Grandfather Child, the Suffers, Brent Nettles, Don't Poke the Bear Fitzgerald's August 31, 2012
"Lucas was always getting into things as a kid. Asking questions, touching things," says Lucas Gorham's aunt while Gorham and his band Grandfather Child are playing one of the most suggestive songs on their new album ("Magical Words") Friday night at a packed Fitzgerald's.
It was a happy accident that I ended up sitting with the Gorham clan at Grandfather Child's record release show. Rarely do you get to hear a family enjoy and react to their adult kids' work. It's like watching Michael Phelps' mother tear up during a medal ceremony.
Friday's GFC show also came loaded with support, onstage and off, with both stages at Fitz blazing with talent. Upstairs, the GFC boys were supported by Austin's Marmalakes and Houston's own rocksteady stalwarts the Suffers as direct openers. Downstairs was a (free) party unto itself with Poor Pilate, Don't Poke the Bear and Mr. Brent Nettles.
I had seen only the last 30 seconds of most DPTB gigs until Friday night and I thoroughly dug them. It's another Taylor Lee project, but guitar-wise it's Russ Willis' show, all chiming notes and big sweeping riffs. Imagine if the Kings of Leon went down the promising rabbit hole that was 2007's Because of the Times and never ever decided to set their sex on fire or use somebody, and for good measure took The Edge's pedal boards.
Upstairs, the Suffers' Kam Franklin and company were soundchecking. To get a full-scale ska band tuned and ready it takes a lot of patience with horns aplenty needing tweaking. How did we do this every other night in the third-wave ska explosion? That's right, we drank more.
Franklin tested the PA with an a cappella version of the Reading Rainbow theme. Quick question/idea: Why don't we petition the Houston Texans to have Franklin sing the National Anthem before a home game at Reliant Stadium? Surely we can make this all happen?
The Suffers' rocksteady and ska remind me of the first times I ever visited Fitz in the late '90s. The then-familiar sight of skankers in front of the stage is now replaced with whatever dorky white dance that replaced it in the interim. Gen Y really fucking loves Riverdance, or at least their parents did.
The Suffers' brew was a perfect marinade for a Grandfather Child show. Few bands in Houston these days are able to swim together the way they can. Their sound goes well with the Houston heat, which made its way into the venue to enjoy the show too.
Brent Nettles has been playing in Houston for sometime -- he also logs time with the all-star Swamp Sessions project -- but I had not yet seen him with a full-band presentation. His sturdy, crystal-clear ballads about women, wronging and regret need a wider audience. They are intensely catchy too.
Back to the Granpa Kids upstairs. I grabbed a seat on the balcony to sit and sip and enjoy the show just minutes before their start time.
The band's new album sounds vintage without trying -- click-tracks and modernity were forsaken in the studio for natural sounds and reverb -- in an industry where canned "old" is now Top 10 list fodder.
"Bands aren't supposed to be this good this early," said an old-timer upstairs, not related to the Gorham camp I was sitting with. But if you look at the makeup of the GFC, it makes sense. In 2012, at their age, they are one of the most experienced groups of musicians in town.
Guitarist and banjoist (?) Geoffrey Muller is one of the youngest/oldest musical hands in town, and the same goes for drummer Ryan Chavez, the band's secret sonic weapon. Grandfather Child would sprinkle in some covers into their set, most notable of the bunch was John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" and their usual run-through of Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman."
The material off the new album translates well live because by now, it has been gestating live for years. The old saying goes that bands spend decades creating their debut, and of the recent albums to come from the current class of Houston music, GFC's is one of the most fully realized, and thankfully hard to pigeonhole.
That's a valuable commodity in 2012. It harkens to a time when tags were tools of boredom, and you could hear Sabbath and Sly Stone on the same outpost on your radio dial.
Grandfather Child closed with "I Would Like To Thank the Universe/Planet Earth," inviting friends, strangers, and everyone else in between to bask in their psychiness and press the flesh. If you didn't get a sweaty hug from Gorham on Friday night after he and the band jumped offstage, you were doing it all wrong.
Personal Bias: I enjoy the sound of music.
The Crowd: You, me, and everyone you know. Expect what's his name. He wasn't there. Neither was she.
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Overheard In the Crowd: "Sing more songs about girls!"
Random Notebook Dump: Of course Spoon's Britt Daniel was somewhere in the house.