FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 3: Kashmere Stage Band + Emily Bell + Japandroids + SOJA + Savoy + Buxton + Social Distortion + UME + A Sea Es + More

emilybell1Here we are again, folks, with the next installment of our randomly-selected rundowns of the bands and musicians playing Free Press Houston Summer Fest this coming weekend. As you’ve probably heard by now, the Fest is way sold out, but if you’re one of the lucky gang of people to get themselves a wristband, well, here’re some of the people you might want to check out while you’re there.

Before we go any further, though, a brief word from the FPSF organizers on the rules of the festival:

Boy, that Freddy sure is a dumbass, isn’t he? And it’s good to know that hey, you can bring your porno mags to the festival, should you want to. ‘Murica!

Moving on…if you’ve missed the previous days’ writeups, by the way, here you go:

And hey, we’re definitely not the only people talking about this little music-y thing — although I have to say, I thought I’d see more local coverage than I have, esp. from the {29-95.com} folks and the fest’s own magazine, Free Press Houston (I have a sneaking suspicion they’re, um, a bit busy right about now…). Here’s some stuff on FPSF from other people:

Okay, okay — enough stalling. Here we go:

Kashmere Stage BandKashmere Stage Band
I know a lot of people who love/loved their school band, whether it was their high school band or college band; I know I thought our C.E. Ellison HS marching band drum crew (“Boogie Down Percussion,” which still makes me smile) was the bomb, miles and miles better than anybody else’s. And hey, that’s great — your school’s band and mine were darn good for what they were. They weren’t, however, the Kashmere Stage Band, out of Houston’s Kashmere High School back in the ’60s and ’70s. As good as your/our bands were, the Kashmere Stage Band was in a whole different league.

Listening now, it’s mindblowing to realize that these were kids at the time (they’re all in their 50s or 60s now, I believe), playing funky, soulful, awesomely horn-heavy music that could’ve stood side-by-side with anything by The J.B.’s, The Meters, The Ohio Players, or pretty much any other “grown-up” funk band going at the time. It’s insanely raw, gritty, lowdown, pitch-perfect funk that I can’t help but freaking love; if you’re a funk fan and haven’t yet heard these guys, you really need to. Trust me on this one. (Jeremy H.)
[Kashmere Stage Band plays at 12:40PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mars Stage.]

losamigosinvisibles1Los Amigos Invisibles
I should probably make one fairly crucial admission right up-front: I speak neither Spanish (aside from knowing how to ask where the bathroom is or how to order a beer) nor Portuguese. Which means I am mostly ignorant as to what the hell any of Los Amigos Invisibles songs are about, seeing as the Venezuelan band sings primarily in those two languages. On the rare songs where they do sing in English, though, the band’s focus is revealed pretty quickly: Los Amigos Invisibles are unapologetically freaky, down-and-dirty, raunchy, loverman funk-popsters, singing about G-strings and sex and women and, um, sex and women, pretty much. And hey, it’s fun stuff — imagine a cheerier, less-pretentious, Latin-bred Parliament fronted by Prince circa about 1985, and you’ll be pretty close. (Jeremy H.)
[Los Amigos Invisibles play at 3:50PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Neptune Stage.]

Emily Bell
Emily Bell, a friend and collaborator with renowned Houston country artist John Evans, seems like she would fit right in at The Continental Club. She grew up in Houston, but lives in Austin now, after some time in Los Angeles. So far, only the song “Back to the Way I Was” is online, but her Website says her album will be released this week, just in time for Summer Fest. “Back to the Way I Was” reminds me of KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” with a little more Texas flair and maybe a touch of Black Keys-ish production values. Music aside, I’ll be there to photograph. Other young men should be there as well, hint, hint. (Jason S.)
[Emily Bell plays at 1:10PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Venus Stage.]

I got to see Japandroids last year at Fun Fun Fun in Austin, and mostly I just kept asking myself why they never bothered to find a bassist. If you think a band is complete without bass, then you’re no friend of mine. That aside, I really like their songs; they remind me of my current band’s early days (I bet they love the “Minneapolis Rock” of bands like Hüsker Dü, The Replacements, and Soul Asylum), and I find myself putting my bass lines in the back — now that would be a BAND. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing them. Looking at the Mars Stage lineup, I think I’ll be there the most over the course of FPSF. (Jason S.)
[Japandroids play at 2:10PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Mars Stage.]

Given the summertime nature of Summer Fest, I’m actually a little surprised that there haven’t been more reggae acts over the past several years (if there have been a bunch of ’em, I’ve missed ’em somehow), because, y’know, reggae always feels like summery, sunshiny music, the kind that’d fit nicely booming out over the crowd of swimsuit-clad kids dancing in the hot, hot Houston sun. SOJA, for one, would work pretty much perfectly for that, with the band’s heavy-lidded, bass-heavy grooves, nasal/soulful vocals, understated keys, and sincere, uplifting lyricism — they’re the Conscious Party band FPSF’s been missing. Now, most stuff like this irritates the shit out of me, making me smirk and mutter about “trustafarians,” but the more I listen to SOJA, the more I find myself liking the band; they may not generally be my thing, and I’m not planning to join the caravans of kids who apparently follow them around the country, Grateful Dead-/Phish-style, but I’m sitting here smiling, nonetheless. (Jeremy H.)
[SOJA plays at 5:30PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Neptune Stage.]

deepcuts1Deep Cuts
I’ve never heard of Deep Cuts until today. That’s one of the things I like about FPSF. You can never get to know all the Houston bands, and one or two new ones will pop up on you almost randomly. Then you look on Facebook, and nine of your friends already “LIKE” them…

As for describing Deep Cuts for you, you know that learning tool called the Venn Diagram? It’s a diagram of two or more circles that represent subjects, and they’re interconnected, and the area where they interconnect shows what the subjects have in common. The Venn Diagram for Deep Cuts would have the unlikely pair of circles of Britpop and Tex-Mex-/Latin-influenced pop. The first thing I think of when I think of that Venn Diagram combo would be The Beatles covering “Besame Mucho.” If you’ve never heard that, by the way, you definitely should (my copy is from The Complete BBC Sessions Bootleg). One other act I think might fit in this category is Hacienda. It also sounds like I’m almost hearing a British accent in the vocals; in fact, if I had seen this band randomly at SXSW, I’d have assumed they were British. It’s pretty good stuff, and I look forward to seeing them play!

Unfortunately, even most of the diehard fest-goers will still be parking their cars when Deep Cuts plays, as FPSF goes back to an 11AM start this year. I saw Wheel Workers and Harts of Oak last year in the 12PM hour, but it was not easy getting there in time. 11AM is really going to be a stretch… (Jason S.)
[Deep Cuts plays at 11:10AM on Sat., June 1st, at the Saturn Stage.]

When you think of Boulder, Colorado, arena-sized electro-pop is probably not the thing that first comes to mind. Well, Savoy is here to set things straight, with its synth-heavy, headphone-filling take on electro, which I find myself rocking the hell out to. It’s shiny and ethereal like the best M83 tracks, and occasionally incorporates some gorgeously angelic vocals, also like the aforementioned band, but unlike M83, the three guys in Savoy merge those warm, fuzzy synth sounds with more contemporary dubstep touches (including the ever-popular “Transformer sex” sounds favored by folks like Skrillex) to drag those crazy kids out to the dancefloor. As I’ve admitted before, I’m far from an authority on modern-day EDM — I’ll gladly cede the ground to those who know better — but I do know what I like, and yeah, I like this. (Jeremy H.)
[Savoy plays at 2:40PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mercury Stage.]

Along with The Tontons, Buxton are one of the bands that just about everyone who follows Houston rock agrees needs to be “representing Houston” nationally to a large audience. Jagi Katial of Pegstar Productions (the force behind Free Press Summer Fest) even said they were the best Houston band since ZZ Top! For those who’ve never heard them, the best I can do to describe their sound is to say that it’s part Wilco, part Neil Young. It’s rooted in organic Americana, but production flourishes and finishes on their amazing album, Nothing Here Seems Strange (my favorite Houston album of 2012) lean toward the psychedelic. (Jason S.)
[Buxton plays at 12:40PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Mars Stage.]

Alright, so it’s pretty easy these days to dismiss folks like Houston’s own Otenki as Yet Another Melodic Post-Emo Guitar Rock band; Otenki themselves fit that tag to a freaking tee, and if impassioned emo-boy vocals, gang harmonies, and distorted-yet-pretty guitars make you cringe, you’re going to want to run far, far away from these guys. For my money, though (and keep in mind that I’m an emo kid at heart), there are few things better than melodic, loud, melody-heavy rock when it’s done right, and despite my initial misgivings, Otenki nail it. The music roars and surges right where it’s supposed to, bringing to mind MAE, Jimmy Eat World, and Taking Back Sunday in equal measure. Oh, and be sure to take a listen to their cover of Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain,” which beats the original handily, to my ears, and which sees vocalist German Alexander impressively expanding from the straight-up rock stuff into a more soulful R&B vein without missing a beat. (Jeremy H.)
[Otenki plays at 1:40PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Jupiter Stage.]

socialdistortion1Social Distortion
I’ve seen old-school California punks Social Distortion a couple of times over the years, but they’re one of those bands where I sincerely doubt I’ll ever get truly tired of ’em. They were my first introduction to punk rock, in a way; my friend Pat had a battered cassette copy of the band’s self-titled 1990 album, and he would blast it from the stereo of his ancient Karmann Ghia as we tooled around town, rocking out to those just-rough-enough, raw yet Americana-tinged guitars and yelling along with Mike Ness‘s hoarse rasp on “Sick Boys,” “Ball and Chain,” “So Far Away,” and “Ring of Fire.” These days Ness and his crew (who are completely different from the Social Distortion days, mind you) are older, grayer, and a little slower, but the songs still hum, just like they always did. (Jeremy H.)
[Social Distortion plays at 9PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Neptune Stage.]

The Beans
Let’s get the gripe out of the way first: I hate, hate, hate it when bands set up their Facebook profile so you have to “Like” them before you can actually listen to their music. Seriously? How the fuck am I supposed to know I like your, if I haven’t heard it? sigh.

It’s not strictly The Beans‘ fault, obviously, but rather a poorly-thought-out bit of functionality included in the FB plugin, so I’m doing my best to not hold it against ’em. It helps that, well, I do like the band (after finally hearing them, dammit) so far; the songs I’ve heard so far are classic rock-ish and bluesy, stomping and crunching their way down a muddy, half-dark alley that echoes with the sound of The White Stripes and Zeppelin and the New York Dolls. Alright, you win — I want to hear more. (Jeremy H.)
[The Beans play at 11:40AM on Sat., June 1st, at the Mars Stage.]

For at least the last seven years UME, who I still like to claim as a Houston band despite their relocation to Austin, have been carrying on the style of music that walks the line between “shredder guitar rock with a sexy female singer”, “shoegazer”, and “Brit-rock” made popular by bands like Lush, The Breeders, and Throwing Muses. Three years ago another band, The Joy Formidable, swooped in and claimed the crown to this genre and I’ve wondered ever since where that left UME in the grand scheme of things. Ideally, anyone who likes The Joy Formidable would also like UME, but sometimes it’s tough to give your allegiance to two very similar bands. But UME keep touring and building their audience, and there is no way I’m going to miss the chance to photograph them. Last year they helped me make some of my favorite photos of the festival. (Jason S.)
[UME plays at 12:40PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Neptune Stage.]

The Men
When I first heard there was a new band called “The Men,”, I wondered, “What’s up with all these bands that don’t want to be found on Google?” Then the name started to fit. They seem to get their sound from the more energetic heavier side of the Velvet Underground, with some hints of ’70s Manchester Punk thrown in (Buzzcocks and early Joy Division). There’s also a bit of that Minneapolis Sound I mentioned when I talked about Japandroids. All of this is describing their first album. Their second album throws us some curveballs, with slower Americana-tinged songs like “Open the Door” and “High and Lonesome.” It will be interesting to find out how much of that side we see in a live setting. (Jason S.)
[The Men play at 6:40PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Jupiter Stage.]

A Sea Es
This is Free Press Summerfest’s fifth, year and as you probably know, it has grown and grown since 2009. Along with that growth, the Houston bands are naturally starting to get edged out little by little. This year there are two (or is it three?) less stages than last year, and though that’s probably a good thing logistically, it leaves fewer chances for Houston bands to play and get exposure. We’ll probably never see the sixty-plus Houston acts play FPSF ever again, but that’s nothing against Free Press, as nearly a third of the bands playing this year are from Houston. What it really tells me is that we need another festival (or a third day at this one).

Anyway, about A Sea Es… This is their second go-round at FPSF; led by Austin Smith‘s singing, keyboard playing, and guitar and ukulele looping, the band gets interesting tribal-like sounds. My first tendency is to compare them to the later years of Talking Heads, but the last time I saw them live, they played a song that blew me out of the water. It was more like recent Radiohead; getting their CD, I couldn’t find that song, so I guess it’s a new one. Anyway, as with most of the Houston bands, you’ll have to get there early if you want to see them. (Jason S.)
[A Sea Es plays at 12:20PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Neptune Stage.]

phew. Three down, more to come; keep watching/reading…

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2 Responses to “FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 3: Kashmere Stage Band + Emily Bell + Japandroids + SOJA + Savoy + Buxton + Social Distortion + UME + A Sea Es + More”

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 4: Gogol Bordello + The Octopus Project + Machine Gun Kelly + The Niceguys + Alabama Shakes + Jandek + More on June 1st, 2013 at 1:06 am

    […] FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 3: Kashmere Stage Band + Emily Bell + Japandroids + SOJA + Savoy + Buxton + S… […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 5: The Suffers + Matt & Kim + Geto Boys + The Bronx + Midnight Norma Lane + Orents Stirner + The Postal Service + More on July 24th, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    […] FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 3: Kashmere Stage Band + Emily Bell + Japandroids + SOJA + Savoy + Buxton + S… […]

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