FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 4: Gogol Bordello + The Octopus Project + Machine Gun Kelly + The Niceguys + Alabama Shakes + Jandek + More

Gogol BordelloAlright, so I’m going to admit that at this point, four days in, my brain’s pretty much melting from staring at/listening to so many damn bands over the course of this week. But hey, the party can’t stop just because my head hurts, can it? Hell, no.

To catch you up in case you haven’t been paying attention, here’re our three previous installments:

And our media-like friends have added some new coverage, too, over here:

The Octopus ProjectI’m guessing there’s more; keep an eye out, eh? In the meantime, hey, here’s our pile of rundowns from writers Jeremy H. and Jason Smith

Gogol Bordello
The one time I saw multi-ethnic/pan-national gypsy-folk-punk crazies Gogol Bordello live, I was so sick I could barely stand up straight. I seriously wavered even after getting to the venue, but decided I had to at least stick it out for part of the band’s set; it was the first time they’d played Houston (as far as I’m aware, anyway), and I’d been looking forward to it literally for months. And yes, it was fucking amazing. Not just because of the band, mind you — although Eugene Hutz and his traveling circus of a band were entertaining as hell to watch, and I can’t help but love the crazy mishmash of styles that they bring to the table — but also because of the crowd watching the band. It seemed to be split nearly evenly between A) confused-looking nu-hippies sporting dreads and beanies and lots of facial hair, B) very beefy shirtless guys (who moshed nearly nonstop throughout) with freaking terrifying, Eastern Promises-style tattoos prominently displayed, and C) adorable older Russian/Ukrainian couples in nice clothing, who smiled and danced together like nobody else was around. It was great.

And happily, so is last year’s Trans-Continental Hustle, which sees the band upping the folk part of the ratio, a shift back from Super Taranta! to the old days of Gypsy Punks (and that’s no bad thing, to me), and added some seriously Latin-influenced elements/lyrics on top of the whole thing. So there may be less of the “Russian” crowd that I saw the last time the band came through town, but even still, it’s gonna be great, I promise. (Jeremy H.)
[Gogol Bordello plays at 8PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Saturn Stage.]

The Octopus Project
Austin’s The Octopus Project have been playing Houston for over 10 years now. I first saw them play to a packed house at The Axiom in about 2003 (someone bring back The Axiom!). Obviously, the first thing anyone is going to notice about them is their mesmerizing keyboard/theremin player, Yvonne Lambert, who appears to be simultaneously from both the 1960s and the 2060s. Their music is also like that; futuristic but at the same time like an arcade game of my childhood. Their hypnotic sounds may be the perfect way to end the festival (unless I decide to stick around and catch Social Distortion). (Jason S.)
[The Octopus Project plays at 8:20PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Jupiter Stage.]

Paul WallPaul Wall
Ah, Paul Wall… I’m kinda torn on this one, because the type of hip-hop Wall does really isn’t my kind of thing — I’m much more on the P.O.S./Atmosphere/Fat Tony side of things, honestly, and all the rapping about cars, money, and women just doesn’t do much for me, y’know? That said, I do respect Paul Wall for being one hell of a smart rapper, even if I can’t much relate to what he’s rapping about. Where some of his cohorts seem happy to sit back and repeat the same line over and over again, Wall’s rhymes are surprisingly intricate, taking cool little turns right when you least expect it. He’s one of the best-known Houston rappers outside of the confines of this little city-state of ours, and hey, I’m good with having him represent H-town to the world. (Jeremy H.)
[Paul Wall plays at 2:10PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Mercury Stage.]

Quad City DJ’s
You know it’s a bad sign when four different mixes of the same song come up when you look up a band or musician’s most memorable tracks… Okay, I’ve really got nothing for this one — I remember Quad City DJ’s‘ one big hit, “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train),” as much as anybody who was alive and aware of music back in 1996 probably does, but it never really even registered with me beyond that. Before re-listening to the song this week, I couldn’t have told you any lyrics beyond the ones in the title of the freaking song…and after listening to more of the DJ’s’ (the extra apostrophe is giving me an eye twitch) other stuff, I’m still pretty much in the same place. Folks who want to get down in what’ll either be late-afternoon heat or late-afternoon monsoon rain, hey, this one’s for you. (Jeremy H.)
[Quad City DJ’s play at 3:40PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Mercury Stage.]

Blackmarket Syndicate
My little sister blasted this kind of music out of her bedroom from 1987-1991, when we both finally moved out of the house. She was an “East Bay Punk,” and we lived in a small Bay Area town called Benicia, CA, but we both escaped to Berkeley as often as possible. Members of Green Day, Operation Ivy, and Crimpshrine were her personal friends. I was into Morrissey and The Stone Roses, and the best friends I had were in my band, which sounded like Morrissey and The Stone Roses.

Blackmarket SyndicateSo yeah, this kind of music is a bit eye-rolling for me, even now. But there is one band from that East Bay Scene that my sister and I agree on, and that’s Jawbreaker (I loved Dance Hall Crashers, too, but not my sister). Unfortunately, though, Houston’s own Blackmarket Syndicate doesn’t sound enough like Jawbreaker to warrant a comparison there — instead, they sound more like The Clash via Rancid to me. But I’m trying to accentuate the positive and prove that yes, I do like some punk. Punk will be hard to find at FPSF, so if you have any inclination to mosh in 90-degree weather, make sure to catch Blackmarket Syndicate! (Jason S.)
[Blackmarket Syndicate plays at 12:40PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Venus Stage.]

Machine Gun Kelly
Despite being out of Cleveland, Ohio, it turns out that Machine Gun Kelly (aka MGK) is in reality a Houston native. Granted, he didn’t live here long, but hey, it counts, right? Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, though, because I’m enjoying the claustrophobic atmosphere and fast-moving rhymes on last year’s Lace Up. He’s a disarmingly skinny white guy, but don’t take that to mean he’s not ferocious on the mic, particularly on tracks like “D3MONS” or the title track, which makes me think of the manic rage of ’90s rappers Onyx. At the same time, though, tracks like “Invincible” have some honest-to-God pretty elements to ’em, leavening the fury a bit and making it more impressive in the process. (Jeremy H.)
[Machine Gun Kelly plays at 8:20PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mercury Stage.]

Grace Potter and the NocturnalsGrace Potter and the Nocturnals
I’m sure it’s just the similarity of the names, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Grace Potter and the Nocturnals because my brain categorizes them in the same pile as Florence and the Machine. Like I said, surely it’s just a name thing. It’s the “Somebody and the such and such” connection, and the fact that they both have gorgeous wailing female singers. Of course, Florence is closer to Kate Bush, while Grace is closer to Ann Wilson (of Heart). But if they have anything in common in their live show, then it will be a moving experience. And hey, it’ll be tough to find a more photographable band at FPSF. (Jason S.)
[Grace Potter and the Nocturnals play at 7:10PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Neptune Stage.]

Ashes Of Babylon
Nope, not a death metal band, sorry; better luck next time… Actually, Ashes of Babylon are a Louisiana-bred, Austin-based reggae band, much like SOJA, who we talked about yesterday, but they’re a very different kind of reggae band. There’s little here in the way of change-the-world lyricism, despite the band’s Apocalyptic name, but instead more laidback, dub-y, rough-edged grooves and rocksteady beats, with personal lyrics about love and trying to get by, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. Call these guys the working-class equivalent to SOJA’s more high-minded quasi-Rastafarianism. And hey, it’s surprisingly fun to jam out to a full-on reggae track entitled “Louisiana My Home.” (Jeremy H.)
[Ashes of Babylon plays at 11:30AM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Neptune Stage.]

Ashes of BabylonThe Niceguys
I’m going to go out on a limb and declare that out of all of the rap crews going in Houston these days (and yeah, there’re quite a few, it seems like), nobody beats The Niceguys. Sorry, but it’s true — while there are other groups I like quite a bit, they can’t do better than the slamming, cymbal-heavy beats these guys mine and certainly won’t be able to top the snarling venom spit on tracks like “Mr. Perfect” or last year’s “Ari Gold/New York Minute” (where yes, the four Niceguys channel the infamous and fictional agent). The best part of the group’s music, though, is that they’re unafraid to get fucking loud, like rock-band loud; see “War Eagle,” from 2012’s James Kelley, if you think I’m kidding. I’ve got no idea how well it’ll go over live, but when it’s filling up my headphones, I’m flying high. (Jeremy H.)
[The Niceguys play at 1:40PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Venus Stage.]

Passion Pit
I’ve always thought of Passion Pit as an inferior MuteMath. I know, how jerky of me. They’re not as fun to me as MuteMath, less guitar-oriented, and not as melodic, either. So out of curiosity, I checked the Facebook stats. Dang, Passion Pit has four times as many “likes” as MuteMath? What is wrong with you, World?

Alabama ShakesAnyway, if you’re not one of the million people on Facebook who “like” Passion Pit and want to know a little more, well, they’ll make you dance up a sweaty mess in that ubiquitous hot mess that is Summer Fest (I almost typed Simmer Fest…) You want to get in with the young electropop crowd — they’re the band to see. The rest of us will be fighting for position getting ready to photograph Iggy Pop. (Jason S.)
[Passion Pit plays at 7:20PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Mars Stage.]

Alabama Shakes
Another of a small handful of bands I really want to see this weekend, I got kind of blindsided by Alabama Shakes, first hearing them on SNL, of all places — they were rough around the edges, bluesy and gritty and something all their own, too backwoods and distorted to be soul but too soulful to be just another blues-rock band. They take the whole blues-revival thing championed by The Black Keys, drive it deep into the holler where the sun doesn’t go, marry it to the nu-soul sensibilities of the Daptone Records gang, and then stick in front of it Brittany Holland, a mesmerizing, immensely powerful blues shouter who could give Bessie Smith a run for her money. I fell in love with the band’s one and only album so far, Boys & Girls, too late for it to be in the running for my top-ten of 2012, but looking back, damn, it’d be a contender for the top of the pile. (Jeremy H.)
[Alabama Shakes plays at 3:50PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Mars Stage.]

Oh, wow. To tell the truth, I’m not sure whether I want to see this because it’ll be awesome to witness the strange, angular, stark weirdness that is Jandek or because I want to see the looks on people’s faces as they flee frantically away from the stage. Because seriously, this is not music for your average festival-goer (although alright, y’all might surprise me); it’s music that requires a freaking commitment and a serious, patient ear, to work your way past the avant-garde-ness of it and get to the reality that the guy’s a truly intriguing songsmith.

Free RadicalsOkay, either that or Jandek will upset the applecart and do something completely different and unexpected, like that weird-ass funk session he did at Rudyard’s a year or three back, which left the diehard Corwood-heads in the room wondering if they’d gone to the right bar and the rest of the crowd getting down and laughing. With star proto-punk bassist Mike Watt of The Minutement/fIREHOSE and respected improv/jazz drummer Stefan Gonzalez along as Jandek’s backing band, though, I kinda doubt that’ll be quite the case here. Whatever happens, it’ll be worth seeing and hearing. (Jeremy H.)
[Jandek plays at 12:50PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Saturn Stage.]

Free Radicals
If you like jazz, and you’ve lived here for more than a year or two now but haven’t ever seen the Free Radicals in some incarnation or another, well, you’re doing it wrong, I’ll tell you that much. At this point, drummer/bandleader Nick Cooper‘s revolving-door marching band-gone-wild is practically a local institution, and in a city where the whole damn landscape changes every five years, that’s saying something. Any time you see a protest or march or any other type of public gathering in this town, odds are good the Free Rads are nearby, playing their funky, jazzy, trippy, politically-minded, mind-expanding music for anybody who’s willing to listen.

DoughbeezyTheir FPSF appearances are particularly neat because they don’t ever seem to have a set stage or anything, but just wend their way from one end of the park to the other, playing a “Second Line” to celebrate the death of Corporate America with their horns and drums. Keep an eye out for ’em as you roam around… (Jeremy H.)
[Free Radicals will be roaming throughout the festival on both Sat., June 1st, and Sun., June 2nd.]

I’ve been meaning to give Doughbeezy a more serious listen for quite a while now, but he kept slipping through the cracks somehow, which sucks, because The South East Beast is one of a handful of truly promising rappers floating around there right now. And for good reason; his flow is ridiculously fast, and he raps over beats that somehow manage to be old-school (gotta love those snapping drums and clicking percussion) and current right at the same time. Not a clue what he’s like live, really, but the videos make it look pretty freaking insane. (Jeremy H.)
[Doughbeezy plays at 12:40PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mercury Stage.]

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s probably-final installment, folks; after that, we’re off to the races…

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One Response to “FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 4: Gogol Bordello + The Octopus Project + Machine Gun Kelly + The Niceguys + Alabama Shakes + Jandek + More”

  1. 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 February 1st, 2014 at 8:26 am

    […] FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 4: Gogol Bordello + The Octopus Project + Machine Gun Kelly + The Niceguys + … […]

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