FPSF 2013 Rundown, Pt. 5: The Suffers + Matt & Kim + Geto Boys + The Bronx + Midnight Norma Lane + Orents Stirner + The Postal Service + More

The SuffersAlright, folks — this is it, right here. We are nearing Go Time for Free Press Summer Festival 2013, and I’m both excited as hell and more than a little freaked out. I’ve never been a big fan of crowds, honestly, so the fact that this thing is sold out is causing no small bit of trepidation.

But yours truly will soldier on, because, well, it’s what we do here at SCR, and damn the torpedoes. Following this last bunch of previews from myself (Jeremy) and my compatriot Jason Smith, the two of us will be suiting up tomorrow and braving the hot, hot, hot H-town summer heat (about which I just have to say: fuuuuuuuck, it’s gonna hurt) while roaming around the entirety of the Fest, trying to catch as many bands & musicians & artists & scenesters & weirdos as we can.

I cannot yet predict what T-shirt I will be wearing, but if you happen to see an older-looking guy (with gray in the half-brown beard, sadly) stumbling around with a backpack and a badly-stained 2012 London Olympics baseball cap, say “hi,” and it’ll hopefully be me. (If it’s not me, expect weird stares.) Jason, on the other hand, also has a beard and brown hair, but he’s taller and carries a big camera, so you can differentiate the two of us that way.

Now, if you’re going, here’s a list of a couple of things to remember (yes, I like lists):

  • Make sure you activate your wristband before you go. You can activate it by going to this link, I’m told. If not activated, I’m pretty sure they won’t let you in, and everyone else will point and laugh at you.
  • There’s an after party over at MKT Bar on Saturday night after FPSF, and the guys from Passion Pit will be doing a DJ set. You have to RSVP in advance for a chance to go to the show, however, so if you want to attend, you’d better do that.
  • mattandkim1

  • If you don’t feel like parking and/or walking, you can ride the Houston Wave, which is apparently a “jitney,” whatever the hell that means (it looks remarkably like a shuttle bus to me). It’s not free, at $15/person, and you also have to RSVP in advance to reserve a spot, but hey, for some it may beat walking.
  • Don’t bring food or drinks, but do bring an empty container for water. In years past, the FPSF folks have been very good about providing free water, so all you need to do is hydrate yourself good before going, get inside, and then fill up the empty water bottle you brought along and keep hydrating. Trust me: you do not want to screw around with heatstroke.
  • Sunscreen. Use it. Burning yourself red like a lobster is never fun, I don’t care who you are.
  • Bring a backpack or some other kind of bag to keep your stuff in. Make sure it’s not one that has a big hole in one of the bottom corners, like mine did one year. sigh.
  • Bring a towel, which you can sit on or, in the event that it turns into monsoon season all of a sudden (it can happen), you can dry yourself off. On a similar note, I’d make sure that backpack or bag is at least sorta-kinda waterproof, but that may just be me.
  • I’d also bring some small plastic Ziplock bags that you can store your non-water-resistant electronics in if it rains. Remember, iPhones are notoriously bad swimmers.
  • Skip the video recording. I’m not entirely sure why, other than the FPSF-ers will have their own crew of videographers, but they seem pretty serious about this.
  • rivers1

  • Don’t bring any weapons. I’m saddened that it’s even necessary to tell people this.
  • If you’re bringing a smartphone and planning on using it a fair bit, I’d bring a charger of some kind, preferably something solar. I know they had cellphone/etc.-charging stations last year that charged a reasonable rate for topping off your electronics, but A) the lines at those stations were always massive, and B) you had to leave your cellphone or whatever there for up to an hour, which isn’t really a viable option for a lot of people.
  • Enjoy the wonders of Downtown Houston, a part of this city way too many Houstonians have never really visited.
  • Don’t be a dickbag. Everybody’s there to enjoy the music, hang out, and have fun, not to get in fights. (Granted, I’ve seen a lot less of this than at similar festivals, but it does still happen.)

Now, you might not realize it, but we’ve been doing this thing a few days now; here’s the previous writeups, if you’re curious:

getoboys1And since we know it’s actually not all about us… Here’s some more non-SCR coverage we’ve come across online since yesterday (and yeah, it’s suddenly heating up), so when you’re all done here, make sure you clicky-click over to these places, as well. Extra-special Awesomeness Points go to Beaumont’s cat5 for talking up FPSF from over yonder to the East, and new-to-me Austin site Pop Press International for doing a handful of previews, as well…

And now, with all of that out of the way, how about some actual writeups of bands that’re playing? Sound like a good plan? Good; here goes:

thebronx1The Suffers
Yes, yes, yes. Not only is tomorrow FPSF, but it also happens to be the release date for The Suffers‘ debut 7″, “Slow It Down”/”Step Aside,” and holy shit, that’s great news. The band’s been around for a year or so now (maybe a year and a half?), but in that time they’ve yet to release much to the world in terms of music, so for a lot of non-show-going losers like myself, this’ll be the first chance to really listen to the band (outside of some old demo tracks on Facebook, anyway).

And believe me when I say that this is a band worth paying attention to. Frontwoman Kam Franklin and her crew of all-stars (who hail from pretty much every good ska band to pop up in these parts in the last decade) take the best elements of reggae, low-key ska, and — probably moreso than the rest — rocksteady to build a sound that’s sweet and soulful and grooving and honest all at once. Fans of old-old-old-school ska and rocksteady, from back when the original Jamaican pioneers were covering American R&B and soul albums, this is for you. (Jeremy H.)
[The Suffers play at 11:40AM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mars Stage.]

Matt & Kim
It pains me to admit it, but yeah, I’ve been slow to embrace Matt & Kim. I heard seemingly unending hype for so long about the duo that when I finally did get a chance to see/hear ’em, well, it was a little bit of a letdown. With some time and distance behind now, though, I’m able to take a second look/listen, and okay, I’m starting to get it now. Weirdly, it was the band’s embrace of licensing their music that sucked me in, in the end — I heard “Daylight” in TV commercials for a long while, and recently I’ve started hearing newer song “Let’s Go” various places. And hell, I’m alright with that — you do what you gotta to make a living, and obviously, I’m proof that stuff like that gets the band some needed exposure, to boot.

midnightnormalane1Musically speaking, Matt & Kim are a hell of a lot of fun, marrying Matt Johnson‘s sung-spoken vocals and bubbling, bumping synth sounds with Kim Schifino‘s eminently danceable (but not really funky, if you know what I mean) drums. I keep coming back to Atom and His Package as a comparison, and that’s not a bad thing coming from me, but where A&HP is pretty much a one-man-in-a-room deal, Matt & Kim sound like they really should be seen playing up on a stage somewhere, blasting their cheery, ridiculously catchy indie-electro-pop out for all to hear. (Jeremy H.)
[Matt & Kim play at 4:40PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Saturn Stage.]

My friend Phil Peterson turned me on to the Houston classic rock band RIVERS a few years back. In turn, they introduced me to what has become one of my favorite Houston bands, The Dead Revolt. George Baba, guitarist from The Dead Revolt, even played bass in RIVERS for awhile. So I owe RIVERS some gratitude just for introducing me to The Dead Revolt, but I have to thank them for rocking, as well! If you’re a fan of Wolfmother (and that means Black Sabbath, Hendrix, White Stripes, Rose Hill Drive, etc.), get out to FPSF early early early and start your festival with RIVERS! (Jason S.)
[RIVERS plays at 11:30AM on Sat., June 1st, at the Neptune Stage.]

discodaddies1Geto Boys
Believe it or not, but the Geto Boys were my first exposure to Houston music, back before I moved here, and long before I had any inkling I’d end up spending the bulk of my life in this endearing, frustrating, awesome city. I worked at a Boy Scout summer camp (no, seriously) for several summers, working alongside kids from all over Texas (and a few from elsewhere), and one year my tentmate Carlos showed up with a Geto Boys cassette — I’m pretty sure it was 1991’s We Can’t Be Stopped, and I was hooked damn near immediately.

I was already into hip-hop, to be sure, but at that point Compton seemed a long ways away from central Texas; with the Geto Boys, though, suddenly there was this trio of Texan rappers, guys from right down the highway where I knew I’d be going to college in the fall. They were raw, raunchy, violent, and borderline psychotic, and they really, truly did not give a fuck. It was awesome, and I eagerly got a hold of a copy of Till Death Do Us Part, with the sublimely hooky fuck-you of “Crooked Officer” becoming a fixture in the boombox. Man…even now, I can remember feeling like a whole bunch of doors I’d never even known existed just opened up, right in front of me. (Jeremy H.)
[Geto Boys play at 3:40PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Saturn Stage.]

The Bronx
First things first: much as I like Rhapsody, sometimes it gets confused, like if there’re two bands out there that share the same name. It wasn’t ’til about three songs into Rock ‘n’ Roll Machine, the 2013 release by “The Bronx,” that I really started to wonder if I was listening to the wrong damn band. I thought these guys were from NY — why’s the lead singer sound like he’s got a Scandinavian accent? And when did they stop titling their albums just The Bronx?

Answers: actually, they’re from L.A.; he doesn’t have one; and they didn’t. In short, I was listening to a competely different band, one that I’m guessing is from Denmark, Sweden, or Norway and that is a much less hardcore and more hard rock. phew. It’s a relief, actually, because I was gearing myself up for some full-on hate for this band, and now that I’m listening to the actual American band The Bronx, it feels cathartic to listen to the band’s heavy, raw, metalcore sound, with those throat-shredding howls of Matt Caughthran‘s. I have yet to hear this year’s The Bronx (IV), but I’ve been listening to The Bronx (III) and The Bronx (II) quite a bit, and I’m liking ’em a whole lot. If you like Priestess, Mastodon, or maybe Drive Like Jehu, chances are you will, too. (Jeremy H.)
[The Bronx plays at 3PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Saturn Stage.]

chinxaoutiwon1Midnight Norma Lane
Here’s another great Houston surprise I’ve never come across before reading the FPSF band list — Midnight Norma Lane. They’re refreshing in the way that they remind me so much of one of my favorite bands from 1990, North Carolina’s The Blake Babies, enough for me to pull out the album Sunburn and give it its first spin in many years. Most likely, Midnight Norma Lane’s members were actually babies rocking in a crib when I was a college kid rocking out to The Blake Babies, and most likely, they’ve never heard of my beloved Blake Babies. But there is a Juliana Hatfield quality to their simple melodic indie-rock. Rocking out Hatfield-style should be encouraged! I’m definitely going to drop by and check them out. (Jason S.)
[Midnight Norma Lane plays at 1:20PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Jupiter Stage.]

Brandon West and the Black Hats
Wow. So…you know how you’ve always wondered what the Stones would’ve sounded like if they were fronted by an actual black guy, instead of a British guy who stole all his moves and mannerisms from James Brown (and yes, I do like the Stones, but c’mon…)? Well, now you’re in luck, because that’s what pops into my head more than anything else when listening to Brandon West and the Black Hats, a band I can’t believe I’m only now just hearing (in my quasi-defense, I thought they were another alt-country band, based simply on their name…sigh). West and his gang drag modern rock kicking and screaming back to its blues/soul roots while keeping a foot in the realms of funk and punk rock, and it’s a great, great thing. (Jeremy H.)
[Brandon West and the Black Hats play at 4:30PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Venus Stage.]

Disco Daddies
Real Talk time: I don’t give a fuck about the Harlem Shake, and I couldn’t define trap music for you if you held a gun to my head. That said, I can appreciate ocean-deep bass as much as anybody, and that seems to be local H-town DJ/producer (singular, despite the name) Disco Daddies‘ stock-in-trade. The stuff on his SoundCloud page comes off a whole lot better than I’d guessed it would, making me bob my head to the skull-shaking basslines and fucked-up horn/synth parts. Nothing wrong with shaking your ass, amirite? (Jeremy H.)
[Disco Daddies play at 11:10AM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Mercury Stage.]

dunetx1Chin Xaou Ti Won
I seriously had no idea what to expect from local electronic duo Chin Xaou Ti Won (who apparently went by The Krell early on, and who’ve been around since 1998, which is a heck of a lot longer than I would’ve thought). They’re not one of the dancier electronic acts of the festival, but rather dwell in a far more ambient realm, one inhabited by the likes of Ulrich Schnauss or Tangerine Dream, where layers of lush atmospherics float atop one another and half-muttered vocals slide in one side and out the other, barely making a ripple as they go. I’m not entirely sure how well this will come off in the light of day — it seems like music that’s best suited for intimate club settings late at night, or maybe a rooftop concert under the stars — but I’m definitely intrigued. (Jeremy H.)
[Chin Xaou Ti Won plays at 2:40PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Jupiter Stage.]

Dune.tx was the first Houston band I saw when I moved back to Houston. The show was at Emo’s in about 1999; Emo’s closed down not long after that, but Dune.tx continues to bring the rock to our town with their ’90s Alternative style. Over the years, I’ve probably seen them more than 20 times. I even own one of their t-shirts (and a koozie, if I’m not mistaken). Their sound and songwriting style owes something to the poppy side of ’90s bands like Tripping Daisy, Better Than Ezra, and early Flaming Lips, but guitarist Chris Sacco also shreds with the best of them (think Billy Corgan and Jimi Hendrix). If there’s a Houston Rock Hall of Fame, Dune.tx belongs in it, not only for their great songs, but for pure longevity. (Jason S.)
[Dune.tx plays at 8PM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Venus Stage.]

orentsstirner1Orents Stirner
I’ve known Orents Stirner for many years (their fearless leader, Fletcher Stafford, is as cool a guy as you could hope to know), and it’s great to see them get the exposure that a big fest like this will give you. Musically, however, it takes a lot for me to get my analytical head around the concept of Orents Stirner. They write music together on the spot, around a few chords in a very free, almost child-like “warts and all” manner. On the other hand, I write music with my band, and we practice a new song for months to get it ready. When we get to the gig, we discuss the set list before the show, and someone will undoubtedly say, “No, I don’t think we’re ready to play that new one quite yet.” Obviously, Orents Stirner and my band work very differently… So anyway, I’m listening to their 2011 album, appropriately titled Let It Go, and thinking it unlikely I’ll hear any of these songs at FPSF, as they’ll probably make up a whole new album for the event! (Jason S.)
[Orents Stirner plays at 11:10AM on Sun., June 2nd, at the Jupiter Stage.]

The Postal Service
What, you didn’t think we’d leave out the freaking headliners, did you? Nope, saved The Postal Service for almost last… I have to say, I’ve been kind of surprised by the response to the duo of Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello being announced as the festival’s headlining act — not by how many people love ’em, no, but by how many people apparently hate this band. Which is mind-boggling, to me. I honestly do not get the hate, y’all. From where I’m sitting, Give Up is still a freaking brilliant album, a close-to-masterpiece of shiny-eyed, sweet-voiced electro-pop, and listening right now, yeah, I’m loving it despite the decade since its release.

postalservice1Maybe it’s the band’s legacy people have problems with, I dunno — they’ve certainly been responsible for a whole generation of similarly sweet-voiced synth-popsters (looking at you Owl City and Freelance Whales), and some of that’s been more bad than good, but hell, if we were going to judge a band by all their crappy imitators, I’m pretty sure I’d be legally required to hate Led Zeppelin by this point. Anyway, despite the backlash, this writer right here is very much looking forward to seeing and hearing The Postal Service finally, after all this time; I don’t even want to be up close to the stage, but instead plan to find a decent spot of ground where I can crash and bliss out to those skittering beats and washes of synths and Gibbard’s unruffled, soothing voice in the shadow of the Downtown skyscrapers. (Jeremy H.)
[The Postal Service plays at 8:50PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Saturn Stage.]

Young Mammals
These guys are like the band that (thankfully) refuses to die. Every time I figure Young Mammals have finally sunk beneath the waves, sucked down by the unforgiving H-town scene undertow, they pop back up on the surface again, seemingly ready to take over the world once more. And every time, my heart jumps for freaking joy, because these four young guys have this magical ability to create urgent, catchy, rough-but-beautiful songs that practically explode out of the speakers, sharp-edged yet completely hooky at the same time. They’re the closest thing Houston has these days to the Pixies, and that’s no bad things to be. (Jeremy H.)
[Young Mammals play at 6:40PM on Sat., June 1st, at the Jupiter Stage.]

And that wraps it up for the FPSF Rundowns this year, everybody. Apologies to any bands we didn’t get to in these writeups — we just ran out of time to do all the bands playing, unfortunately. See y’all tomorrow at FPSF…

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