Monday evening, amidst the early closing of UTD, and a typical Texan reaction to below-freezing temperatures and a few inches of ice on car windshields, my friend and I made the decision to brave the icy roads. As a South Dakotan, I had a thick plastic lid handy to chip off the stubborn layer of ice on the windows of my friend’s car; he seemed quite content to relax inside. We spent the hour-long ride to Tulips in Fort Worth listening to Miniature Tigers’ new album and worrying that Rubblebucket would cancel the fourth stop on their Earth Worship tour.
Luckily for us, the roads were perfectly clear, and the show was still on. Tulips itself was a pleasantly modernistic front, white-washed brick with black trim and the name of the venue in a curling script. Inside, a TV played Grumpy Old Men on mute while the opening band Spaceface soundchecked behind a wall of black curtains. My friend and I stood and waited with baited breath for the fabric to rise, speed-walking forward to claim a spot right up near the front of the crowd.
Band co-founders Kalmia Traver and Alex Toth seemed at ease with their audience, as to be expected with a duo that’s been performing for over a decade. Their energy and vigor were palpable, and the audience immediately took to them. The girls in front of my friend and me held up their drinks in a salute to the band while behind us, the crowd danced with an infectious, unstoppable energy. It was so enrapturing that, at one point, Traver climbed off the stage in her black see-through dress and pointed hat, just to dance with the man who had earlier insisted Fort Worth show off their dancing prowess.
It wasn’t the only artist-audience interaction that occurred. Later, Toth and fellow trumpetist, Sean Smith, came down with the saxophone-clad Traver to circle around within the audience, winding their way through between hollering audience members. Their excitement was tangible, even as the concert began to wind down. With several costume changes (including fun cherry blossom-themed outfits) and stunning light visuals put together by Neil Fridd, there was never a dull moment with the Rubblebucket crew. At the end, the audience was led around in a mini-parade of sorts; it ended with Toth, in a jacket with winking LED lights, climbing on top of the bar counter and initiating a call-and-repeat segment with the audience to new song “Cherry Blossom,” which quickly wound up a fun improv session.
After it was over, Rubblebucket members were quick to take seats near the merch tables, welcoming any and all fans to come meet them. (I personally ended up with a signed tote bag, because a memento just felt necessary.) The enthusiastic Fort Worthian dancer from earlier was in line just before my friend and I, and he and Traver promised to dance together another time. Behind us, one fan asked another to exchange Instagram handles. A chill atmosphere, cozy yet still energetic in the post-performance-high, had settled over Tulips, a pleasant buzz in the air as the crowd slowly began to trickle out the door and back into the frigid Texas night. All in all, if Rubblebucket can get Fort Worth to dance like that, I’m most definitely looking forward to revisiting them on their next tour.