Now in its fourth year, Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest fell upon the green slope of Eleanor Tinsley Park, boasting its most eclectic lineup to date. Texas royalty Willie Nelson shared stages with electronic act Pretty Lights. Major Lazer’s dancehall bump prefaced The Doggfather’s haze. A reunite Descendents gave way to avant-weirdos Primus. And all the while the sun beat down with a furious Texas vengeance.
Hit the jump for the full recap and check out our photo recap for more pics.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Best Coast kick started the Budweiser stage with their jangly guitar pop, the latter boasting fans with homemade “I Love Snacks the Cat” signs. On the Main stage, Prince’s Purple Rain antagonists Morris Day and The Time arrived in Escalades and zoot suits and performed 80’s funk classics “Jungle Love” and “The Bird” to a nostalgic, and older crowd. Day even did his patented mirror primp we’ve all come to love.
Irish ensemble Two Door Cinema Club had their young fanbase eating out the palm of their hands as they careened through their album Tourist History. Their infectious dance punk seemed most appropriate for the giant mirror ball that hung from the stage as their neon-clad fans jived out. On Major Lazer’s side of the festival, a whole different kind of dancing was going on. Under direct orders of Diplo’s hype man, people were shedding their shirts, then pants as the DJ mixed hip-hop staples into his digital dancehall act. If the nonstop crowdsurfing wasn’t enough, Diplo and his saucy lady-dancers themselves stage dove into the fray igniting a sexual riot amongst the sweaty Summer Fest patrons.
The stunning Erykah Badu and the Cannabinoids brought a psychedelic, slow-motion soul-jazz kicking things off with a more spirited take on “The Healer.” In fact, all the “classic Erykah Badu” songs were rearranged into completely different styles, all sounding more dense and chaotic than their soulful originals. There also was a large replica of a brain that Badu would caress every now and again. Just thought it was worth mentioning.
What is there to say about Snoop other than he was the penultimate caricature of himself, cherry picking crowd-pleasing cuts from his 20-year catalog. “Damn, I need to smoke some motherfuckin’ weed” he declared after a Doggystyle cut. No shit, Snoop. Snoop-a-Loop. I’m sure he and everyone did just that as he closed out with his current chart topper “Young, Wild & Free.”
After a lengthy soundcheck, The Flaming Lips were all confetti and positive vibes as they kicked off their Pink Floyd-covering concert with a four song mini-set of Lips classics before heading to the Dark Side of The Moon. Joined by Phantogram, the band slid effortlessly into Floyd-mode, breathing new life into the 1973 album. And as if that wasn’t enough, the band dispensed of a giant balloon filled with cash totaling five grand unto the crowd. Yep, The Flaming Lips: the only multi-Grammy winning band that pays you to see them.
On day two of Summer Fest, Houston Texans linebacker and indie-concert staple Connor Barwin could be seen watching L.A.’s Fitz and the Tantrums, who just shy of releasing a follow up to their 2010 debut album PIckin’ Up the Pieces of Love, were leading the biggest (and most coordinated) handclap of the Budweiser Stage to a huge crowd. Young the Giant were a huge draw themselves hyping up the crowd and pouring water directly on yours truly. The band’s summery, California sound perfectly set the mood for the early afternoon and provided some rockin’ sweet relief from the heat.
Twice calling upon the Beatles, once for a hearty rendition of “Helter Skelter,” and again for the grand singalong of “Hey Jude,” Portugal. The Man were the highlight of the side stage. Following up, was the reunited Descendents, who, with 2 minute songs apiece, played a hefty 25 song set spanning their 25 year career. Name a song, “Myage,” “Everything Sucks,” “Coffee Mug,” they played it. And though graying, Milo Aukerman hasn’t shown any signs of age, playing the part of a full blown punk machine and ramping the band’s energy to 11, which the crowd returned in the form of the fest’s biggest circle pit.
If Willie Nelson was a welcome breather, bringing his old soul country and Texas charm to the mainstage, the blowout enthusiasm of the Avett Brothers was the shot in the arm to get people through the rest of the day. Leading sing-alongs of hits from their breakthrough album I and Love and You, the highly charismatic band roared and stomped their way through a set that didn’t seem long enough for their thousands of fans, who needed no prompting to chime along to every word the band sang.
Wrapping up the evening, the Primus fans came out the woodwork to catch Les Claypool do what he does best: be Les freakin’ Claypool. Expressing his disbelief at playing a festival alongside Willie Nelson, Claypool and his band slow burned into their set with “Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers” and kept the weird going all the way into their calling card closer “My Name is Mud.” The final act of the Fest, Pretty Lights came pre-loaded with his own impressive LED light show and fireworks in addition to his many samples he uses for his dance music act. The whole of the fest was moving to the sounds of Pretty Lights’ massive drops and oscillated bass, the perfect cool down to the sweaty day festivities.