The Suffers! are from Houston! Lead singer Kam Franklin kept asking us “Who are we?” and “Where are we from?” and we kept shouting out the answers. The evening at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 started with a count-off from the band while they faced each other and then a cheer while they waved their hands in the air. rtb and I had a great vantage point sitting at a table in the balcony.
The stage was crowded – in addition to Franklin there was Adam Castaneda (bass), Alex Zamora or Kevin Bernier (guitar)*, Cory Wilson (saxophone), Jon Durbin (trumpet), Michael Razo (trombone), Jose Luna (percussion), Patrick Kelly (keyboard), and Nick Zamora (drums). When someone in the back (like Luna or Alex Zamora) would take a solo, the horn section would crouch down so you could see them. For the last song before the encore (“Peanuts”) Nick Zamora and Kelly switched places. [*On their appearance on The Daily Show in February it looks like Bernier on guitar (plus there was a back-up singer, who also appeared with them on David Letterman in 2015). From my photos from Rockwood it looks like Zamora on stage.]
The Suffers are a soul band and they get things started with “Make Some Room” with the lyrics “Let me cook for you baby” and Franklin said the song helps her gauge the audience. It also puts us in the mood and lets us know that they are going to take care of us. Most of the set was their new album but they did play songs from their EP that were familiar to the audience. The room was sold out although it didn’t look as crowded as it could have been, which may have been due to the 7:00pm start (they played the early show at Rockwood). The next time The Suffers come to NYC I’m sure they will be in a bigger room and at a headliner’s start time.
Although the band will remind you of classic soul, they also mix in music from other genres to create a new kind of soul that they call Gulf Coast Soul. Songs like “Gwan” rock out and give several of the musicians (like Luna) an opportunity to take solos.
The first thing you notice about Franklin is her bright red sparkly dress and cowboy boots. She is soul and Texas in one fell swoop. Until recently the members of the band were working regular day jobs – teacher, investment banker, working at NASA – and they finally quit their jobs and decided to pursue their dream. Their big break on David Letterman didn’t lead to the immediate success they expected (Letterman’s booker saw them at a CMJ show at Rockwood) but it has led to a steady slow climb up.
In a night full of soul, the most soulful moment was “Giver,” where Franklin wooed and soothed us. Her voice can hit the soulful heights of Aretha Franklin or the bluesy downs of Janis Joplin.
When they left the stage after their too-short set, the audience clamored for more and they were allowed to play one more song. They gave us “All Night Long” from The Mary Jane Girls.
By Carene Lydia Lopez