The Suffers Gulf Coast Soul Wins Over Dallas at The Kessler

The Suffers
With Sam Lao
The Kessler Theater, Dallas
Friday, April 22, 2016

On Friday night, the Suffers brought one of the loudest audiences the Kessler Theater has seen in a while. Lead vocalist Kam Franklin said they never expected to be accepted in Dallas, on account of the band being from Houston, but those fears were unfounded. Next time around, the Suffers should probably book two shows at The Kessler.

The band has been to Dallas a few times. The North Texas crowd is now very much in on the way they start their shows. The band calls it “supermanning:” The 10 members of the Suffers do their count off, with each member assigned a number. Once they get to 10, they raise their arms in the air and scream. The audience played along Friday and the rest of the night was chaos. With the exception of just two slow songs, everything about this performance was high energy. The power of a live brass section cannot be simulated. The sound was also perfectly mixed. As big as Franklin’s voice is, it was not sitting on top of all the other sounds. She certainly led the band, but her voice was usually blended in to the music like another instrument.

A collective of musicians influenced by a variety of musical genres, the Suffers call their sound Gulf Coast Soul. It's hard to imagine a label that would provide a better explanation of how they effortlessly blend and journey through so many different noises. This is a mix of styles from Mexico and Louisiana, blues, rock and, above all else, soul. The Suffers initially formed to play covers at events like weddings and parties and there are still traces of this in their live shows.

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The band often addressed the crowd like a party band shocked at how they had somehow struck gold without the help of a record deal. This is, of course, very close to the truth. After playing covers for a few years, the Suffers started writing their own songs and launched a Kickstarter campaign to release their first album. The set list drew almost entirely from the self-titled debut album the Suffers released in February, and there were clearly some people who had contributed in attendance. When the band came back for their two-song encore, they were able to take things down a notch with a heartfelt tribute to Prince. While not a cover of the Purple One, Franklin performed a rare rendition of “Better,” a slow song with just her and drummer Nick Zamora, who sat in on keys for that song, which was dedicated to the fallen icon.

Earlier in the evening, local artist Sam Lao strolled on to the stage and lit up the crowd in less than 60 seconds. Hip-hop shows, while not nonexistent, are something of a rarity at The Kessler, and Lao did not seem to be a known to many in attendance — but she clearly won them over, starting with a spoken word piece before launching into her set. Lao is the total package and she can work a crowd as well as anyone. Believe the hype.

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