Live: REI Summer Fest
NOUVEAU ANTIQUE ART BAR — 8/2/14: With the majority of Houston’s social circles out and about, seeing and being seen wearing white at White Linen Night in The Heights, it wasn’t a huge surprise that REI Summer Fest became the ultimate (nearly-) private party of the weekend.
For a little background, “REI” stands for “Real Estate Investing.” During the day, the attendees went to what I assume was some kind of “house-flipping school,” and after their seminars and educational sessions, they had a rocking party. Lucky for me, I was able to crash the party with a VIP pass, thanks to a friend in a high place. And make the most of it I did.
The evening began early for a rock show — at 5:30 — with what is arguably Houston’s hottest band of 2014, The Suffers. Kam Franklin and company have perfected their soul-reggae-pop revue and certainly held their own amongst the national touring acts. In fact, being the Houston hometown heroes of the night, they may have brought the most fans to the event, aside from headliner, Allen Stone.
With Kam’s amazing voice and nine Suffers behind her (the stage was full), they put their own mark on the night, and it was over all too soon. Favorites included the jazzy “Giver” and soulful “Make Some Room,” both of which told stories of women who seem to take control of their relationships by serving their men.
What excited me most about the REI event was that I had hoped to see all three of the scheduled national acts at SXSW and missed them due to time constraints. So here I could see three in a row, starting with San Francisco’s The Soft White Sixties.
As I previously mentioned, it was still a little early for a rock show, and on top of that, the crowd was spread out all over the block-wide festival grounds, but despite these things that weren’t especially working in their favor, The Soft White Sixties rose to the occasion and played and sang like they were playing Coachella.
The band is appropriately named; they do sound like the ’60s — the very end of the ’60s, to be exact, a little like a poppier version of Led Zeppelin’s early riff-blues rock. Several times during the set I thought, “They should tour with Vintage Trouble. That would make a great bill.” They just got off a tour with Rival Sons, which is another great match, and they’ll soon be on the road with Electric Six.
By the end of the set, most of the festival goers had gravitated right up to the stage as singer Octavio Genera sang, danced, and jumped all the way to the last chord. Highlights of the set included “City Lights” and “Lemon Squeezer,” off their new album Get Right., and the song that originally made me a fan, “Queen of the Press Club,” which segued into Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well” (hmm; I wonder if that’s where HAIM got the idea to do that song — okay, probably not, but you never know…).
A couple of complimentary VIP Jack and Cokes later, up comes Leopold and His Fiction. With the look of a young Joseph Stalin, the muscles of a nineteenth century pugilist, and a cream-colored Gibson Flying V guitar, singer Daniel James is an original sight. Leopold and His Fiction fit well in the evening’s bill, with their old-school, Detroit-style rock-n-retro-roll. Vocally, James’s tone reminds me a lot of the lower end of Jeff Buckley’s range, along with a bit of Jack White’s staccato phrasing.
The rest of the band, just a bassist and drummer (both doing backing vocals), complemented James well. The drummer also had a keyboard nearby to occasionally add in melodies, and it’s always amazing to see someone playing drums and keyboards at the same time. Favorites of their set included “Waves,” “Cowboy,” and “I’m Caving In,” three new songs that are available on SoundCloud.
Headlining the evening was Allen Stone, who’s played Houston quite a few times, but I’ve always lazied out and not gone to see him. I was glad to finally own up to my mistakes and enjoy his set on what luckily turned out to be a lovely evening, weather-wise.
I forgot to mention it should have been 100 degrees outside, but we lucked out with a nice rain on Friday, which cooled off the weekend to a mid-80s and humid affair.
Allen Stone has a marvelous voice. He’s probably tired of being compared to Stevie Wonder, but the mind immediately wanders to the master when you hear Stone. The rest of the band came off a little too super-clean for me — they remind me of when Phil Collins did “You Can’t Hurry Love” or Paul Weller’s Style Council, kind of an ’80s version of the ’60s classics. That said, Allen Stone was very entertaining, and his new song “Million” shows that he’s headed in the right direction.
After that, you’d think I’d had enough music for the day, but no, I needed more. My friends Featherface were playing at Walter’s, so I made my exit. And Featherface debuted some new material — what a winner of a night! END
(Photos [top to bottom]: Kam Franklin (The Suffers); Octavio Genera (The Soft White Sixties); Daniel James (Leopold and His Fiction); Allen Stone. All photos by Jason Smith.)