The Suffers Fitzgerald's January 24, 2015
Saturday night at Fitzgerald's was a celebratory event for the Suffers, the local soul band who has spent the last week promoting the release of their debut EP, Make Some Room. The band, who played a Red Bull Sound Select show at Warehouse Live last month, sold out the upstairs room at the historic venue, and the excitement was palpable.
Most bands who play there don't get big introductions before taking the stage, but the Suffers had two notable Houstonians take the microphone to express their admiration. First up was esteemed rapper and advice columnist Willie D, who was giddy as he led the crowd in singing along the theme songs of '80s sitcoms like Cheers and Good Times. He referred to the Suffers as one of his favorite bands of all time, and gave a warm shoutout to FPSF before bringing out Pegstar and Fitzgerald's owner Jagi Kaital to introduce the band. Kaital proceeded to give an impassioned speech about the evening and what it meant to him.
"I want you to realize what we're celebrating tonight," Kaital said. "When was the last time a Houston band sold out Fitzgerald's without putting an EP out? When was the last time an Austin band did that? This band is going to be huge. One day we'll be wearing shirts that say 'Keep Austin where it belongs, 186 miles away.'"
From there, the ten-piece band took the stage, and began their set with a giant yell to get the already hyped crowd even more excited. Vocalist Kam Franklin, who just last month sang the National Anthem at the Houston Texans game, was beaming with joy as she took command of the stage. Her powerful voice was utterly captivating, and the rest of the band did a nice job backing her with their jazzy, funky sounds. The band played smooth R&B, and the songs struck a solid median; not lounge music, but not too bombastic either.
When Fitzgerald's is sold out, it really feels at capacity, and many fans got there quite early to grab a good spot and catch the opening bands. They were rewarded, as the Suffers had the entire room dancing throughout their set, which got more energetic as the night went on. About 45 minutes into the set, the band brought out David Elkin and Aidan Kennedy of Wrestlers (who apparently are honorary members of every band in Houston now) for added percussion. With 13 musicians on stage, the group cut into a cover of Outkast's "Spottieottiedopalicious," which sounded great and had everyone dancing.
From there, the Suffers went into the title track from their EP and Franklin announced the music video would be premiering on Entertainment Weekly's Web site this week. The song was riveting and blew everyone away with its thunderous energy. They closed out the night with the subdued but uplifting "Stay," also from the EP. The Suffers' set was less a victory lap and more a crowning event for Houston's next big stars. Everyone in the venue felt that there were big things ahead for the group.
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Rounding out the night were a few other well-liked Texas acts. I got there a bit too late to catch Keeper, but just in time for a really fun set by Houston rapper Rai P. With an enigmatic personality, he helped get the party going early in the night. He brought out a DJ and his cousin to rap alongside him (and take Snapchat videos), and threw out CDs into the crowd to promote a new single playing on 97.9. Songs like "Girls & Alcohol" and "Swagged Up" were solid jams. Rai P showed a lot of talent, and fit in well as the type of rapper who could open up a show with a soul and dance-rock band, instead of exclusively rap shows. It definitely felt like the kind of set that would translate well to a festival setting.
Also fun was the set in between by Dallas band Ishi. Taking the stage dressed like he was in ZZ Top, singer J.T. Mudd led the '80s-inspired electronic group as they got the room dancing. The group has been going strong for years, and their experience showed as they knew how to put on a show. As a first-timer to the band, I got impressions of Cut Copy or Neon Indian in their music, with pulsating synthesizers and soaring hooks. Mudd's theatricality and showmanship helped the band's set and served as a solid segue between Rai P's jams and the Suffers' party.
As a whole, it was a great night, a strong celebration of a local band prospering. It was a warm environment, and everyone there, some of whom knew members of the bands, was happy to share in the moment. The city of Houston has a lot to be excited about when it comes to its music scene, and the Suffers are without a doubt a big part of that.
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