FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 2: Mord Fustang + Baroness + John Michael Rouchell + Arctic Monkeys + Devin The Dude + Cat Power + UZOY + More
Yep, as promised, we’re back again with more writeups of the rapidly-approaching (and, as we’ve said before, completely sold-out) Free Press Summer Fest that’ll be happening this Saturday & Sunday (June 1-2) over at Eleanor Tinsley Park on the edge of downtown, from both Jason Smith and Jeremy Hart.
It’s late-late-late, so I’m not going to get into any of the non-band-related details of the fest itself right now, but will instead dive right the heck in. If you missed the previous installment, by the way, you can check out Pt. 1 on over here:
- FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 1: Half Moon Run + The Mavericks + TV On The Radio + Of Monsters and Men + Hello Chief + Vintage Trouble + More
And with that, allons-y:
Alright, so we’re starting off this installment of the rundown with somebody I’ve never even heard of before, Mord Fustang, and once again I’m having to plead my near-complete ignorance of modern EDM (that’s what the kids call electronica or dance music these days, right?). What I do know is that Mord Fustang is the pseudonym for an up-and-coming EDM artist who hails from Tallinn, Estonia, which pretty much puts he & Gogol Bordello into a tie as to who’s coming from the furthest away to play FPSF. Dang…
Musically, Mord(?) is apparently what’s termed “electro-house,” but I’ve got no freaking idea what that means. What I’ve heard so far has been mid-tempo, languidly smooth, head nod-inducing beats with thick, fuzzy, analog-sounding keys, glitchy electronics, and the occasional vocal sample or almost trip-hop-y vocal melody (the remix with Angela McCluskey is particularly cool), the combination of which is far more chilled-out than most of the aggro dubstep I’ve been hearing lately, and well, I’m enjoying the hell out of it. Is it anything groundbreaking? Nah, not really, but who cares? It’s very cool for what it is, even still. And besides, I can’t hate on a guy from freaking Estonia who’s got a tattoo of a Pac-Man ghost on his forearm, so y’know. (Jeremy H.)
[Mord Fustang plays at 5:30PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mercury Stage.]
Houston’s Showers is new to me, but looking at a press photo, their faces look familiar, like I’ve seen them playing in other bands. More likely, I’ve seen them at Fitzgerald’s watching other bands or in line for some Southern Comfort. As far as their name goes, it makes a lot of sense to see a band named Showers at FPSF, because two bands in, we’re going to all be wishing we were taking a nice cold shower. Actually, if they do what they did in previous years, there will be free showers to walk through at the event! The band should pass out free CDs at those showers!
As far as their music goes, it will be a good way to ease myself into Sunday’s long day. They have a dreamy and melodic Death Cab/Interpol/Editors vibe to them, never getting quite loud enough (on their recordings at least) to be compared to Ride, My Bloody Valentine, or their shoegaze contemporaries. After a long Saturday, Omotai can wake me up with heavy rock Sunday morning and then Showers can take it back a notch, giving me a chance to relax before UME rocks me back up again. (Jason S.)
[Showers plays at 12:10PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Venus Stage.]
Yessss. Out of the whole FPSF lineup, I have to say that Savannah-based “metal” (we’ll get to the quotes soon enough) dudes Baroness is one of the handful of acts that I’m seriously looking forward to seeing, in part because I was looking forward to seeing them last year when they were scheduled to come through town…and then their tour bus went over a freaking viaduct, falling 30 feet to the ground below, while they were traveling in England. The band was severely injured, to the point where original drummer Allen Bickle and bassist Matt Maggioni received fractured vertebrae and eventually left the band earlier this year.
So I’m happy as hell to see the band back together (albeit with two brand-new members) and in motion again, particularly since their most recent album, the quasi-double-album Yellow & Green, takes the band’s previous work, sets it on fire, and pushes it out to sea in a Viking funeral. By the end of it, I’m honestly not sure it’s accurate to call Baroness a metal band anymore — rather, they’ve mutated into a sprawling, wide-stretched rock band, one that pulls in everything from doom-y metal to hazy shoegaze to intricate folk to post-hardcore to (no, seriously) dancey pop. The closest comparison I can come up with is to fellow not-quite-metal band MonstrO, but Yellow & Green ranges even further afield than that band. I’m seriously psyched to see and hear what this band does live. (Jeremy H.)
[Baroness plays at 1:20PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Saturn Stage.]
Hrm. I’m not sure what I was expecting from Infinite Apaches, but that certainly wasn’t it. I’d heard good things for a while now about the band, so I was looking forward to checking out their newest full-length, Suave Creation of the Monolithic Other, figuring they’d be some sharp-edged but murky band of spazz-prog heroes a la Giant Battle Monster or something.
And no, they’re not that. What they actually are is almost weirder — they’re like a band out of time, a band that’s time-traveled from a much more earth-toned period of jazzy, rambling psych-rock to our modern era, bringing with them a sound that evokes The Doors, 13th Floor Elevators, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Iron Butterfly, believe it or not. It’s hazy, raggedy, earthy rock that sounds like it could’ve been something these guys’ parents grew up listening to, and yeah, it’s pretty damn intriguing, to say the least. (Jeremy H.)
[Infinite Apaches plays at 12PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Saturn Stage.]
John Michael Rouchell
I’ve been pretty ignorant of New Orleans soul-pop wunderkind John Michael Rouchell (formerly of the quasi-eponymous band MyNameIsJohnMichael) ’til fairly recently, but in the brief time I’ve been exposed to the guy’s music, I’ve found my respect for him growing by leaps and bounds. The Big Easy native takes his city’s traditional music — jazz and soul, in particular — and melts it down together, funnels it through old-school “real” instrumentation, then fuses it with more contemporary electronic and R&B touches and a whatever-works approach to music. He’s a deft songwriter and performer who manages to infuse whatever he’s doing with a remarkable sincerity and thoughtfulness, and the end result is like a self-effacing John Legend, or maybe Ben Folds if he was truly a soul crooner. (Jeremy H.)
[John Michael Rouchell plays at 4:40PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Venus Stage.]
Arctic Monkeys took awhile to grow on me. I am a 1990s Brit-pop freak, and at first, the band came off as a third-generation imitation of my favorite ’90s Brit-pop bands, especially Blur (although others, too). When Arctic Monkeys arrived on the scene, they also had this Strokes-y feel, and I was completely in resentment mode about the way The Strokes were forced down my throat by Spin and all the other hip mags in 2001. Anyway, fast-forward to today, and Arctic Monkeys have outlasted most of their competition, and in my old age I’ve relaxed my rules a little about sounding too much like a band that came before. After all, we all tend to sound like something that came before, in the end. (Jason S.)
[Arctic Monkeys play at 5:40PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Mars Stage.]
Devin The Dude
One of a handful of H-town rappers who’s managed to achieve lasting recognition outside our fair city, and rightfully so, Devin The Dude did it the best damn way possible: by being himself and saying whatever the fuck he feels like saying, with no regard for the trends that swirl past. And yeah, most of that “whatever the fuck he feels like saying” is pretty much about weed and women, in that order; The Dude is the foremost hip-hop poet of the 420 crowd, nearly to the exclusion of songs by anything else, as difficult as that sounds like it might be. I swear, it seems like the guy does little but make music and smoke up.
Of course, it helps that he spits some damn sharp rhymes with that laidback, heavy-lidded flow, that he’s funny as hell, and that his tracks are so freaking smooth and relaxed you literally can’t do anything but sit and bob your head along with ’em. Oh, and rumor is that he’ll be in a movie sometime this year, Highway 420, which is — wait for it — a roadtrip movie about pothead friends looking for the “mythical” highway with that magic number. (Jeremy H.)
[Devin the Dude plays at 5:10PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Mercury Stage.]
One of Houston’s most-overlooked rock bands (it seems reasonable to say that because they’ve lived their lives on tour for as long as I can remember), American Fangs has finally released their debut album on In De Goot Recordings (distributed by Sony/RED). And like the self-produced EP that came before, it’s a winner. Full of melodies and heavy guitar, it crosses between At The Drive-In-esque emo and the more polished radio-ready rock of bands like 30 Seconds to Mars and Shinedown. Quite possibly, American Fangs (along with The Last Place You Look) are Houston’s best shot at a “Warped Tour” famous band, though I’ve been wrong about that much more than I’ve been right. (Jason S.)
[American Fangs plays at 1:30PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Neptune Stage.]
It’s been interesting watching how Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, has evolved over the past decade and a half, since I first listened to Moon Pix; she’s changed, certainly, growing in confidence and strength as a songwriter, singer, and musician, and 2012’s Sun is testament to that strength and certainty. Where Moon Pix was a warm, melancholy-yet-comfortable wreck of a house, the kind you’d visit out of curiousity and find beautiful despite its rundown, forlorn state, Sun is a gleaming, beautifully-made stronghold, anchored by Marshall’s deep, rich voice and a surprisingly propulsive beat.
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t sure it would work for me, for damn, it does. The bumping, insistent “Ruin” sucked me in first, and then the hypnotic chant of “3,6,9” and the buzzing, almost Pearl Jam-like “Human Being” sealed the deal. “Metal Heart” and “Colors And The Kids” were a long, long time ago, it’s true (and I’ll gladly yell for ’em live at FPSF), but that doesn’t mean the soul of Sun isn’t the same basic shape. (Jeremy H.)
[Cat Power plays at 4PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mars Stage.]
Having lived in Houston, the red-headed stepchild city everybody loves to hate, for the bulk of my life now, I’ve had to fight down the urge to slam Austin and make fun of the bazillion bands who meander down there in hopes of making a name for themselves for quite a long while now. And only recently have I forced myself to make a concerted effort to step back and give those dreaded Austin bands, because seriously, how fair is it to hate on somebody just because of where they’re from?
Especially if, y’know, they’re freaking incredible, like Wheeler Brothers happen to be. I’d liked the band’s 2011 release, Portraits (and, um, meant to review it for a really, really long time; sorry about that, y’all), but 2013’s Gold Boots Glitter, leaves it in the dust. The Brothers play a distinctly “Texan” breed of music that’s rough-edged and rural but doesn’t fit the “country” tag; it’s Americana, instead, with the requisite Son Volt-esque guitars, jaunty, down-home vocals, and subversively smart lyricism. If I could recommend this a dozen times, I would. (Jeremy H.)
[Wheeler Brothers play at 6:10PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Venus Stage.]
First things first: it’s pronounced “oo-zee,” apparently, “like the gun,” as UZOY‘s Website says multiple times. But don’t worry; this isn’t any gangster bullshit — UZOY’s music is far, far more sincere and personal and delicate than that, coming across more like Doomtree’s Dessa more than anything else with her dead-serious delivery and half-sung hooks. Then there’re the tracks themselves, which are fuzzy-edged and dreamy like De La Soul mashed up with P.O.S., and I’m shaking my head wondering how in the hell I’ve never gotten around to listen to this lady before now.
By the by, make sure you check out the creepy-ass video for UZOY’s “Fast Forward,” which somehow lays out the whole plot at the beginning without using any actual words, and by the time you realize what’s happening, you realize you should’ve seen it coming from a mile off. Damn. (Jeremy H.)
[UZOY plays at 1:40PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mercury Stage.]
The Head and The Heart
Variations on The Head and The Heart‘s sound were all over the place at SXSW this year, so it must be on the rise. It’s an Americana sound, but it also has a Brit-pop-ness to it. Specifically, I am reminded of my brief love affair with the band Travis, whose 2000 masterpiece The Man Who stayed in my car CD player for the better part of two years. Unfortunately, like Travis’s later work, The Head and The Heart can’t quite match the songwriting of The Man Who, so what you get is that sound that, as I said, was all over the place at SXSW. Family of the Year, Of Monsters and Men, The Lonely Wild (who do have the songwriting gift), Swear and Shake, The Lone Bellow, and Houston’s Second Lovers are all doing this kind of music in the wake of (or maybe in spite of) the new folk renaissance, so if you like those bands, make sure to catch The Head and The Heart. (Jason S.)
[The Head and The Heart plays at 7PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Saturn Stage.]
Super Mash Bros
Do you need your party rocked? Well, you’re in luck, because L.A. duo Super Mash Bros. are here to do just that. As their name implies, they specialize in mashups, taking tracks by Lil Jon, Oasis, 2 Live Crew, Rick Ross, Taylor Swift, The Outfield, Skrillex, Miike Snow, and (as evidenced by the title of their most recent release, Miley High Club) Miley Cyrus and squishing them together to make something else entirely. Sure, you’ve heard it before, and probably better — I have to say that when it comes to stuff like this I tend to gravitate more towards Girl Talk, personally, but I can’t deny that this is some fun, booty-shaking shit, and really, what more can you ask for? (Jeremy H.)
[Super Mash Bros play at 4:10PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mercury Stage.]
Born Again Virgins
I’ve only been able to check out a couple of songs by Houston’s own Born Again Virgins, which really, really sucks, because I’m digging the band’s pure, raw, heavy-but-sleazy rawk vibe quite a bit, especially the over-the-top howl of frontman James Red. The band’s like American Fangs in that they don’t fit entirely in any one genre other than no-hyphens “rock,” blurring the line between punk and metal and garage so fully that it’s like it never existed in the first place. This is boozy, in-your-face, punch-you-while-grinning music with snarled/screamed vocals, buzzsaw guitars, and thundering rhythms, and if you can’t bring yourself to like this, I’m afraid we’ve got nothing left to talk about. (Jeremy H.)
[Born Again Virgins play at 11:40AM on Sat., June 1st, at the Venus Stage.]
A Place to Bury Strangers
With the Arctic Monkeys, I said I had relaxed my rules about bands sounding too much like another band. Unfortunately, to appreciate A Place To Bury Strangers, I would have to relax that rule all the way to sleep. They sound so much like the Jesus and Mary Chain that I just have to shake my head. If you’re a fan of J&MC, you’re probably going to resent this band. If you’ve never heard of J&MC, then shame-shame-shame on you. Go illegally download Psychocandy right now. Another interesting juxtaposition will be that APTBS are playing (on another stage) just as Iggy and the Stooges are wrapping up their set, and probably anything after Iggy Pop will feel anticlimactic. (Jason S.)
[A Place to Bury Strangers plays at 8:20PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Jupiter Stage.]
Alrighty, that’s what we’ve got for now; more on the way…