Review: SUSTO 7.22.15

By Shirley Griffith Photos by Alex Cason

July 22, 2015

Charleston, South Carolina quintet, SUSTO, dazzled the Fillmore Tuesday night with their electrifying, unique performance where the psychedelic meets the twang of southern comfort. At 8 p.m. sharp the already thick crowd was greeted with the easy summertime sweetness of vocalist Justin Osborne as the band lit up into a plucky, steady groove. The crowd eased closer, trying to get a solid look at exactly who they were experiencing. Osborne harmonizes with Johnny Delaware before displaying a gravelly grit reminiscent of DeerTick’s John McCauley.

Photo by Alex Cason

Once pleasantries were handled, SUSTO steps into a Episcopalian-worthy sermon of ‘Black Jesus’ inciting the crowd to clap along and praise as if they’d been sent to church on a Tuesday night. The instruments balance on the altar of the stage and lift up an impressive, almost hymnal vocal texture that flips maliciously and demonizes itself, urgently pleading, “C’mon, Black Jesus!” only for a moment before the angelic guitars exalt into the light and soothes the despairing song into a glorious dreamscape. The song is a baptism of revelation and birth. By the end of the song, Osborne has not only found, but also befriended, his Black Jesus and tapers the song off with an amiable, “Hey man, c’mon.”

Photo by Alex Cason

Sailing off the intensity of their last song, SUSTO churns into an open, beachside cruise complete with watery effects and charming drum-clips. The audience has grown more and more impressed with each passing song and now jostle to get closer to the stage as the seatbelt clicks into gear for the bluesy fan favorite, ‘County Line’. ‘County Line’, so drifting and rolling could make a fan out of anyone, especially those who’ve ever taken a road trip through the hilly East Coast landscape.

Photo by Alex Cason

‘Friends, Lovers, Ex-Lovers: Whatever’ is a twangy representation of their boozy folk side and the pedal guitar steps into its cowboy boots to shine. Like firing up the jukebox at The Thirsty Beaver, the song sits by itself drinking cheap whiskey and plays out the endless music between every lover-turned-stranger. ‘Dreamgirl’ is a lounging, jazzy lonesome walk through the rain that laments without same “why can’t I find a lover”? Osborne admits, “I can’t stand no more” as the drums fill the tense void before beating three times before watching the song disappear into the night.

Justin Osborne photo by Alex Cason

Finishing their set with a bang, the arrogant ‘Cigarettes, Whiskey & Wine’ struts out from the stage, intense and raging among drenching red lights. The unabashed rock’n’roll commands and thunders out across the prairie of audience members. SUSTO has been an excellent performance to a warm July night, being all at once the soundtrack to summer love, to a memory of southern watering holes and ending with the harnessed power of a Carolina heat-cracked thunderstorm.

Photo by Alex Cason

In support of their new cover album together, Sing Into My Mouth, Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) & Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) hit the stage in a pleasant and comfortable manner. Both cracked jokes and the set felt very intimate and informal. Although both performers, Beam and Bridwell, are remarkable songwriters with pristine voices, the crowd’s mood was reluctant to switch from raucous to complacent as the night went further on, and a lot of concertgoers began to talk loudly over the quieter set. It’s rare to see an opener steal the show so effortlessly, but Beam & Bridwell had big boots to fill after the energetic five-piece left the stage. SUSTO is real.

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