Saturday Night: Bang Bangz, A Sea Es and The Suffers at Fitzgerald's

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Kam Franklin of the Suffers
Bang Bangz, A Sea Es, the Suffers
Fitzgerald's
March 23, 2013

There's nothing like a little sensory overload to liven up a Saturday night, eh, kids?

Houston trio Bang Bangz held their release party for new album Red City Saturday at Fitzgerald's, and I was blown away by the sheer madness of the night, and the unique sounds both the headliners and opening acts the Suffers and A Sea Es offered to the packed house.

Up first were the Suffers, with their soulful yet upbeat amalgam of jazz, reggae, and ska, and they are a force to be reckoned with. Comprised of current and former members of Los Skarnales, Lower Life Form and Heptic Skeptic, the Suffers were a band born with some bragging rights already under their belt, but they live up to the hype.

Despite being the first band to take the stage Saturday night, the Suffers held a captive audience rapt as they shimmied through a set full of some of the best live music I've heard in quite a while. Singer Kam Franklin's vocals are stunning; she isn't overwhelmed by the eight -- count 'em, eight -- backing instruments, nor is she too polished or poised.

She's the quintessential front lady: flirty, soulful and gleefully aware of how to rock those curves. I'm infinitely jealous of her abilities.

The sheer depth and force of Franklin's pipes was reason enough to indulge in the Suffers' sound, but when you add to it the instrumental mastery of the eight other musicians -- Pat Kelly on keyboard and percussion, Nick Zamora on drums, Jon Durbin on the trumpet, Michael Razo on the saxophone, Kevin Bernier on the guitar, Adam Castaneda on the bass, Jose "Chapi" Luna on percussion, and Alex Zamora on rhythm guitar -- the group creates absolute magic.

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A Sea Es' Austin Smith
A Sea Es was next to take the stage. Looking back, I've found myself stumped as to how to define the group's sound, though -- there's so much intentional discord between the tempos, instruments, and the vocals that pinning down the true source of the sound can be a tedious process. Leader Austin Smith and his bandmates focus on heavily layering the instrumentation around an electro-indie-pop structure, and often leave the vocals as an afterthought.

There's a lack of continuity within ASE's sound that stems from the heavy-handed distortion and colliding, frenetic tempos. The collusion of such elements creates a discord that feels at times like an acid-tripped fever dream, if such a thing can exist. When it works, it's gravity-defying, but when it struggles, it's exhausting.

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However, it's impossible to be bored when listening to Smith and his bandmates; their sheer amount of onstage activity is mesmerizing. Smith seemed to take great pride in the process of creating music onstage; he built the tempo of each number piece by piece, allowing for a voyeuristic experience as he recorded and looped each sound, preemptive to the others joining him.

Throngs of audience members were jammin' the fuck out to ASE's set; they've obviously got quite a following, despite their relatively recent birth as a band. Smith wailed and growled the lyrics, but I'll be damned if I can tell you what any of them were. It was way too difficult to hear them over the dizzying collision of distortion and instruments.

To the band's credit, as puzzled as I was about ASE's sound, it was a melodic Rubik's Cube that I wanted to conquer something fierce -- I just failed at that task miserably.


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Fitzgerald's

2706 White Oak, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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