FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 1: Half Moon Run + The Mavericks + TV On The Radio + Of Monsters and Men + Hello Chief + Vintage Trouble + More
Alright, so this feels a little weird. Us SCR folks had 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 part to promote this thing, to get people to come out.
So, um, mission accomplished? I’m simultaneously saddened, overjoyed, and terrified to pass along word that yes, this year’s Summer Fest is completely sold the fuck out. Nope, not kidding at all — they are all out of not only the General Admission passes, but also the Fancy Pants and High Roller passes/packages.
Admittedly, there’re some giveaways going on where you could maybe-maybe snag a pass or two — if you happened to hit this year’s Art Car Parade, for one thing, you can submit up to five of your bestest pics of the Parade & festivities to the folks over at The Orange Show & hopefully win a pair of Fancy Pants passes for you & an appropriately appreciative friend/partner/enemy/etc. (You’ve got ’til this coming Wednesday, May 29th at 12PM for that one.)
Beyond that, though, if you don’t already have a pass either in hand or on the way, you are flat out of luck. Sorry, y’all.
So we’re having to shift gears somewhat, from “Here’s Why You Should Go to Summer Fest” over to “Here’s Who You Should Maybe-Kinda Try to Catch If You Did Actually Grab Tickets to Summer Fest Early This Year.” And hey, we’re good with that — we’re all about the public service, y’know.
With that in mind, keep an eye over here on the blog this week, as writers Jeremy Hart and Jason Smith run down a randomly-selected list of several dozen of the bands/musicians/whoever playing at Summer Fest this year. We’ll do our best to help you decide how best to spend Saturday, June 1st, and Sunday, June 2nd.
Now, back up to the “terrified” part — that is going to be a shit-ton of people cramming into Eleanor Tinsley Park, folks. Wow. My don’t-like-to-be-touched neuroses are kicking in right freaking now, even though the Festival itself isn’t for another week (Sat.-Sun., June 1st & 2nd, although you obviously already know that). Definitely plan on getting there early, before the crowdedness truly begins. No, wait — scratch that. Don’t get there early, okay? It’s terrible then, trust me. Wait ’til later in the day, right, like the cool kids will be doing? (phew…)
On the good side, the FPSF have just released their first-ever mobile app for the festival, which you really, really need to download and start playing around with. I’ve been messing with it for the past few days, and it’s freaking awesome, truly, pretty much the answer to all my iPhone-related prayers for Summer Fests past. Never again do I need to worry about my stupid ass not bothering to print out a schedule because, hey, it’s right there, in either a big daily list or (my favorite) a staggered timetable.
Plus, there are — holy shit, yes — honest-to-God maps of the festival, with stages neatly marked and interactive, so you can easily tell who’s playing at what stage when. You can also go artist-by-artist, if you want to see when, for example, Cat Power will be playing, what she’s like musically, and if she’s got an actual Website. Hell, you can even click the little SoundCloud link at the bottom left of the homepage to hear some songs by bands playing the festival. And handily for me, at least, the app’s nicely integrated with both Facebook and Twitter, so you can check out the FPSF FB page and Twitter feed and/or post or tweet about the Fest without having to change to a separate app…sweeeeet.
Possibly my favorite feature, though, is the “LIVE” ticker hiding at the bottom right-hand side of the homepage; there’s nothing there yet, obviously, but once the festival’s in full swing, it promises to show “running events or events about to start,” which is extremely useful if you’re waiting for a much-delayed performer (cough-Erykah Badu-cough) to start and at the same time running up the hill to see if another band (like, I dunno, the Fatal Flying Guilloteens, maybe?) has started playing yet…and you endure part of a lackluster set by the former only to miss the latter completely. sigh. Anyway, something crazy like that should be less likely to happen with the little ticker thingy nearby…
Anyway, I’d seriously recommend checking out the app. It’s free, and it’s available for both the iPhone & Android phones, so what’ve you got to lose?
Okay, so, on to the actual music. Final Caveat Time: the set times below are what’s up on the FPSF schedule as of this writing, and yeah, it’ll probably shift around a bit, so don’t blame us if/when it does, eh?
With that out of the way, here we go:
Half Moon Run
My first inclination on listening to Ottowa, Canada’s Half Moon Run for the first time is that it hearkens back to late ’90s Britpop (Kid A without the bleeps and bloops). But there are also bits of Crosby Stills and Nash-esque harmonies going on from time to time in their song “Full Circle,” which appears to be their only release on Rhapsody so far. A search of YouTube turns up more similar songs and some live tracks. It appears they can pull off the harmonies live, even. They’ll be entertaining and a nice energy notch down before the bigger acts take the stages later in the day. (Jason S.)
[Half Moon Run plays at 5PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Jupiter Stage.]
It makes perfect, perfect sense that Dawes hails from Los Angeles (recording their first album straight to tape right there in freaking Laurel Canyon, no less), because honestly, I hear nothing so much as California-bred ’70s country/folk/pop rock when I listen to this band. There’s a (L.A.-era) Fleetwood Mac resemblance, to be sure, but what really, truly pops into my head is The Eagles — there’s the same lazy, hazy, laidback vibe to all the songs, not to mention a weary, thoughtful delivery to Taylor Goldsmith‘s vocals. It’s rootsy and Americana-ish, warm and friendly but with a hint of sadness lingering beneath, and despite my initial reservations, yeah, I’m liking this a whole hell of a lot. (Jeremy H.)
[Dawes plays at 2:10PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Neptune Stage.
Mikey & the Drags
I reviewed the debut 7″ from Mikey & The Drags, “Spill Your Guts”/”Solstice,” a few months back, and honestly, I’m still kind of flying, even now. If you’re a fan of old-old-old-school garage-rock like The Sonics, ? and the Mysterians, and The Trashmen, these guys are seriously right up your alley; here they tackle the sound with an unabashed love, marrying a foot-stomping rhythm with Mikey Ponce’s sneering-but-vulnerable yelp, some excellent backing vocals, and best of all, Austin Sepulvado’s freaking perfect organ, which just makes me grin like an idiot every time I hear it. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see the band live, but hell, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve spun through both the songs on the record, and if that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is. (Jeremy H.)
[Mikey & The Drags play at 2:10PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Venus Stage.]
I can’t believe no one has ever told me about this band. I’ve heard about The Mavericks plenty of times, but somehow just imagined another alt-country band that I didn’t need to hear. Instead, this band is fronted by a man who sounds a lot like Roy Orbison (one of my all-time favorite voices) fronting Chris Isaac’s band. And it turns out they’ve only recently reunited and are coming out with their first new album in a decade. So, even if you have never heard The Mavericks, go see them and pay your respects, especially if you love the croon of Roy Orbison, patron saint of the lonely. (Jason S.)
[The Mavericks play at 5:20PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Saturn Stage.]
One of my favorite things about FPSF these past few years is that the organizers seem to be trying to bring in really, truly classic musicians and bands who, frankly, you probably haven’t ever seen live (considering that the median age of the festival-goers I’ve observed seems to be something like 26). Last year there was Morris Day and The Time, who were amazing to behold, and this year there’s Mavis Staples, a freaking legendary gospel/soul/R&B singer who you’ve probably heard before without even realizing it.
For me, the song that hits hardest is The Staples Singers‘ classic “I’ll Take You There,” a gorgeously hopeful, bright song that featuring Mavis herself on the lead vocals; I heard it long after the fact, naturally (it was released in 1972, the year before I was born), on an R&B compilation I got years and years ago, but it floored me from the very first listen. And I’m happy to learn that Ms. Staples hasn’t ever really slowed down, steadily releasing albums year after year (the most recent, 2010’s You Are Not Alone, was produced by Jeff Tweedy). Kids, you may not know who this woman is, but you damn well should. (Jeremy H.)
[Mavis Staples plays at 2:20PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mars Stage.]
Chase Hamblin & The Roustabouts
That Chase Hamblin, he never fails to surprise. When I first saw him, he was more in solo singer-songwriter mode, just playing a jangly guitar and singing sweet folk-pop tunes; then when I heard his debut EP, I was stunned to discover he was actually a Beatles-obsessed, politically-minded power-popster; and when his most recent album (with new-ish backing band The Roustabouts), VAUdeVILLE, came across my desk, I was surprised to find he’d morphed into an old-timey circus/tent-revival-ist, playing these dark, murky songs that sounded like they’d come floating out of that creepy carnival that’s just set up with no fanfare at all outside of town, Something Wicked This Way Comes-style.
Whatever incarnation you witness, Hamblin’s a heck of a songwriter — and yes, he is still fairly stuck on those lads from Liverpool, but I’m good with that — and a damned entertaining performer, to boot. His Roustabouts are no slouches, either; I particularly like guitarist Corey Power (also of Ragged Hearts), but they’re a talented crew in general. Catch the band if you can, and make sure to yell out for the gorgeously apocalyptic “Can You See The Beast?” when you do. (Jeremy H.)
[Chase Hamblin & The Roustabouts play at 12:10PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Jupiter Stage.]
TV On The Radio
For me, at least, TV On The Radio is one of those bands that requires actual serious, intense attention to really be able to absorb just what the fuck is going on. And because of that, and my own limited amounts of time to, y’know, devote attention to things, I’ve only ever really skirted around the band’s music as a whole. Sure, I’ve heard and loved the super-hyped “single” tracks like “Staring at the Sun,” “Golden Age,” or “Wolf Like Me,” and I’ve weirdly considered myself a fan for a few years now, but most of the band’s catalogue has fallen by the wayside ’til now.
And yeah, I’m kicking myself for that now. Sure, they’re uneven at times and over-arty at others, but beneath the quirkiness and postmodern self-awareness lurks an insanely accomplished modern-soul band, one that’s unafraid to be poppy and sweet and yearning even when they’re “supposed” to be raw and weird. They’re dark and murky and brooding, but there’s a sincere, unaffected joy to it all, even still. Listen close to 2008’s Dear Science and 2011’s Nine Types of Light, in particular, and you’ll hear what Prince might’ve sounded like if he’d become totally obsessed with Radiohead, and yeah, that’s an alternate universe I’d dearly love to live in. (Jeremy H.)
[TV On The Radio plays at 7:20PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mars Stage.]
Iggy and the Stooges
Alright, I’ll admit it: I’m a little conflicted on this one. On the one hand, this is Iggy and the Fucking Stooges we’re talking about, here, one of the bands who basically wrote the template for how punk rock should sound, look, and act and who set the stage for the next four decades of loud, raw, aggro music. There’s no way in hell I’m going to miss a chance to see them live and hopefully hear “Search and Destroy” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “T.V. Eye” without headphones for the first time.
That said, Iggy Pop today is a far different creature from Iggy Pop back in the ’70s; hell, now he’s on TV helping to hock the “John Varvatos Edition” of the Chrysler 300. Not that I expect my musical idols to maintain complete musical purity or anything ridiculous like that, but it just seems like the guy’s in a very different place now from where he was then, and I can’t help but worry that the music’s changed, too. Don’t get me wrong; I’m liking this year’s Ready to Die, but it’s less Stooges and more Pop on his own, to my ears. Either way, I’ll be there and psyched as hell. (Jeremy H.)
[Iggy and the Stooges play at 7:50PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Neptune Stage.]
Kopecky Family Band
Honesty time: until I saw ’em on the lineup for Summer Fest, I’d never heard of Kopecky Family Band, so I had absolutely no clue what to expect from the band, not at all. A few things: no, they’re not related; only one band member, Kelsey Kopecky, actually has that last name; and they’re from Nashville but sure as shit don’t sound like it. Rather, they come off like a Southern-bred Arcade Fire, a fully-committed gang of six friends who just happen to make this intricate, heavily orchestral breed of folk-pop that’s simultaneously warm and gigantic.
The Family Band’s music ranges widely while never sounding like multiple bands on the same album, shifting from the rave-up of “My Way” to the fragile vocals and guitar of “Change” to the ’60s-ish take on gospel-pop that is “Are You Listening” to the ’80s-worshipping sweetness of “Angry Eyes,” and it all freaking works, believe it or not. I certainly wasn’t expecting it, but I think I just stumbled across the band I most want to see at FPSF this year. Damn. (Jeremy H.)
[Kopecky Family Band plays at 3:20PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Venus Stage.]
Of Monsters and Men
I finally saw this band from Iceland on Saturday Night Live and my first impression was, “Holy Cow, they sound and look almost exactly like Second Lovers!” (At least, when Kelsey Lee Bland played with them…) The name Of Monsters and Men is confusing to me; it sounds like it should be the name of a metal band (say “Of Monsters and Men” in your metal band voice). I have the same problem with The Head and The Heart, actually — they’re pretty similar-sounding and with similar names, and fit into my narrative of “THE SOUND OF SXSW 2013″… (Jason S.)
[Of Monsters and Men plays at 5:40PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mars Stage.]
I caught the three Beaumont-dwelling members of Hello Chief last fall, totally out of the blue while waiting for a different band to start across the hall from Warehouse Live‘s Green Room, and after a couple of songs I had a hard time remembering who in the hell it was I’d wanted to go see next door in the first place. The unassuming trio blazed their way through a too-short set of songs that danced across the line between prog-rock, Minutemen-style punk, and Afrobeat, all while smiling like they’d all just won the lottery.
The easiest comparison to make would be to Vampire Weekend, but there’s a proggy/jazzy underpinning to it all that leaves that band in the dust; those bright, “round”-sounding guitars are there, to be sure, but they’re used in far, far different ways. I actually kept thinking that these guys are what Giant Battle Monster would sound like if they were less crazed and more chilled-out and happy… The highlight for me, at least live, was in watching drummer/vocalist Jake Hollier play these crazily complicated patterns and rhythms (while singing, naturally, which makes me want to punch my untalented self in the face) that were so freaking sneaky it took me a few minutes to realize he was where all those sounds were coming from. Wow. (Jeremy H.)
[Hello Chief plays at 4:50PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Jupiter Stage.]
Wait. What? Some days, I swear it feels like while I wasn’t looking hip-hop morphed into a post-modern joke that everybody’s laughing about but me. At the same time, though, it’s almost fascinating to sit back and watch as Kanye, Odd Future, Danny Brown, and Riff Raff deconstruct the whole fucking genre into…hell, I dunno what. It’s like watching a glittery, primary-colored, angry, sarcastic, self-referencing train wreck happen live online, streaming from about a hundred YouTube accounts at the same time. It’s kind of amazing to witness, but at the same time, it makes me feel too goddamn old.
After listening for probably way too long to Kitty‘s D.A.I.S.Y. rage, though, well, I find myself liking it on its own merits. Strip away the hype and snark, and it starts to look like Kitty (formerly known as Kitty Pryde) has actually created something all her own, a hazy, twee, drifting take on backpack hip-hop that belongs strictly to the current constantly-connected, ridiculously self-aware generation. The only thing I’ve ever heard that comes close to this is Houston’s own probably-sadly-defunct Ghost Mountain, and both acts leave me sitting here scratching my head but wanting to hear more. (Jeremy H.)
[Kitty plays at 7:20PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mercury Stage.]
The first thing I think about seeing Vintage Trouble in the middle of the Houston heat is that — yeah, I’m going there — it could be trouble. They might melt the stage at 2PM with a band this hot! If you ever wonder what might have happened in the 1960s had more bands been racially integrated (yeah, I know they had Hendrix, Love, and The Butterfield Blues Band), look no further than this Los Angeles quartet. James Brown fronting an early Zeppelin. Marvin Gaye fronting Cream… You get the point. These guys are like that. If you have any interest in retro-soul-rock (Charles Bradley, Black Crowes, Allen Stone, etc.), I strongly urge you to get over to see them. (Jason S.)
[Vintage Trouble plays at 2PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Saturn Stage.]
That’s it for the first installment; keep your eyes out for a whole bunch more soon…