The Suffers and Friends Close Out 2015 With Off-the-Charts Energy

The Suffers, Los Skarnales, Blue Healer, Corporate Dough
House of Blues
December 31, 2015

When Mark C. Austin and The Convoy Group throw a party, you can at least bet on immense talent and a damn good time. With various offerings of Houston’s best music, food, and party swag, this ticket carried the promise of being one of the best parties in Houston.

Nearly selling out with more than 1,500 in attendance, the House of Blues hosted four bands, a burlesque show, after-party and surprise guest, Corporate Dough fresh from his blockbuster debut at last month's Day for Night Festival. In what felt more like a gathering at Sambuca than House of Blues, the night was a showcase of jazz, Latino, alt-rock and rap.

Houston’s best dressed was in attendance, heels, dresses and suits filled the crowd. It’s no surprise the corner with a photo backdrop remained one of the busiest spots in the venue all night. This was a date night of the highest order and in full compliance, couples filled the room to abundance in their Sunday best.

Unfortunately I arrived too late for openers Def Perception, so the first act of the evening I saw was Blue Healer. Despite the Houston map on the bass drum (which belonged to the night's headliners), these are Austin boys. But what would be the least populated group of the night turned out to be a quite a pleasant surprise.

Blue Healer has been playing shows in Houston every week throughout December, with Thursday as the tight trio's finale. After hearing their colorful single, “30,000 Ft.” on Spotify earlier this month, I was more than interested to see them live, especially after incorrectly assuming them to be your standard rock lineup. Instead, drums, keyboards and guitar were the sole instruments during their opener.

Singer David Beck hovered around the mike wearing a tank top and jeans, while moving between a guitar and stand-up bass. With such a small group utilizing instruments not always seen at show, it felt like something very interesting was going to happen; I was not disappointed.
The music had way of expanding into the room like sonic cloud. Rhythm-heavy keyboards, harmonizing and unique arrangements helped Blue Healer sound like pieces of Radiohead and the Police at times, but at others they felt like no one but themselves. There was a real beauty in their music, an unusual and creative slice of songship.

Los Skarnales was the first band to really move the audience, demanding everyone from the front of the room to the back “Dance! Come on! Now! Everybody with me!” It was not a directive to be taken lightly. The entire room burst into sporadic salsa dancing, something I had never witnessed at this venue. Couples in balloon hats, beads and leis all shimming across the available open space was an incredible sight.

By the time Houston’s beloved Suffers took the stage, the room was packed shoulder to shoulder. To witness Kam Franklin and the band perform is an experience in itself, but last night, in a red, glowing gown, Franklin’s very presence recalled the monumental greats that have come before her: Aretha, Whitney, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Billie Holliday. To see Franklin in her own right command the stage with such natural ownership is to witness another tremendous talent take hold of the same great caliber as those before her. She is nothing less than extraordinary.

When the countdown arrived and the chanting began, the thoroughly happy crowd embraced one another with well-wishes and love. Salutations to everyone around and sloppy kisses abounded. We are a town that can not only throw a good party but revel in its hilarity and goodwill.

And in my own personal regard, the thing I held most dear about the gathering was its gorgeous cross-section of Houstonians. If there’s anything the Suffers can’t do, I haven’t discovered it. One of the best things they do besides play outstanding music is bring Houston together outside of race and class lines.

It’s all too often in music that audiences seem to take on a familiar but sadly uniform composition; like follows like without any visible difference or multi-cultural variety. Last night’s audience was the real gumbo of Houston fans from all walks of life, and that is a very beautiful way to start off the New Year.

Was the show an enormous success? Absolutely. From the fans to the bands and every act in between, there was a hopeful, gorgeous energy in the room. If the bands were working, it certainly didn’t feel like it. It’s the stuff of the very best of that the Houston music scene offers: Community.

Mark C. Austin agrees. “We’ve pretty much been working on this show since the [Suffers] sold out Fitzgerald’s," he said. "This show [was ] announced six months ago and has been on the forefront of my mind ever since. We had a lineup of our personal favorites and close friends. This was never meant to be a concert. It was always meant to be a show and we really feel like that happened last night. It felt special.”

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