Summerfest Rundown, Pt. 1: Hell City Kings + Givers + Rusted Shut + Saviours + The Small Sounds + Cro-Mags + More

UPDATE: Just to make things all complete-like, I’ve gone ahead & added the time/date/stage where each of the previewed bands’re playing, like I’ve already done in the subsequent posts. As always, verify in the actual lineup

Okay, so if you pay any attention at all to music-related happenings in this city — unlike, apparently, the folks who run those Washington Ave. bars that are right across the street from one of the best bastions of live music in H-town, and the guy who writes about ’em with a straight face (see Jeff Balke‘s excellent rejoinder here) — you’ll know that this coming Saturday & Sunday, June 5th & 6th, is the much-anticipated second installment of the Free Press Summerfest over in Eleanor Tinsley Park, just west of downtown.

Seriously, I cannot say this enough: if you enjoy music made in this decade, at the very least, you really ought to go. Really. I’ll grant you that they’re not that cheap, but considering that tickets to see one damn band often seem to top $50 a pop, $40 (that’s the presale rate, anyway; it’ll go up when the fest hits) seems downright economical for ninety-two freaking bands.

Yes, that’s right — I counted, and there’re 92 bands and/or musicians on the current lineup, including relatively big-namers like the Detroit Cobras, Cro Mags, Lucero, and Dead Prez, not to mention co-headliners Girl Talk & The Flaming Lips (I didn’t count the pile of DJs who’re apparently playing at the “Fancy Pants – On the Street” area, because it seems a little fluid; sorry!).

And going through the list, I’m amazed at the sheer volume of musical awesomeness. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to name a band on there that I don’t at least somewhat like, if not love completely. The only possible negatives are bands I’ve never actually heard.

Because of that, I’m going to be attempting a little experiment. Starting today/tonight, I’m going to be picking bands from the list completely at random and posting little reviews/writeups on each one of ’em talking about why they’re cool/influential/badass/whatever. Totally random and, obviously, totally subjective. I’m going to do my best to keep ’em short, mostly so I can crank through as many as possible between now & Saturday — if you’d like something a little deeper, check out David‘s awesome writeups over at Houston Calling.

Anyway, here goes, in absolutely random, nonsensical order:

Hell City Kings
Kicking this off with a bang, that’s for damn sure… One of the rowdiest, rawest bands in town, marrying garage-punk chords with more traditional hardcore vocals, the Kings are like Houston’s answer (tribute?) to Turbonegro; they’re a bunch of hard-drinking guys who sing about babes, sex, booze, and rocking out (and occasionally more, um, mythological stuff, but I’ll skip that part), sport tattoos not because they’re cool fashion accessories but because they’re badass motherfuckers, and would probably kick your ass just for looking at ’em funny. And then they’d pick the guitars back up and dive back into the song without missing a beat. Grab a beer with one fist and pump the other in the air.
[Hell City Kings play at 5:15PM on Sat., June 5th, at the Dos Equis Stage.]

This Lafayette crew plays cheery, jangly, Afrobeat-esque music that could honestly give those Vampire Weekend guys a sweetness overdose. I can’t be down on it, though (VW doesn’t do much for me), because the sheer starry-eyed intensity these kids throw into the songs flat-out wins me over. The more fully Afrobeat/reggae-sounding stuff’s cool, sure, but I’m getting most sucked in by tracks like “Ceiling of Plankton,” which mines a bumping, grinning, almost disco groove and bubblegum-glues some truly great boy/girl harmonies onto it, and “Saw You First,” which is like the Talking Heads via Austin and is most likely going to still be stuck in my head weeks from now. I want to give their bassist a big hug.
[Givers plays at 6:40PM on Sun., June 6th, at the Stage.]

Rusted Shut
Ah, Rusted Shut. These guys embody a lot of what I love about Houston, with their don’t-give-a-crap attitude and utter disregard for musical convention, and on top of that, they’re one of only a handful of bands in this city who’ve stuck around since I first moved here and kept putting out new, strange, insane music. Is it fun to listen to? For me, not so much, but watching these folks play is always entertaining as hell. Back when I played in a band, I swear every other musician in town had their own “Rusted Shut Story” (mine involves since-departed bassist Sibyl…). Loud, distorted beyond belief, messy, angry, and, well, pretty great. (Handy tip: bring yr earplugs, or expect to be crawling on the grass, trying to find where your eardrums got blown to.)
[Rusted Shut plays at 12:50PM on Sun., June 6th, at the Stage.]

Some days I feel like I’ve honestly said all I can say about listenlisten; they’re one of a handful of bands that I try to force on people whenever I can and that blows me away every damn time I see ’em. Strange, murky, spiritual, often morose songs about conflicted bomber pilots, sailors glad to be back from the sea, and doomed men condemned to hang, all played on instruments not heard real frequently since, oh, the Civil War or so (or maybe even the War of 1812). Most recent full-length Hymns From Rhodesia is a near-flawless gem of an album, dropped through a hole in the universe like a relic of a time that never actually existed, except maybe in our forefathers’ collective imagination.
[listenlisten plays at 11:40AM on Sun., June 6th, at the KTRU Stage.]

Mix Master Mike
If you know hip-hop, odds are you know who Mix Master Mike is already. If not, well, you’ve probably still heard him anyway, since he’s been the Beastie Boys‘ resident DJ since Hello Nasty — where, I have to say, the beats were probably the best thing on there. Before and since, though, he’s been pretty legendary in his own right, winning DJ competitions so often (along with fellow Invisibl Skratch Piklz founder Qbert) that when he retired from the competitive side of things there were rumors he’d been asked to so other DJs could have a shot. The solo record I’ve got, Anti-Theft Device, is mind-boggling to listen to — the guy can do things with his hands that human beings really aren’t supposed to be able to do.
[Mix Master Mike plays at 3:05PM on Sat., June 5th, at the Main Stage.]

One of the best damn parts of last year’s Summerfest, at least for me, was being able to jam out to some epically heavy, head-bang-inducing metal for the first time in what felt like way too long. And with Saviours on the bill this year, yeah, I’m already smiling. Heavy, thundering, galloping metal that kinda-sorta hangs out with the stoners but doesn’t really get too laid-back — just when you think you’re in for some heavy-ass nod-out music, they shift up into old-school, palm-muted thrash and spit gasoline on the pothead campfire. Think High on Fire minus the godawful vocals (sorry) or The Sword, and you’ll be close.
[Saviours plays at 5:55PM on Sat., June 5th, at the Dos Equis Stage.]

Let me totally up-front about this: I don’t even know enough about house to accurately describe to you what it is, much less compare or contrast local house DJ Fixture with contemporaries within that scene. When it comes to dance music, I’m pretty much a dilettante who only knows/likes a few things (Crystal Method, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Leftfield) & doesn’t really give a shit beyond that. I have to say, though, that I’m digging the whooshing, rubbery-sounding synths and bob-yr-head beats. If I danced to anything other than ska (what can I say? It’s all I can do, trust me…), this’d work nicely.
[Fixture plays, along with Squincy Jones, at 2:00PM on Sat., June 5th and at 11:00AM on Sun., June 6th, both times at the Fancy Pants/In The Bowl Stage.]

Um. What? What the fuck just happened? I’ve got no idea, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing… As far as I can tell, Somosuno are a crazed crew of kids who sing mostly in Spanish, play lots of horns, and throw punk, funk, ska, salsa, surf-rock, and about a half-dozen other musical styles all into the stewpot and make something freakishly intriguing, even if you (okay; I) don’t know what the hell’s going on or being said. The closest analogue I can come up with is a local one, honestly — the lightning-quick style shifts and frantic energy makes me think of Middlefinger more than anything else, and that’s no bad comparison.
[Somosuno plays at 3:45PM on Sun., June 6th, at the Stage.]

The Small Sounds
Damn, do I love these guys. And no, I’m not just saying that because they’re all genuinely nice, friendly, down-to-earth fellas who just enjoy playing and seem kind of bewildered by compliments. While they’d probably disagree, to my ears they come off like past masters of the fine art of restraint, resisting the urge to blow doors off (and yeah, they definitely can) when they should rightly be focused on driving the song itself. It seems to happen far too infrequently, these days, so whenever I hear the delicate touches and quiet rhythms of “Grey While Gone” or the fingerpicked guitar and husky vocals of “Mothers and Daughters”, it makes me smile. I know there’re quite a few contenders, these days, but these guys are my pick for the best straight-up roots-rock/country band in town right now.
[The Small Sounds play at 3:50PM on Sat., June 5th, at the Stage.]

Never got to see these guys the first time around, but hell, the band’s story alone is pretty astounding: a NY hardcore punk band that could bridge the gap between punk and thrash and dive headlong into the whole Hare Krishna thing, then break up because they can’t stand one another, with two founding members eventually starting feuding Websites ( and and threatening to sue for copyright infringement (apparently “Cro-Mags” is copyrighted?), all the while influencing every metalcore band to come in their wake. I’m curious, honestly, to see who all gets up there on the stage, since there’s apparently still bad blood between bassist/vocalist Harley Flanagan and guitarist Parris Mayhew and vocalist John Joseph. The latter was supposedly touring as the Cro-Mags a while back with a band of punk luminaries backing him up, so maybe that’s who’ll grace the ‘fest…
[Cro-Mags play at 4:05PM on Sun., June 6th, at the Dos Equis Stage.]

Y’know, when I saw Butch was back in Houston, I have to admit that my hopes started to seriously rise for a 30footFALL reunion, beyond the semi-annual Christmas (and occasional Halloween) gigs. That hasn’t come through, unfortunately, but I’m still glad to see the band’s expanding beyond the “normal” quasi-reunion-type stuff. Crazy to think that once upon a time, these guys were pretty much Houston’s Great Punk Hope, and for good reason — out of all of the punk bands going at the time, they were the best & brightest, riding the line between NOFX-style jokey pop-punk and more straight-up frantic, speeding, sneering punk in the vein of Guttermouth or Pennywise (although some of their later stuff sounds a lot like Dynamite Boy, too, which is very cool by me). Check ’em out while you can.
[30footFALL plays at 3:20PM on Sun., June 6th, at the Dos Equis Stage.]

I’ve got to sleep, so that’s going to have to be it for this installment — more to come…

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7 Responses to “Summerfest Rundown, Pt. 1: Hell City Kings + Givers + Rusted Shut + Saviours + The Small Sounds + Cro-Mags + More”

  1. Bru on June 2nd, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Yuss! I’m glad you’re doing this, sir. I need to go write my FPSF preview – it’s a daunting task.

  2. SCR on June 2nd, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Right there with you, man — that’s why I figured to *not* try to tackle ’em all at once, but instead let the fates decide. ;^)

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Suspects + Somosuno + Blackmarket Syndicate + Warsaw Opening + Dead Frail Honesty + More on May 23rd, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    […] Mathlete) @ Notsuoh Nice, nice, nice. This one sounds like a good one, too — as noted in my Summerfest Rundown posts, Somosuno do a truly crazy mishmash of ska, funk, salsa, punk, and whatever the hell else, and they […]

  4. SPACE CITY ROCK » Summerfest 2011 Rundown, Pt. 1: American Fangs + Romulus Ate + Sour Notes + LIMB + + Black Congress + Grass Skirts + More on February 9th, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    […] we’re coming close to the big day(s), I wanted to try again what I did last year and give my brief take on a pile of bands who are playing one day or the other of Summerfest. […]

  5. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2012 Rundown, Pt. 1: Caddywhompus + Girl In A Coma + Quiet Company + Diplo + Young the Giant + Morris Day + More on May 7th, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    […] never fear, we’re on this. As we’ve done the past two years, we’re going to be doing some brief little rundowns on a totally-random selection of bands […]

  6. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 1: Half Moon Run + The Mavericks + TV On The Radio + Of Monsters and Men + Hello Chief + Vintage Trouble + More on August 7th, 2015 at 1:54 pm

    […] fully planned to do the little Free Press Summer Fest writeup thing we’ve done the past few years all along, but it’s always been kinda-sorta with the thought in mind that we need to do our […]

  7. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 1: The Orwells + Lizzo + Washed Out + White Sea + Ishi + Poolside + Eagle Claw + More on September 11th, 2015 at 10:43 am

    […] we’ve done in years past, us folks over here at SCR will be doing our rundowns/previews/whatever of a totally-random list of […]

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