Free Press Summer Festival: Houston, Texas, June 4th-5th 2016.
Daisy adorned hipsters, man buns, scantily clad adolescents, throw-back jerseys, fat-infused vending options, henna tattoos and – mud. Yes, lots and lots of mud. Sound familiar? Maybe not to the average Joe-shmo, but the aforementioned is an increasing familiarity amongst many festival goers. This year’s festie season has been plagued with the onslaught of harsh weather and tumultuous rains, not only in the south, but also nationwide, with dreary forecasts making rounds on several big name events, including the tail end of New Orleans Jazz Fest, Governor’s Ball in NYC, Columbia’s Sweetlife, Levitation and other festivals right here in Texas. With Hurricane El Nino/La Nina oscillating its way across the gulf coat, unfortunately, Houston’s annual Free Press Summer Festival experienced a similar scenario. With the guarantee of rain just days before the festival gates opened, management was forced to relocate the event to NRG Stadium from the initial site, Eleanor Tinsley Park, a location condemned to flood with the grounds being pre-soaked by heavy downpours throughout recent months, and with the treat of evacuations in the past due to heavy lightening. Despite these elements, the show did go on – but not without a few scattered showers during performers’ sets, act cancellations, a rainbow or two, and a temporary suspension/evacuation on the final day that caused a major delay in the closeout revelries. However, in spite of all these drawbacks, the weekend overall proved to be worth the turmoil. The set up wasn’t by far the best, and how could it be. Albeit, relocating an entire infrastructure just days before an event couldn’t have proven very cost effective, the safety of its attendees proved more important than the business incentives. Not to mention the complimentary ponchos that were distributed throughout the course of the day. Those were definitely a lifesaver.
While some Houstonians appear to be shaking their heads and wagging their fingers at the festival outcome (after all, as natives, they’ve seen this sort of scenario come to pass many times with H-Town’s unpredictable flash flooding and harsh weather), as an outsider viewing inward, I saw an honest attempt at making the very best of a formidable situation. The photos alone depict this, and the performers went out of their way to show the crowd that a little bit of rain wouldn’t keep them from putting on a killer show, and giving the crowd their money’s worth.
This year’s catalog consisted of a little of literally everything, from the soulful sounds of the likes Leon Bridges and Allen Stone, to a decent offering from hip hop acts such as A$AP Ferg, Tory Lanez, Mac Miller, Logic, and the headlining Collegrove: Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, to the punkish vibes of Gogol Bordello, Refused, and Against Me! Some of the coolest acts to watch were the non-genre specific anomalies, such as BØRNS, heavy weight duo Big Grams (Sarah Barthel of Phantogram + Outkast’s Big Boi), Violent Femmes, Sir the Baptist, White Denim, and Trampled by Turtles. Of course, the EDM aficionados’ tastebuds were satiated with spins from the Chainsmokers, Zeds Ded, and the heavily anticipated Deadmau5. Matt and Kim’s set alone, one that they announced would be their only Texas appearance for the entire year, was a sheer joy to witness firsthand. Modest Mouse was definitely solid choice to closeout first night as well.
In essence, as unforgiving as the rain was anticipated to be, there’s always a rainbow at the other end, and that pot of gold mindset seemed to be the general consensus amongst the thousands of music lovers gathered at NRG Stadium June 4th-5th. There were many warranted nods towards the perseverance of the staff to provide a great emotional atmosphere despite the physical one. This summer’s lineup was deemed successful for the simple fact that it kept everyone satisfied. It was an epitomized example of making the best of a bad situation, and it ended up prevailing in the end. Kudos to the FPSF coordinators for making the kickstart of summer festival season a memorable one, rain and all.