Live Report: The Happy Fits, Daisy the Great, Phoneboy @ The Fonda Theatre (Dec 1, 2022)

A trio of east coast indie pop bands hit Hollywood last Thursday to bring their spirited and buoyant songs to a packed house at the Fonda Theatre. Headlined by New Jersey trio The Happy Fits, the show was filled with (mostly) feel-good music and palpable energy throughout the night.

Gen Z rockers Phoneboy had the rare privilege of coming out to a house that was already mostly filled (many opening bands in L.A. are not so lucky), but seeing as their sound has much in common with The Happy Fits, I wouldn’t be surprised if many in the crowd weren’t already fans of the zesty band. Opener “Hey” was a fast and fun pop-punk zinger, as was “1987”. The band’s chemistry felt very natural, with in-jokes prevailing on stage, and charming audience interactions (a fan threw roses onto the stage for the band’s song “Roses”). While at risk of too many of their songs blending together, the group changed gears with the post-punky “Nevermind”, and exuded 90’s vibes on the distortion-laden “Acid Girl”. The group took advantage of their dual-vocalists, both trading vocals and with joint harmonies. Their keyboardist also showed off some soulful chops, and I’d recommend the band utilize her voice more in the future to add some extra texture to their songs.

Of the three bands on the bill, Daisy the Great were the group I was most familiar with (having done an interview with them prior to the release of their latest album All You Need is Time). Fronted by Kelley Nicole Dugan and Mina Walker, the group showed off their range with a healthy dose of quirk during a set comprised of mostly songs from their new album. What separates Daisy from so many of their peers is their exquisite harmonizing, which could be heard immediately on opener “Glitter”, as Mina and Kelley sang “I paint my face with glitter in the morning light” with ethereal beauty.

While the audience may have been more familiar with the AJR-accompanied version of the next number “The Record Player Song”, there was still no denying the hypnotic perfection of that chorus, which spawned its own TikTok singalong challenge. The same mesmerizing songwriting could also be heard in the existential dread pop of “Aluminum”. The duo then embraced their full-band set-up by rocking out on “Liar”, getting the audience to lower and rise on command. They then slowed things down on the sad “Happy Birthday To You” and the lightly melancholy “Tell Me Have You Been Dancing”. They 180’ed again back to full-on rock star mode with “I’m Just Another Person Oh God”, with Mina shredding on the floor and Kelley joining on the drums to cook up a racket. They closed out with their “end of the world” serenade “Time Machine”.

I have to admit that while I had heard The Happy Fits before (and was a fan of their recent music video for “Little One“), I wasn’t aware of quite how big the group was, but they clearly had a large, adoring audience in the Fonda that night who were excited to dance and sing-along to the band’s songs. Not that I’m surprised; the group writes incredibly tight, exuberant pop-rock that has heart and a social conscious (like the capitalism-screed “In the Lobby”, which the band played that night). Also the fact that one of the frontmen played a cello was not something you see everyday in the current rock landscape.

The group spun out bouncy little nuggets with ease, which the audience enthusiastically clapped and waved their hands along with. A couple of the band’s songs were also surprisingly heavy, coming close to hard rock. The cello helped add that extra “doom” factor. As I wasn’t super familiar with the band’s catalogue, I wasn’t able to sing-along as easily as the more fervent audience members, but tracks like “Grow Back” and “So Alright” were memorable enough for joining in on the fun.

Also credit is owed to the band for the love they showed to their fans, grabbing cameras from the audience to take selfies from the stage, and even bringing a Kermit the Frog puppet one fan brought onto the stage for some shenanigans. And points to them for sharing love with their LGBTQ audience and vocally shouting for trans rights.

The band left little downtime between songs or even after taking their final pre-encore bow. They came back to the stage as if things were just beginning, with more energetic tracks to rile up the crowd. Simply put, the band is a lot of fun and hard not to enjoy on any level. Become familiar with all these bands, and try to catch them live when they next come to your town.

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