Khruangbin‘s return to Houston after a year of touring all over the world was one of the most highly anticipated events to hit the city this 2019 at the White Oak Music Hall Lawn. With a homecoming comes nostalgia, excitement, and community. With a Khruangbin homecoming comes all of those feelings, Houston-based band, The Suffers, and spin master DJ Sun.
This past Saturday, was one of the most magnificent nights for music in Houston. The excitement in the air was palpable just driving down the street to find parking as you passed the long line of fans from both Houston and afar who came dressed for warmth in efforts to not let the cooler weather stop them from attending the outdoor show. Some even came toting blankets, faithfully answering the KhruCall for a show promising special guests and great energy all around. Upon entering the venue on the chilly Houston evening, music lovers alike were greeted by the live vinyl record spins of DJ Sun.
Playing classics and introducing new, eclectic, and groovy sounds, the beats kept us warm as you couldn’t help but dance along. Towards the end of this opening set, the sounds of The Suffers warming up began to trail through air. The Suffers are definitely a group who always bring the energy and personality. From the second they entered the stage, the ten-piece group transferred their lively spirit to the crowd through their smooth jazz with a fiery bite. They kept the Houston spirit alive until the end with a song about food and an audience involved call-and-response that had our feet moving and bodies grooving the entire time.
After The Suffers made their exit, DJ Sun made his return to guide us through the minutes preceeding Khruangin‘s take to the stage. One of the amazing sights of the evening was watching the lawn slowly fill up. There were so many people you didn’t even feel cold anymore, which is great feat for Houstonians as anything below 50 degrees is considered inhumane weather. The brief pause between the end of DJ Sun‘s second set into Khruangbin‘s entrance was filled with the silence of people holding their breathe and wondering where to look so they wouldn’t lose a second of taking in the show.
The band’s first footsteps onto the disco ball laden stage were met with the cheers of fans of all kinds. In return, the audience was greeted with the warm and excited smiles of the band who were just as happy to be there with Laura Lee on bass, Mark Speer on guitar, and Donald Johnson on drums. In no hurry to ease in, Khruangbin started the night off with some of their most popular songs including “Bin Bin”, “Dern Kala”, “Mr, White”, and “Two Fish and an Elephant”. True to their nature, Mark and Laura glided across the stage playing their instruments as they were born to do never failing to so perfectly add in their signature swivels in tune with the ebb and flow of the sounds the put out into the space. Mr. Donald Johnson on drums also had a wonderful connection with the audience making intentional eye contact, smiling to himself, and being as steady as ever.
The amazing and almost awe-inspiring thing about Khruangbin is how they perform so smoothly that as each song passes you’re just seeming to take it in. Every aspect of their performance is so well executed you can truly see their commitment to their craft and putting on a great show. The group continued on with “August 10″ and ” Lady and Man”, with Mark being sure to address the crowd in his soothing Texas drawl with an abundance of the word “y’all” sprinkled in. Keeping in line with the night of festivities, Khruangbin brought out none other than Leon Bridges to debut a few songs that he and the group have been working on that will be released on an EP in the coming future. Bridges took the stage side burns on display and voice full of soul to perform “Texas Sun” and “C-Side”. An unlikely combination, the two came together in to create sounds as smooth as ice and as warm and comfortable as a freshly baked pie made by grandma.
After playing two songs for a crowd on its tip-toes anticipating what was to come next, Khruangbin threw us into a medley of covers in class Khruangbin style including “Regulate” by Warren G, “True” by Spandau Ballet,”Wicked Games” by Chris Isaak, “Apache” by Sugarhill Gang, “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” by Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Doog, “The Next Episode” by Dr. Dre ft. Kurupt, Snoop Dogg, and Nate Dogg, and closed with “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top. As the night was sadly drawing to a close, “Maria Tambien” and its long desert drive tunes filled our ears as the disco balls shone a beautiful cascade of light across the stage and onto the faces of the ever hypnotized crowd. Khruangbin then took their exit to the chants of “Encore!” and “One more song!”, and as you know it’s not over until the lights go up.
Making their second entrance of the night with Laura Lee having made an outfit change into a two-piece silver sequin number matching the disco balls on stage, Mark making a statement about how cold his hands were, and Donald making his silent, yet powerful return to the drummer’s seat, the encore featuring “White Gloves”, “Friday Morning”, and “People Everywhere”, and played live for the first time ever to longtime fans surprise, “Zionsville”. Ending the beautiful night, Laura Lee threw a bouquet of flowers into the crowd in the semblance of a bridal toss for fans to have a memento of the night. This having been my first time seeing Khruangbin live after hearing from friends who have traveled many miles to see them was nothing short of a lovely night. Being surrounded by fans of all kinds there for their love of the music to see artists who create following their own rules is exactly what concert going should be about.