Free Press Summerfest Day 1: Flaming Lips, Fatal Flying Guilloteens, & Big Freedia Bring the Heat to FPSF
I didn’t really enjoy the Free Press Summerfest… I devoured it. When I go to a concert with my wife, I try to enjoy myself, take it slow, kick back and relax, but by myself at an event like this one, I am in full rock and roll mode from beginning to end — and at this fest, I was also in photo mode as well.
We all knew it would be hot. That’s part of what people call the “fixed costs.” “Variable costs” would be how crowded it got at any given time and whether or not stages were going on time… As a general overview, I had an amazing time at Summerfest. I saw many bands and acts I hadn’t seen this year, along with some favorite Houston bands that benefited from amazing sound and probably picked up a few new fans along the way.
First up for me were The Wheel Workers. They have been growing on me for a year now, and their songs started clicking about 6 months ago, to the point that I wake up with their songs in my head from time to time. The Wheel Workers have never sounded better than they did up on the stage that The Flaming Lips would headline later that evening. They are quickly becoming one of Houston’s elite bands.
After The Wheel Workers, I saw a little bit of several bands before arriving at Stage 3, to see an act that several people told me was a “don’t miss.” The act: Big Freedia. Freedia (pronounced “FREE — dah”) is a transgender rapper that doubles as kind of an onstage Richard Simmons. Most of the act is dedicated to Freedia directing her dance troupe to putting their asses up in the air and shake what they’ve got. Eventually, Freedia brings as many audience members as will fit on the stage up for the same workout on her song “Azz Everywhere!” Fortunately, Big Freedia has the rap skills to backup the novelty act and the WTF?! value to be memorable in a festival full of memorable acts.
The next especially memorable act was Morris Day and The Time. Though their act is 30 years old, I had never seen it before, and that was a problem I was happy to remedy Saturday afternoon. Acts like this are exactly what Free Press Houston needs to bring to Summerfest. I would probably not go out of my way to see Morris Day. But as soon as I found out he was coming to Summerfest, I was very excited and determined to get close to the action. Once I saw Morris Day look into his mirror and do “The Bird,” I was happy and made my leave to one of the heat relief tents.
Up next for me was Quintron and Ms. Pussycat. I had never heard of them before researching the acts, but when I did the research, I discovered the machine that Quintron invented called “The Drum Buddy.” I was looking very forward to seeing The Drum Buddy in action, and like I said in my preview, it was worth the price of the festival ticket just to see that. Quintron and Ms. Pussycat were a lot of fun. They had the Stage 3 crowd dancing and sweating even more than we already were.
Up next was a nice surprise that I just happened on. I was walking on top of the hill during the Major Lazer set and thinking “is this the nightmare that music has devolved to?” I mean, it was really obnoxious and annoying, but I guess 50 million dubstep fans can’t be wrong. Then I thought, “hey, maybe something good is going on on a side stage.”
Even though Jeremy had written about them in his previews, I hadn’t yet checked out Sundress. With their shoegaze-meets-Thom Yorke rock, they made me forget all about Major Lazer and became one of my “finds of the fest.”
My next “find of the fest” was a complete surprise. I had intended on trying to get a good view of Snoop Dogg, but the crowds were so immense I decided it would be more fun to check out another band at the top of the hill. Marc Brubaker, photographer for the Houston Press told me to see the Fatal Flying Guilloteens if at all possible, and that stuck in my head as something to do instead of trying to deal with the crowd eyeing Snoop.
I don’t know why I never went to see the Fatal Flying Guilloteens in their heyday, but now I’m sorry I missed them. Just as At The Drive-In reunited, Houston’s version of At The Drive-In also reunited for a one off show. That’s what they seemed like to me at least.
On a personal note: I was taking photos of them, which meant that I was the closest person to the stage. The singer saw that as an opportunity for me to give him a piggy-back ride around the crowd. If anyone has a photo of that, please send it along to the Website, because I would love to see it. Overall, I was very impressed with their act and hope they convince themselves to do some more shows. Certainly everyone who wanted to see them didn’t get to.
The last band of Saturday was The Flaming Lips. After about seven songs of the Fatal Flying Guilloteens, I started making my way into the Stage 2 crowd. I was able to get pretty close, actually — kind of close to that stupid person with the giant cupcake, which meant that cupcake was in most of my photos.
I was under the impression the Lips would only be doing their impression of Dark Side of the Moon, but thankfully, I was wrong. They started out with some original songs. Flaming Lips are always transcendental to me in a live setting. Who would not be moved by the thought that, “Everyone you know someday will die”? So, to hear them in this way — at the end of a big day, in the middle of a big crowd, and for the second time at Summerfest, it was ideal.
Their rendition of Dark Side was their own. They didn’t try to match the original, as others I’ve seen have (The Australian Pink Floyd and Classic Albums Live), but they did capture the majesty and pathos of the album. And it didn’t hurt that we had a near-full moon that night. As the last chorus of “Eclipse” faded, and the giant heart beat on the screen, I realized I had been to part of one of the best full days of music of the year. END
(Photos: The Wheel Workers; Morris Day and The Time; Fatal Flying Guilloteens; The Flaming Lips. Gallery Photos [l to r from top left]: Big Freedia; Big Freedia fans; The Drum Buddy; The Flaming Lips; Fatal Flying Guilloteens; Fatal Flying Guilloteens; FPSF crowd; Morris Day and The Time; Morris Day and his mirror; Quintron; Quintron and Miss Pussycat; Stage 3 crowd; Sundress; The Wheel Workers; The Wheel Workers. All photos by Jason Smith except photo of The Flaming Lips, by Brittany Holland.)