A million years ago, I was fortunate to live in New Orleans for six months cocktail waitressing on Bourbon Street. When I was deciding what city I would move to from California before coming back to Philly for good, I knew it had to be somewhere with a good music scene. I was lucky that my sister lived there and had a pool house that I could crash in, so New Orleans rose to the top of the list. Besides seeing a lot of music at small venues and really testing if bars stayed open all night or until the last patron left (PS, they do), I spent a ton of time wandering around the huge Tower Records store. Back in the day, that is what an old head did. You wandered around record stores aimlessly, picked up albums and figured out if it was worth the buy. Tower Records had a ton of stuff I could not get in Philly and, obviously, a great New Orleans, blues, funk and jazz section. One day as I was perusing the racks, a very classy lady peered out from her cover just daring me to buy her album. I did. And I fell deeply in love with Alberta Hunter that very day. I recall this story because that is what happened to me when I saw The Suffers poster at the Union Transfer box office one day.
As you all know, I am allergic to service fees, so I will visit box offices whenever possible to purchase tickets. I went to Union Transfer to get Lone Bellow tickets (see my XPN Fest post for those guys) and in the box office window is this poster of an awesome 10-piece band, all men with a gorgeous woman smack in the middle. It was love at first sight, again. The tickets were $10 and the show was on Popeapalooza weekend. What could be better- a new band two blocks from my house during the weekend I could not drive anywhere. I was psyched. Alas, they cancelled. So, imagine my delirious delight when I went to the Fillmore box office (by the way who charges service fees at the box office. At the box office. Besides being totally shameful, it totally breaks the gentleman’s agreement of going to the box office to buy tickets to avoid the service fee. Do not get me started…) to buy Lake Street Dive tickets and they were on the bill. This was going to be an epic show.
Initially, I thought that The Suffers would be the next Sharon Jones and Dap Kings. They are described as “Gulf Coast” sound, heavy on the funk and soul. But they are way more that that. They are not your typical young guns “let’s give rock and roll thing a shot” band. They are all professionals who quit their careers to give “this rock and roll thing a shot” band. They describe themselves as “A gulf coast soul band from Houston Texas. Bringing elements of classic American Soul and rock and roll to crowds that love to dance.”
They started their set with a count off, their warm-up and, I would posit, to make sure all 10 were onstage (I guess it’s hard to keep track of that many people) and launched into their first song with a chorus of “Can I make you a sandwich?” Kam Franklin, The Suffers’ front woman, explained that making someone a sandwich is a true and wonderful show of love. During the chorus, Susan leaned over and asked me “is this our song?” One of the many reasons why I love my woman, because even though she cooks for me 85% of the time, she knows that sandwiches are my favorite food and my forte. Next time you see her, ask her about the filet mignon cheesesteaks I made her during the 2016 blizzard. Anyway, they went on to introducing themselves and Kam said they have a couple of goals at every show. They want everyone to know their name, The Suffers, to remember where they are from, Houston Texas, and make sure everyone has a good time. The crowd totally delivered on our part by screaming their name and hometown every time asked and they delivered on their side by making sure we had a rollicking time. The 10-piece band was tight and the keyboardist and drummer even switched instruments on the last song, which is always a sign of a talented set of musicians. Throughout the set, the brass section put down their instruments to be the back-up dancers. And they were totally in sync with that too. Their set was soulful, funky, danceable, emotional, and, simply put, magical. There was just so much authenticity in their music and when Kam thanked us, thanked us!, at the end by telling us,” supporting live music is beautiful,” I knew I had found my new favorite band. One last time, a 10 member band fronted by a beautiful, soulful woman absolutely glowing in a bright green glittery gown. A bright, green glittery gown. And that was just the opener.
After catching my breath, I was ready for Lake Street Dive. Susan and I got pretty close up for the first set, but the sold out place was, well, sold out by the time Lake Street Dive took the stage and we only lasted a couple songs in our close to the stage spot. They are a great band. They are young, have tons of energy and you bond a little more with them with each song. I was impressed that as a band of four, one member plays the upright band the whole time- that is some serious commitment to the bass. The guitarist switched from guitar to trumpet, but that bass player stayed with her bass. I always knew bass really stood for bad ass, she just proved it to me. I found that as the show went on, there was more depth to their songs that the pop arrangements would have you believe at first glance. They were also somewhat mysterious, which is hard to explain but that is just what I kept thinking. But they are a very cool band and put on a great show. I felt a little cooler just being there. They are going places, they put on a great show and have the music chops to back it up. Rachael Price, lead singer, has a very smoky voice and sounds a bit like Eva Cassidy and dances a bit like Elaine Bennis, which someone said. I am not sure that is entirely fair, but I did not have any trouble copying her moves and keeping up with her so there may be more truth to it than she would want to admit. At this point, we were in the back and thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
One of the reasons it was so much fun in the back was because The Suffers were hanging out there while not at the merch table. And they were totally jamming out. At one point, we knew something was up when three of them rushed over with their iPhones and started filming. Kam was joining Lake Street Dive for a tune and her band mates wanted to make sure they got it on video. That is just cool. I had way more fun watching them jam out than jamming out myself.
As the opening bars of the last tune came on, I knew I was not done dancing. Everyone knows the opening bars of Queens’ Bohemian Rhapsody and my head and body knew it way faster than my brain did. As I was singing Gallileo, Gallileo on top of my lungs, with my hair wildly bouncing during my air conductor solos, I was in pure music heaven. Supporting live music is indeed beautiful, and incredibly cathartic.
13 shows to go, 90 days left…