Tonight: The Suspects, Making Old Brand-New Once Again Up at Walter’s
Tonight — Saturday, June 13th, 20-year-strong H-town ska heroes The Suspects will be playing what I think is their first show at the downtown location of Walter’s, alongside fellow ska-heads The Skatastrophics, rappers Dirty & Nasty, & DJ Baby Roo.
As with all Suspects shows, it’s guaranteed to be a blast, seriously, but this show’s going to be extra-special for a couple of reasons. For one — and yes, fans of the band probably already know this — vocalist Thomas Escalante is no longer with the band. I’m bummed about that, because he’s a great guy and truly lent the band a soulful, Pietasters-/Adjusters-ish vibe with his rough-edged croon. Not sure what the circumstances are surrounding his departure, and I don’t want to speculate; I’ll just say that hopefully it was an amicable thing.
Now, this means there’s a “new” face up there on the mic these days, and it’s one longtime Suspects lovers will recognize: Chris Kendrick, the band’s original singer, is back. He was with the band when they started, waaaaay back in 1993, and his voice defined those early years for a lot of people, myself included, giving the band the more trad-ska feel it had until the late ’90s, when they got a little poppier and more soul-/rocksteady-oriented (to my ears, anyway).
He sang on Ninety-Nine Paid, which still has some of my absolute favorite Suspects songs on it, including “Caffeine,” “The Bad One,” “Right On Time,” and “Freedom”. So while I’m sad to see Thomas gone, the singing duties are in pretty much the best hands you could hope for.
Another reason this is gonna be a special show kind of ties in, too, with the return of the old-school. Bandleader Bill Grady has promised tonight will be packed full of the classics from those first 7-inches and first couple of albums, and he says that this’ll most likely be the last time the band does a whole bunch of the old tunes all in one blast, at least for a while.
And last but definitely not least, Grady’s also unveiled a big-ass pile of merch, some of it from back in the band’s early days and sitting around in boxes since and some of it reprinted, brand-new versions of the old stuff, like the classic white Suspects t-shirt I adored desperately once upon a time and stupidly tried to bleach the stains out of. (Did you know you really shouldn’t put straight bleach onto your clothing? I didn’t at the time.)
So, Houston ska fanatics (current or recovering, whichever), there’s your fix for the weekend — get on over to Downtown and skank like it’s 1995.