Kam Franklin and her bandmates, The Suffers, have parlayed oodles of talent into one of Houston music’s biggest recent success stories. Their brand of Gulf Coast soul has garnered fans everywhere, so the band spent the fall performing shows around the United States and across Europe. Invariably, people at those shows asked how Houston is faring after Hurricane Harvey. In some ways, that’s made The Suffers global ambassadors. Turns out, it’s also allowed them to lean on some strong shoulders to help with Houston’s ongoing hurricane recovery.
This Friday’s With A Little Help From Our Friends benefit concert is being co-presented by the band and Newport Folk Festival. Yes, that Newport Folk Festival, the one that’s been promoting music and advocacy since the late 1950s, when acts like Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan were on the cusp of stardom. To hear Franklin tell it, Friday’s show at House of Blues will bring some of Newport Folk’s aura to life right here in Houston.
“All of the artists performing at this are alumni of Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island,” Franklin explained. “When the storm first hit, many of them reached out to me asking how they could help but at the time, aside from volunteering, the plan wasn’t clear. Jim James of My Morning Jacket was one of the first people to reach out to me during the storm and he was especially vocal about helping wherever he could. He encouraged me to make this idea I had for this event a reality, even when I thought the task was too big to handle. He told me that whatever we ended up doing, he wanted to lend his help.
“That, to me, is exactly what Newport Folk Festival embodies — a shared love of music, collaboration and community,” Franklin continued. “Having Newport Folk Festival partner with us for this is a dream come true, and I can’t wait for the audience to see what we have in store for them."
The blueprint is built around an indie rock and soul revue featuring some exciting acts. The night’s lineup includes Joshua Asante, front man for Arkansas rockers Amasa Hines; The Texas Gentlemen, whose TX Jelly has been getting fresh ink from the likes of No Depression and Paste Magazine; and Nicole Atkins, whose soulful compositions recall ‘60s standouts like Bobbie Gentry and Jody Miller. Atkins’ 2017 album, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, was spotlighted by Rolling Stone in November and deserves to be on lots of year-end “Best Of” lists.
They’ll be joined by Matthew Logan Vasquez, who is doing a run of Texas dates ahead of his own European tour slated for February; Austinites Wild Child, who will be releasing a new album, Expectations, in February; and, Shakey Graves, whose pared-down Americana has made him one of Austin’s favorite sons and a staple on roots music playlists. He too will be embarking upon a European tour in 2018.
The Suffers, who recently released the single “I Think I Love You,” will thrill hometown fans with a set and headliner Jim James makes good on his promise to The Suffers and will close the show, which is sure to feature songs from his recent solo effort, Tribute To 2. The album is a second collection of covers from My Morning Jacket’s singer and includes tracks like “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,” “Crying in the Chapel” and “Blue Skies,” which would be a hopeful show closer to a night of music with hurricane recovery in mind.
Tickets to the event begin at $45. The night will also feature a silent auction in House of Blues’ Foundation Room focusing on signed music memorabilia and photography. Proceeds raised from the event are earmarked for the Greater Houston Community Foundation’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund because “we wanted to make sure that all the money stayed local,” Franklin said.
Physically, Houston and Newport, RI are separated by 1,800 miles. But Newport Festivals Foundation’s executive director Jay Sweet reminded that the music community draws closer after tragic events like Harvey.
In addition to co-producing the show, the festival's foundation is vetting area schools to enrich with their music education resources.
"We decided to lend a hand not only because it is part of our mission, but because that's what families do for each other in times of need, and everyone involved in this event is Newport Folk Family," Sweet said.
"After a disaster like Harvey the focus is obviously on providing the necessities for survival and then the basics on the long road to recovery,” Sweet continued. “However, during the rebuilding process sometimes music is the last thing to make it back into a child's world. Which is why we at the Newport Festivals Foundation, in addition to lending our friends a hand with this event, wanted to help a local school try and bring music back into their day to day lives."
Returning people to their day to day lives is a key component of any recovery process. It’s the ultimate goal. But Franklin knows we aren’t quite there yet and she wants people to remember that.
"With the news cycle constantly changing, focus on those affected by Hurricane Harvey has mostly been swept under the rug,” she said. “While life for some Houstonians has returned to normal, there are still many still struggling to get by, many who still have no homes to return to, and many parents who won’t be able to deliver the holiday celebrations they wanted to provide to their children because of this storm.”
House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, hosts Newport Folk Presents With The Suffers: With A Little Help From Our Friends, a Harvey Relief Concert. 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 22. Tickets available here.