FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 1: The Orwells + Lizzo + Washed Out + White Sea + Ishi + Poolside + Eagle Claw + More

theorwells1Yes, friends, it’s time. Well, almost time. This year’s Free Press Summer Festival is approaching fast, a mere handful of days away, and yeah, passes are running out — don’t be stuck like last year, when the whole damn thing sold out, right? I haven’t seen word yet that there are no more passes available, but odds are pretty good it’ll happen, seriously.

As we’ve done in years past, us folks over here at SCR will be doing our rundowns/previews/whatever of a totally-random list of bands and musicians who’re playing down at Eleanor Tinsley Park this Saturday, May 31st, and Sunday, June 1st. Myself (Jeremy Hart) and fellow writerly person Jason Smith will be writing up as many bands as we can before the actual day, and we’re planning on doing some hopefully-cool interviews with a carefully-selected handful of folks, so keep an eye out for those, too.

I have to say, I’m pretty psyched for this year. There’re fewer “oh, wow, I love those guys!” for me than in years past, but there’re more “oh, cool — I’ve wanted to see/hear them!” And for me, that’s almost better, since I’ve got to bounce around from stage to stage to stage anyway; sometimes I’d dearly love to just settle in and watch a whole damn set by, say, Baroness, but there’s other stuff happening on other stages, so…off I go.

lizzo1Now, for a final warning: things change. We’re writing these things going by the schedule that’s up now, and y’know, that may not be how things actually go.

And with that, here we go:

The Orwells
At first, I wasn’t sure what the hell to make of Chicagoans The Orwells. They’re relative youngsters who alternately look like they’re in The Ramones or should be fronting a ’90s grunge band, who play like the lost-in-time lovechild of The Sonics, The Shondells, and The Subways, and who from all accounts simply do not give a fuck (their Letterman performance from earlier this year was pretty damn entertaining). They merge together classic ’60s pop hooks with garage-y grit, a loose, hazy stoner vibe, and some surprisingly grim lyrics, and holy freaking crap does it work. The whole thing is desperate and messy and awesome, and yeah, I’m seriously looking forward to seeing what these guys do live. (Jeremy H.)
[The Orwells play at 5:20PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Venus Stage.]
 

Lizzo
This one’s a homecoming of sorts, believe it or not; while rapper Lizzo may live up in Minneapolis these days, she apparently relocated up that way from here in Houston back in 2011. Nice to see her coming back through, especially because, well, she’s damn good at what she does. On last year’s LIZZOBANGERSshe runs full-tilt through some ferocious, ridiculously inventive rhymes that steer clear of a lot of the typical hip-hop bullshit, all the while holding her head defiantly high. “Wat U Mean,” in particular, stopped me in my tracks, not just because of the sweet Lazerbeak production but also because it reveals a surprisingly vulnerable side, with Lizzo getting quiet as she talks about how things were for her when she was a kid. Oh, and she pulls off a hilariously great Valley Girl-gone-gangsta accent, to boot. There’s a good reason TIME called her out last year as one of the top 14 musicians you should watch in 2014. (Jeremy H.)
[Lizzo plays at 4:10PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Jupiter Stage.]
 

Washed Out Band Photo. Ernest Greene pictured.Washed Out
I’ve never seen Atlanta’s Washed Out live, but from videos I’ve seen on YouTube, I am very much looking forward to their live set. Since everything I’ve read about the band tends to emphasize Ernest Greene, the band’s leader, I was expecting their live set to be a one-man mechanical and computerized act, but fortunately, they’re a great, full-fledged band with five members, in the vein of Grizzly Bear and Local Natives. The moral of the story: don’t judge a band by its Portlandia theme song! (Jason S.)
[Washed Out plays at 2:10PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Neptune Stage.]
 

Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
Shifting gears a bit now, for Nashville-dwellers Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, who are decidedly on the lower-key, more rustic end of things. The band’s been a bit of a grower for me, to tell the truth — not because they’re bad, mind you (far from it), but because they’re so low-key; they move slowly and deliberately along at a pace that’s almost a little comfortable, a little too easy to grab hold of me.

When they do rev up, though, as on “Fire and Dynamite,” though, they shine bright and clear, merging together gentle-hearted anthem-rock and rootsy country-folk into something like Coldplay if they were from the American South. That’s the side of the band I like — the Mumford & Sons-meet-Jack Johnson, super-mellow, laidback stuff I can take or leave, but when Holcomb and his crew actually cut loose (and they certainly can), that’s the part worth listening to. (Jeremy H.)
[Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors play at 5PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Venus Stage.]
 

ishi1Ishi
I’ve seen Dallas’s Ishi a handful of times now and they’re always fun and endearing. They play dance-synth-pop with some guitar and drums thrown in. Sometimes seeing them, I wonder if my eyes are lying to me, because the singer, JT Mudd, and his big beard would look much more at home in a biker gang listening to Venomous Maximus. His look doesn’t really mesh with what you’d expect a synth-pop artist to be. Actually, that kind of makes the band even more fun. Go see Ishi, and you’ll discover some fun and entrancing music. (Jason S.)
[Ishi plays at 6:10PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Mercury Stage.]
 

White Sea
Okay, now this one I’ve been totally and completely psyched about for a while now. I’m a big, big fan of Morgan Kibby‘s work with M83, especially on Saturdays = Youth, so the prospect of seeing what she can do solo has me over the damn moon. And for good reason, definitely — White Sea is soaring and grand and majestic in the best way you can possibly imagine, sounding like some gorgeously lush oh-God-make-it-happen collaboration between the aforementioned M83 and Florence + The Machine.

There’re bits of Imogen Heap’s quirkiness poking out, too, which I’m always good with, and a crunchy, thick-as-lava synth sound I like, not to mention alternately ’80s-retro and appropriately dark, murky, desperate layers atmosphere to the whole thing. Plus, of course, those angelic vocals, which sound ridiculously beautiful even when Kibby’s singing lines like, “I’ll spin your clocks and I’ll gut your fish / I’ll fuck you blind and make a run for it.” Damn, y’all. (Jeremy H.)
[White Sea plays at 4PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Jupiter Stage.]
 

whitesea1Poolside
It’s a damn good thing LA electro-dance-pop duo Poolside (not to be confused with the pop-punk band I stumbled across with the same name) are playing at the tail end of the afternoon in our hot-as-fuck Houston summer, because if they played at night, I’m not sure it’d work. The pair — Jeffrey Paradise, who used to be in The Calculators, which later morphed into The Rapture, and Filip Nikolic, who played bass in Junior Senior once upon a time — play music that’s defiantly retro-sounding and supremely chilled-out, all cool-ass watery basslines, soul-man vocals, handclaps, and languid keys, and which couldn’t be any more the sound of lazy summer afternoons by the water if it tried.

I was ready to shrug and dismiss these guys almost as soon as the first track started, but dangit, they’re winning me over. Poolside are like the soundtrack to the friendliest, warmest, sunniest dance party you’ve ever seen, the kind where you walk in and it’s all smiles even if nobody’s ever seen you before, and I’m all good with that. (Jeremy H.)
[Poolside plays at 4:40PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Mercury Stage.]
 

Laidback Luke
On a totally different corner of the electronic-music spectrum, there’s Netherlands-bred, Manila-born DJ/producer Laidback Luke, who defies his name by blasting out some of the most irresistibly body-moving music I’ve heard lately that also sounds like it’s meant to make robots dance. I don’t mean that last part as a slight, actually, but just as a descriptor — I actually really like the way the beats and synths eschew the whole “organic” feel of a lot of stuff I’ve heard in recent years. This is the sound of computers exploding with joy and creating themselves brand-new legs with which they can dance for the very first time. (Jeremy H.)
[Laidback Luke plays at 5:50PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Mercury Stage.]
 

shakeygraves1Shakey Graves
I just looked up Austin’s Shakey Graves on YouTube and came up with a song called “Dearly Departed,” which featured a woman named Esme Patterson doing harmonies. Damn, why can’t Shakey Graves always have Esme Patterson with him!? “Dearly Departed” rivals Shovels and Rope (a favorite Americana act of mine) for kickass harmonies and male/female sexual tension, but alas, he will apparently be alone at FPSF. That said, if you want to hear a gruffy Americana-style singer/songwriter, look no further than this guy! (Jason S.)
[Shakey Graves plays at 6:40PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Venus Stage.]
 

Eagle Claw
YUSSS. Eagle Claw play thundering, stomping, crunching, yet still relentlessly sharp-edged instro-metal from (where else?) Austin, the kind that dodges back and forth between sludgy stoner-metal a la The Sword and more straight-up old-school thrash that’s seriously reminiscent of Ride the Lightning-era Metallica. There’re no vocals, sure, but with guitars this heavy and bombastic, who gives a shit? Oh, and did I mention their 2012 album Timing of the Void is a concept album built around Miyamoto Musashi‘s 17th-century work The Book of Five Rings, otherwise known as the book on Japanese swordsmanship? (And yes, my inner 14-year-old AD&D dork is rejoicing at finally being able to use that bit of knowledge.) This couldn’t get more Metal if you lit it on fire and had a Valkyrie brandish it on high like a flaming sword of badassery. (Jeremy H.)
[Eagle Claw plays at 12:40PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Venus Stage.]
 

That’s all we’ve got for now, y’all — more to come…

(Photos [top to bottom]: The Orwells; Lizzo; Washed Out; Ishi; White Sea; Shakey Graves.)


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4 Responses to “FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 1: The Orwells + Lizzo + Washed Out + White Sea + Ishi + Poolside + Eagle Claw + More”

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 2: Wildcat! Wildcat! + Los Skarnales + Cage the Elephant + Welcome to Houston + Classixx + Vampire Weekend + More on May 28th, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    […] you missed Part 1, well, you can look over here for that; we’ll do as many of these damn things as we can before we run out of time. […]

  2. Dean on May 30th, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Jason, I wouldn’t dismiss Shakey Graves so quickly – in the right environment, he’s electric. I’ve seen him twice – first in a tiny bar in Austin, and then at Fitzgerald’s. At the latter show the upstairs room swallowed him and made the whole thing underwhelming, but that first time…watching him sweat and stomp and wrench songs out of his throat while he strangles his guitar is something I haven’t seen often. The man has a palpable air of Real Artist about him that makes me shut up and listen in awe. For this show, at least, I hope the stage is small and the crowd is sparse. I want to soak up all of it for myself.

  3. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 3: The Chain Gang of 1974 + The Kills + Wild Moccasins + J. Roddy Walston & The Business + Wu-Tang Clan + More on July 21st, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    […] yes, yes. We’re on Part 3 of our rundown series (here’s Part 2 and Part 1) for this year’s Free Press Summer Festival, and yeah, I’m starting to scramble a bit […]

  4. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 4: Lord Huron + Destruction Unit + CHVRCHES + Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros + tUnE-yArDs + Jack White + More on June 22nd, 2015 at 9:59 am

    […] y’all — after a week of randomly-selected previews (see here, here, and here, plus interviews with Venomous Maximus and New York City Queens here and here (and there’s a […]

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