in these very record stores that Fite heard Cool DJ Red Alert’s song “Don’t Believe the Hype” and began his lifelong love affair with hip-hop.
While his first two albums are largely a blue grass, folk, country fusion, the third album was the one that won me over with its quirky satirical hip-hop style. “Hip-hop is the foundation of the music,” Fite explains. “It’s all sample and loop based; it’s how I think about what I’m making.”
Back in the showroom, the crowd had grown to about 200 including those on the balcony. It was apparent that Fite had a moderate following. By virtue of being an indie artist, there was no massive promotion machine though, only good music and music lovers to spread the word. Oh and let’s not forget “the nice people who offered me no money.”
Huh? Prior to being signed to Anti Records, Fite was approached by another, larger label. “But they had constrictions,” Fite said. He talked about the other label cryptically and said they wanted to have input on the final product. “I did not want to compromise my music and I didn’t want to have a huge FBI warning on my CDs bigger than the song titles themselves,” he said about choosing creative freedom over money.
Lights began flashing here and there, the smoke machine created a subtle cloud and Fite emerged from the darkness of stage right. As he began performing his first song, the din of conversation died down and all eyes focused center stage. After greeting the audience, Fite launched into a high energy song that got all the heads in the room bobbing. Completely in character, he jerked this way and that, making exaggerated animated gestures as he sang in a gravely timbre. When he spoke, his voice rose and fell in a quirky, sing-song, almost cartoonish way. Behind him on the screen, Fite had fashioned his own background group consisting of…you guessed it himself; in three parts.
Besides multiplying himself, Fite used the screen to ingeniously make his show interactive, informing the audience that they would be going on a guided tour of their body “by the guy with itchy legs.” He pointed to the screen, telling the audience that their participation was need and the activity has three steps: Read the screen, yell what you see, and touch yourself. It reminded me of being in classroom and the teacher makes you do silly stretches to make sure the class is awake. Of course the silliness of it was intentional and the crowd was well into the spirit of things, yelling, bending, touching and laughing. The interaction did not stop there, there was also a song in which the audience was responsible for singing the chorus; a responsibility they took on gladly singing “Burn, burn it down, down, down. Down, down, down. Burn it down!”
While I thoroughly enjoyed the show, I was slightly disappointed that he only performed one song from Over the Counterculture since that’s the album that made me a fan. Overall though, the show was a very entertaining, comical, fun exhibition of performance art. If he weren’t making music, Tim Fite – with his innocent Alfalfa look and over the top, full body movements – could easily be the next big improvisational comedic actor.