Before the Dream Syndicate, there was Steve Wynn and Kendra Smith’s college band. Wynn, Smith, and Russ Tolman met as students at UC Davis, where all three had shows on KDVS. With Steve Suchil on bass, Gavin Blair on drums, Wynn and Tolman on guitars, and Smith on lead vocals, they formed a garage band called the Suspects, which made it possible for them to play in the punk clubs of late-Seventies San Francisco. A few years later, back in Los Angeles, Wynn and Smith started the Dream Syndicate with Karl Precoda and Dennis Duck, while Tolman and Blair played together in the contemporary Paisley Underground outfit True West.
The Suspects left behind one self-released single, “Talking Loud” b/w “It’s Up To You” (the B-side of which sure sounds an awful lot like “Fortune Teller”), and a 10-minute video performance shot in the AV room of a Sacramento high school in 1979. At the very bottom of this post is an audio recording of a full Suspects set from a night at the Fab Mab in 1980, complete with Dirk Dirksen’s introduction. There’s also the Suspects’—or Smith and Wynn’s, anyway—June 1981 performance of “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” sung in German, which is all the more enjoyable if you recall the Dream Syndicate’s later insistence that they had never heard the Velvet Underground.
The Dream Syndicate is currently on tour behind the new album How Did I Find Myself Here? Wynn announced on Facebook that Kendra Smith will join the band onstage for a few songs at the Los Angeles and San Francisco dates. They are an excellent live band.
The Suspects’ 1979 single, plus “Alle Morgens Parties”:
The Suspects live on video, 1979:
The Suspects live at Mabuhay Gardens, 1980 (audio only):