An Acoustic Fritz Comes Home on a Sunday

By SARAH HODGSON | May 23, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

For Chris Fritz, playing solo acoustic at The Old Causeway Steak and Oyster House is as familiar a feeling as coming home. The police-officer-by-day, musician-by-night was the first performer at the steak house nearly four years ago on the night of its opening. Since then, he’s continued to frequent the venue with one of his two bands, The Impulsives and Fritz Electric. This Sunday, however, we caught him solo, serenading the happy hour-ers and regulars with mellow rock classics.

Old Causeway on Sunday at 3 p.m. was surprisingly subdued. Most of the patrons were concentrated in the front region of the restaurant, scattered at high-tops and along the bar. The dining room was almost desolate in comparison to its Saturday evening predecessor. Usually the bar is a noisy, echoing chamber prone to carrying loud voices farther than they should travel in public places, but the volume was tolerable – ideal conditions for an acoustic performance.

Fritz wore a baseball cap, a band tee sporting “The Doors,” and aviators. A guitar strap resembling “DO NOT CROSS” tape was slung across his shoulder, dangling a black acoustic guitar like an onyx pendant. He opened his set with a cover of Hootie and The Blowfish’s “Let Her Cry,” and his coarse, even vocals achieved a pleasant mix between Hootie’s Rucker and Nirvana’s Cobain. Rock hits, simplified to soulful strumming and easy vocals, made for an enjoyable, nonchalant performance.

By 4 p.m. the scene had been flooded with a boisterous, jolly kickball league, fresh off the field and out of the rain. The bar became its usual clamorous self, but the energy remained the same if not lifted. Fritz forged ahead with more rock classics: Tom Petty, Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Police.

Though Fritz enjoys playing with his two bands, there are aspects of solitary performances that he prefers. For one, he has the freedom to be “impulsive” (not to be confused with his band The Impulsives). Depending on his mood and the profile of his audience, he plays what he wants to play, no prepped set list at the ready. He can switch genre to genre, oldie to hit, ’70s to ’90s without missing a beat. Sometimes the quick get-up-and-go of a lone production bears a certain easygoing appeal.

His musical inspirations originate from a variety of decades and genres, lending some insight to his diverse covers. From ’80s rock bands like the Grateful Dead and Sting, to ’90s bands and country music, Fritz opens his ears to a little bit of everything. He’s always been that way.

“Music has always been the most important thing in my world, ever since I was a little kid,” he said. “My mom and dad told me that when I was 3 or 4, if I got upset, they’d find me in the corner of my room with my little turntable listening to my records. I’ve always loved music.”

He started playing when he was 14 years old, after a group of high school classmates decided to start a band. They needed a lead singer, so Fritz joined the boys after school to give it a go. Despite having never sung in front of another person before, Fritz informally auditioned and nailed it. He even grabbed an electric guitar and picked away at an AC/DC tune, figuring out the instrument as he went along and plucking all the right notes.

“I went that week and bought a used guitar for like $35, and I played it to death,” Fritz said. “I’d go home from school and I’d learn how to play along to every Metallica song, every Mötley Crüe song. And that’s all I did.”

When he was a senior in high school, Fritz decided to switch from electric to bass, after realizing that most bands were in the market for a musician who could play the latter. He picked it up and auditioned for his first professional band gig, landing the position on the spot. But a year or two spent in the music industry was disenchanting for Fritz. He left at 19, pursued his dream of becoming a cop and took a break from music.

Luckily for us, around 1999, Fritz ended his musical hiatus. During a night out, his friends encouraged him to join an acoustic singer on stage. After some pushing and prodding, he’d yielded and taken the stage for three songs. Shortly after the impromptu performance, the owner of the bar had approached Fritz and offered to pay him for a few sets, the first time he had ever been paid for a performance. “So then that was it. And then it just took off,” Fritz said.

Two cover bands and an acoustic career later, Fritz’s services are in high demand on Long Beach Island and in surrounding areas. With his ’90s nostalgic, gravelly-good vocals (akin to Dave Grohl’s), and skilled guitar playing, it’s easy to see why he’s an Island commodity in the summers. When asked where he prefers to play, Fritz is hard-pressed to pick a venue.

“I don’t play anywhere that I don’t enjoy,” he said, citing Old Causeway as one of his favorites. He favors different venues for different reasons, some offering relaxed, quiet shows, others offering rambunctious evenings with dancing, tipsy crowds.

“There are certain places where people go because they want to hear music. Captain’s Inn and Buckalew’s are two of those places. People that are there, are there to drink and party, and they want to hear music,” he said. “Nothing beats a summer gig at Buckalew’s.”

Memorial Day weekend, Fritz will be playing at the Surf City Hotel on Friday, May 25. Upcoming performances from The Impulsives, Fritz Electric and acoustic Chris Fritz can be found on each respective social media account.  



Set List Snippet

“Let Her Cry,” Hootie and The Blowfish

“Dead Flowers,” The Rolling Stones

“Brown-Eyed Women,” Grateful Dead

“Every Breath You Take,” The Police

“Friend of the Devil,” Grateful Dead

“Let It Be,” The Beatles

“Love Her Madly,” The Doors

“Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

“Follow You Down,” Gin Blossoms

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