FPSF 2012 Rundown, Pt. 2: GoREALah Soul + Quiet Corral + Portugal. The Man + The Tontons + The Journey Agents + More
And here we are again, with the second installment of preview-type writeups for the looming-on-the-horizon Free Press Summerfest, which will explode into physical being this coming Sat.-Sun., June 2nd-3rd.
It occurred to me this weekend, btw, that while I’ve talked about FPSF 2012 a few times now, I haven’t really recommended the damn thing as a whole, at least not lately. And I really, truly should, because I’ve been to all three of the Summerfests so far down in Eleanor Tinsley Park, and speaking as somebody who honestly doesn’t much care for festivals these days — at my core, I’m kind of a misanthropic person who doesn’t like being around large groups of people — I will gladly declare that I’ve had a blast each and every time.
There’ve been difficulties each year, sure, but nothing that’s taken away from the enjoyment of the thing. For two days I (or you) get to roam back & forth across the edge of Buffalo Bayou, hearing awesome, awesome music — some of which I’ve never heard before — from all sides, right there in the shadow of the Houston skyline, running randomly into friends, taking lots of pictures, seeing plenty of neat, who-gives-a-fuck art, and just generally re-remembering that this can be a pretty incredible place to live at times, despite the pollution and flatness and business-firstness and all the rest of it. Oh, and I can actually afford to buy a ticket, if need be, unlike several other festivals I can think of.
If you haven’t been, I’d highly, highly recommend it. (Just make sure you bring a backpack of some sort, with a towel, empty water bottle, sunscreen, and a Ziplock bag to stick your iPhone in if it pours again this weekend. If it rains, you’ll thank me.) Anyway, enough of that; here we go with the previews, courtesy of SCR headman Jeremy (i.e., me) and writer Jason Smith:
Say hello to “professional party crashers” GoREALah Soul, folks. I think what these two guys (rapper (You)genious & DJ Juan 1) do is basically just invade whatever stage or public area happens to be nearby and start rapping through their megaphones and speakers, blasting unsuspecting crowds with Genious’s sex-you-up rhymes and the booming beats (the latter courtesy of bear suit-wearing Juan 1). And believe it or not, it looks pretty damn entertaining, at least from the videos up on the duo’s Website. The end result is something like a cross between confrontational performance art and a Barry White concert.
Now, I’m assuming their set at FPSF won’t be quite as guerrilla-style — seeing as it’s actually scheduled and everything — but either way, it’s guaranteed to be fun. Make sure you stop by & witness it, at least for a little while. (Jeremy H.)
[GoREALah Soul plays at 3:30PM on Sat., June 2nd, at the SHFL Stage.]
I’ve heard about H-town-by-way-of-San Diego rapper/producer JOn Black (apparently the “O” is meant to be capitalized) pretty regularly over the past couple of years, but I hadn’t actually stopped to give him a chance ’til now. And now that I have? The guy’s pretty damn good, rolling smoothly along over some old-school-sounding soul beats and samples with nonchalant ease and a sly grin; at times he reminds me of a less-stoned Devin the Dude or a less-British Roots Manuva, and neither of those is a comparison to sneeze at, at least not in my book. His production’s nice, too, especially on tracks like the squelch-synth-y instrumental “Massacre of the Bay” or the drifting, thoughtful “Black Rock.” He plays early-early on Sunday, so get up there when the gates open to catch him live. (Jeremy H.)
[Jon Black plays at 12PM on Sun., June 3rd, at Stage 6.]
Okay, so I have to admit that when I first saw “Quiet Corral” on the FPSF bill, I figured it was a misprint of Quiet Company, who I already knew were playing the fest. It turns out, though, that this Lawrence, Kansas band is something completely, completely different, rumbling along like a lonesome train heading on through the twilight in some rural county somewhere. The band is rootsy and rough-edged but informed by sharp, smart indie-rock as much as they are Son Volt country-rock; in that respect, they remind me somewhat of The Orbans, albeit with more of a murky, lost-in-the-dark vibe to the music. There’s also an intriguing spiritual feel to the band’s debut, City Steep, which lends the whole thing a resemblance to the gospelized Moondoggies. And put all together, it’s cool, cool stuff; I’m going to have to hear more. (Jeremy H.)
[Quiet Corral plays at 2:30PM on Sat., June 2nd, at the Presented by Chipotle Stage.]
Portugal. The Man
I haven’t checked these guys out in awhile. I’ve enjoyed their stuff in the past, but they are hard to keep up with. They are prolific, with 7 albums in the last 6 years. Their new album is all acoustic versions of songs off their previous albums, and the result is not unlike Oasis. And the album before that sounds like ’70s Bowie meets Elton John, but decidedly differently than how The Scissor Sisters traverse the same genre. So though I’m totally unqualified to discuss this band at length, I’m going to pencil them in for 3:55PM on the Budweiser Stage. (Jason S.)
[Portugal. The Man plays at 3:55PM on Sun., June 3rd, at the Budweiser Stage.]
And then there’s Muzak John. The one time I’ve seen him live, he was standing alone on a stage in the hot, hot Houston summer sun, dressed in a full wizard’s outfit and muttering/singing into a microphone about something I couldn’t understand in the slightest while doing weird things with a keyboard. What was coming out of the speakers was loud and raw and freakish, even kind of terrifying, but at the same time, it was sort of mesmerizing, almost hypnotic, with weird little snatches of rhythm popping in and out. He definitely isn’t for everyone, no, but if noise or ambient or just plain weirdball music is your thing, you should probably mark your schedule. (Jeremy H.)
[Muzak John plays at 2:15PM on Sun., June 3rd, at (duh) the SHFL Stage.]
Ah, The Tontons. In a city full of unique, talented bands, it’s still hard to top this foursome, which marries singer/frontwoman Asli Omar‘s smoky, husky, yet still somehow high-flying vocals — think Adele doing Billie Holiday covers — with a rock-solid musical core of retro-influenced psych-rock that roars and surges like Hendrix, The Doors, or Floyd all rolled up into a ball and kicked into the future to become something new entirely. The music in general is flat-out great, like few things I’ve ever heard anywhere else, and live the band goes stratospheric; the first time I saw them live, at the Houston Press Music Awards several years back, my jaw literally dropped and had to be put forcibly back into place. Omar croons and soars, while guitarist Adam Martinez burns through these meaty, thick, purple-hazy riffs and bassist Tom Nguyen and drummer Justin Martinez keep the band anchored firmly down to the earth. (Jeremy H.)
[The Tontons play at 7:30PM on Sun., June 3rd, at Stage 7.]
Square and Compass
I’ve been a fan of Square and Compass for a little while now, having been mightily impressed by the outfit’s debut EP. It had some ups and downs, sure, but the bones of the thing are amazing, showing a heart-on-sleeve love of old-school emo and pop-punk, the kind of music yours truly fell headlong into in college and beyond, back before “emo” became a word cooler-than-thou scenesters delivered with a snicker. I hear echoes of Samiam, Braid, and Camber all floating around in there, alongside a subliminal dose of both Foolish-era Superchunk and late-period Hüsker Dü, and it all comes together in a blazing, melodic ball of emo-indie-rock fury that hits all the right buttons for me.
I’m especially psyched because I’ve yet to see these guys live, and timing-wise, this couldn’t be better — the band’s been hard at work on finishing up their first full-length, How To Escape, and the one track I’ve heard so far, “Imminent Demise,” blows anything else I’ve heard by ‘em out of the water, frankly. See these guys now, seriously. (Jeremy H.)
[Square and Compass plays at 3PM on Sun., June 3rd, at Stage 6.]
The Journey Agents
The Journey Agents are one of Houston’s top “Shake your butt off” funk bands. Their tunes will take you back to 1970s Soul Train and Blaxploitation films on Betamax. They are a little more Latin than Electric Attitude’s modernized dance-funk and a lot less Latin than the late, great All In Your Head. Their music would be at home on Daptone Records and since there are no Daptone artists on this year’s Summerfest, you should get there early to see them. As for me, I’ll be splitting my first hour of Summerfest between them and the always-entertaining Wheel Workers. (Jason S.)
[The Journey Agents plays at 12PM on Sat., June 2nd, at Stage 6.]
When it comes to Glasnost, it feels like I’m often dealing with two mostly-separate “bands,” rather than just one, and dangit, it can make things somewhat confusing. See, there’s the “real” Glasnost, which is primarily a dancey, seriously New Wave-loving pop-rock band that takes Killers-/Franz Ferdinand-esque ’80s worship and makes it into a whole freaking religion, complete with synths, Simon LeBon-sounding vocals, bumping bassline, funky drums, and jangling, sharp-edged guitars. But then there’s the “other” Glasnost, which seems to exist as a DJ project of sorts for at least one of the guys in the band (maybe more?) and which prolifically cranks out remix after remix of folks like La Roux and The Ting Tings; that version of the group pops up in a lineup every once in a while, too, usually clarified with “(DJ set)” after the name. Listen here to get a glimpse of both sides.
Confusion aside, the good news is that both sides of Glasnost’s double-headed musical nickel happen to really, really neat. I’m not even a particularly big fan of retro-’80s stuff, myself, having been more into metal than A Flock of Seagulls back in the day, but I can’t help but smile and nod along to the band’s icy-yet-danceable pop, and the DJ/remix stuff sounds damn intriguing to my relatively-untrained ears, too. So, which version will be playing at Summerfest? I’ve got no idea, but either way, it should be good. (Jeremy H.)
[Glasnost plays at 4:30PM on Sat., June 2nd, at Stage 7.]
Thelastplaceyoulook are one of the rare Houston bands to have made that impossible leap from local band to local band that gets played on 94.5 The Buzz. And it’s no surprise. They are the most radio ready band Houston has produced in many years. On first listen, their sound makes more sense at Vans Warped Tour or Buzzfest than Summerfest, but that’s actually what makes Summerfest cool — all kinds of music is represented. (Jason S.)
[thelastplaceyoulook plays at 1PM on Sat., June 2nd, at the 29-95 Stage.]
I’ve seen the name Kirby Brown float past lately, and I think the DFW-dweller is a relative newcomer, but he already sounds like he’s been doing this for decades now (which, hell, he probably has, come to think of it). He comes off like an real-live troubadour, just living to play his songs in whatever fashion he can, whether they’re on the folky side, like “My First Love, Maria,” the more rocking side of things, like “No… MY Generation,” or the more gently romantic stuff, like the Ryan Adams-ish “Talk.” And throughout debut album Child of Calamity, Brown pulls it off impressively well, sounding like a road-weary singer/songwriter ten years his senior. (Jeremy H.)
[Kirby Brown plays at 12:30PM on Sat., June 2nd, at Stage 7.]
DJ Suraj K is one of the founding — and, I’m pretty sure, integral — members of the Gritsy dubstep collective, which has been making waves outside of H-town recently (always a good thing). And hell, I’m liking what I’ve heard from the Gritsy crew so far, but dammit, I’m running into that same thing I always seem to hit w/regard to DJs, namely, I can’t even find a freaking Website for the guy; seriously, y’all? sigh. But hey, if you’re a fan of dubstep, with its chest-crushing bass, stutter-step drums, and Transformers-having-sex sounds, then I suspect you’re good to go, even still. (Jeremy H.)
[Suraj K plays at 11:40AM on Sun., June 3rd, at Stage 3.]
Alright, people. Do I really need to tell you who Snoop Dogg is? Unless you live under a bridge or in a Mennonite colony somewhere (and possibly even then), you’re practically guaranteed to have heard at least a little of the lanky rapper’s oeuvre. Along with Dr. Dre & Tupac, Snoop laid the groundwork for pretty much every West Coast rapper to come after him in the post-N.W.A. era, delivering his lines with a flow that’s simultaneously menacing and laidback. Now, a confession: I’m not a fan. Sorry, but it’s true; Snoop’s just not my thing. But hey, I can still appreciate the guy’s influence and legacy, especially considering he’s been rapping for twenty fucking years now. Wow. Hadn’t really thought about that ’til just now. (Jeremy H.)
[Snoop Dogg plays at 7:15PM on Sat., June 2nd, at Jeep Power Amp Stage.]
The Big Sleep
From Frenchkiss Records, the same label that brought us The Antlers, Passion Pit, and Local Natives, comes The Big Sleep, of Brooklyn NY. They seem to tread the same early ’90s water as a favorite new band of mine, The Joy Formidable, but not quite as melodically. Still, they have that sound, and I like that sound: that somewhat punk, somewhat shoegaze sound that stays in your ears for days after you see the band live. To add to that, the bassist is a beautiful female of exotic descent. So yeah, I’ll be there. (Jason S.)
[The Big Sleep plays at 4:30PM on Sat., June 2nd, at the Presented By Chipotle Stage.]
That’s it for now; keep checking back, y’all.