The Suffers enlivened the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room Feb. 20 like a deep breath of fresh meadow air.
The Houston band’s Gulf Coast soul blossomed onstage and basked the crowd in a glow of sonic sunshine.
The night began with a powerful opening set from Truckee’s Drop Theory. The songs rode a tight backbeat while intermixing funky rhythm guitar and jazzy saxophone. The sound is reminiscent of the Greyboy Allstars’ boogaloo funk and it electrified the crowd with choice covers of funk powerhouse Lettuce and groove icons Jamiroquai.
After a short break, the 10-piece Suffers took up every bit of the stage as the players maneuvered around their instruments and formed a circle around lead singer Kam Franklin. The band let out a collective howl which resounded through the crowd until everyone had joined. It was an expression of joy and energy that set the tone for the rest of the night.
With that, the band launched into the bubbly “Good Day,” a rocksteady-tinged soul number that had Franklin singing, “it’s feeling like a real good day.” The band bobbed with the bright brass lines and seemed to settle immediately into its happy place, playing feel-good music to a new crowd.
The Suffers followed with a handful of radiant songs which blended fluttering ’70s soul with reggae and rocksteady. Keyboardist Pat Kelly kept the band hovering with spritely organ riffs and even took over vocal duties on a song. Following Kelly’s turn on vocals the band whipped out a cover of the Specials “A Message to You Rudy,” a nod to its ska and reggae roots, which had both the crowd and band bouncing together.
One thing evident throughout the show was the passion the band members had for their music. Franklin was vivacious. She sang and moved to the music like a little girl in front of the mirror with a comb for a microphone. She has a dynamic voice that can fully belt it out, like in the blazing original “Peanuts,” or drop it down into silky registers, like during a tantalizing cover of Outkast’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious.” There is inherent joy in her voice and it refreshing to hear a singer sing so freely. Guitarist Alex Zamora constantly looked like he was in a blissful day dream while playing and keyboardist Pat Kelly couldn’t stop smiling in between songs. The band members clearly enjoy the music they play as did the crowd. As the night progressed, the crowd grew larger as more people couldn’t deny the band’s infectious happiness and groove.
The band closed out their set with two originals from their EP “Make Some Room,” “Giver” slowly churned into a fiery plea for companionship from Franklin before the band impressively dropped the beat back to its whispered beginning, like a flame that is blown out right before it can start a fire. “Stay” floated on an R&B rhythm and coasted into a beautiful outro of horns and Franklin’s vocals. After a quick encore that included an interpolation of “Please Mr. Postman,” the band mingled with the crowd selling merchandise and thanking them for coming out to the show. Franklin and trumpeter Jon Durbin both complimented the energy of the crowd to Tahoe Onstage and Durbin said he was amazed to see a casino attracting such a strong local crowd for music.
The Suffers are a formidable ensemble dedicated to delivery of soulful, happy music to the world. Anywhere it chooses to play, it will surely be a good day.