FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 2: Wildcat! Wildcat! + Los Skarnales + Cage the Elephant + Welcome to Houston + Classixx + Vampire Weekend + More

wildcatwildcat1Howdy, all — back again with Part 2 of this year’s previews/rundowns/whatevers for Free Press Summer Festival, which will be exploding this coming weekend, Sat., May 31st, and Sun., June 1st, in the sweaty, muddy, noise-filled bowl formerly known as Eleanor Tinsley Park (i.e., just west of the big pointy parts of Downtown).

If 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. We’ve also got a cool interview up with consummate badass Gregg Higgins of Venomous Maximus, who’re themselves playing FPSF this year, and we’ve got a handful of other preview-interviews to come, so keep an eye out.

Mind you, SCR is hardly the only outfit covering this year’s festival — hell, if anything, it looks like FPSF is getting more media pre-coverage than it ever has before, at least on the local front. Here’re a few other places/articles to check out:

Alright, enough of that; here goes (and again, times may change — see here for the latest schedule):

Wildcat! Wildcat!
I have to admit, I’ve been somewhat hot-and-cold on the current ’80s-inflected synth-pop revival; a lot of it doesn’t do much more than drag me kicking and screaming back to the genre’s heyday, and hell, I didn’t like it very much the first time around. That said, with not much beyond a meager self-titled, four-track EP to their name so far, Wildcat! Wildcat! have managed to freaking own the whole damn thing (in my brain, at least). From the very first snapping beat, laidback bass note, and impassioned-yet-distant falsetto melody, they surge upwards into territory first mapped out by MGMT, enveloping those ’80s influences and making them into something new and irresistible. (Jeremy H.)
[Wildcat! Wildcat! plays at 2PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Mercury Stage.]

graciechavez1Gracie Chavez
I’m always a little reluctant to review or preview DJs for these sorts of festivals, largely because I just don’t feel like I have the vocabulary to talk about ’em properly. But dammit, I’m committed to this whole “randomly-selected” thing, which means I can’t cherry-pick just the people I know how to talk about, right? We here at SCR have standards, fer crissakes, low though they may be.

With my foot pre-planted in my mouth, then, I’ll point out that this is actually Gracie Chavez‘s second time (possibly third?) appearing at FPSF — she’s also a member of Bombon, the roving Latin-tinged dance party that played the festival last year. Listening to Chavez solo, though, she’s a little different; while both play music that’s ridiculously danceable, with a seriously deep Latin flavor, Chavez on her own throws in a whole lot more of the booty-shaking beats, not to mention some nicely-layered synth (and real?) horns and the occasional vintage Nintendo noise. As it seeps into my skull, I can’t help but want to hear more; vocabulary or no, I figure that’s a good thing, right? (Jeremy H.)
[Gracie Chavez plays at 11:10AM on Sun., June 1st, at the Jupiter Stage.]

The Oh Hellos
At this point in my FPSF preview writing, we’re getting into unfamiliar territory. Here’s where I get to find new favorite acts to see at Free Press SummerFest. The Oh Hellos are a young folk/country/Americana group with male/female, brother/sister vocals (Tyler and Maggie Heath) that hail from San Marcos, TX. With two albums and a Christmas EP under their belts, they’re definitely starting to pick up momentum on the national Americana scene. It totally makes sense that they would sound like they do, considering Gruene Hall is right in their backyard. Fans of The Lumineers, The Head and the Heart, The Mowglis, and Houston’s own Buxton should definitely catch their set. They’re headed to Newport Folk Festival this year, as well, and that can only spell out a bright future for The Oh Hellos! (Jason S.)
[The Oh Hellos play at 1:30PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Mars Stage.]

paperdiamond1Paper Diamond
Next up we’ve got Colorado-living, weed-loving electronic artist Paper Diamond, who impresses me by being less like a dancefloor DJ and more like a producer, somebody like Lazerbeak or Diplo; there’s a whole hell of a lot of meat to these tracks, a thickness to ’em that makes it feel like they’re dripping out of the speakers like a syrup. Admittedly, it may be because I’ve got a soft spot for bassists who make the shift to electronic music, but to me Paper Diamond’s tracks stand out as actual songs, rather than just beats and samples and synths tacked together to make people get out on the floor and dance. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, obviously, but I, at least, don’t want to do it all the damn time. (Jeremy H.)
[Paper Diamond plays at 7:20PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Mercury Stage.]

losskarnales1aLos Skarnales
20 years. That’s how long H-town ska icons have been tearing up stages, people — off and on, but still — to which I have to say: holy fucking shit. Wow. It does my soul good to see them back alive and rolling, truly, especially since the Skarnales were one of the first ska bands I ever saw live, from here or anywhere. Not only are they hard at work playing, but they’re recording, even, releasing Dále Shine! back in 2010, an album that expands nicely on the band’s sound, more fully incorporating more of the cumbia and Tejano stuff they’d always toyed around with back in the day. There’s still plenty of old-school ska in there, though; despite the fact that the lyrics are in Spanish, I defy any ska fan out there to listen and not hear brilliant, vibrant echoes of The English Beat and Madness, in particular. (Jeremy H.)
[Los Skarnales play at 2:10PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Jupiter Stage.]

Cage the Elephant
My single live experience with Bowling Green, Kentucky’s Cage the Elephant came at a Woodlands Buzzfest, where the band headlined the side stage. I had no experience with the band, but was instantly converted into a fan. Their singer, Matthew Schultz, has a Mick Jagger flair and was as fun to photograph (or try to — he moved so quickly, and the lights were low, so he was hard to capture) as anyone I’ve photographed in a long time. Musically, they are a great match for fans of bluesy rock a la Jack White, so hopefully a lot of Jack White fans happen to see their set. (Jason S.)
[Cage the Elephant plays at 5:50PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Neptune Stage.]

welcometohouston1Welcome to Houston
People. People. Do I really have to do this? BUN B. SLIM THUG. DEVIN THE DUDE. Z-RO. PAUL WALL. MIKE JONES. TOGETHER. ON THE SAME GODDAMN STAGE. Seriously, y’all, this is like some crazy-ass cosmic convergence of Houston hip-hop; it won’t happen again for another hundred fucking years. Don’t miss it. (Jeremy H.)
[Welcome to Houston plays at 6:10PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Neptune Stage.]

Childish Gambino
Up front: I don’t know much about Donald Glover outside of Childish Gambino; I’ve yet to watch an episode of Community, and I’ve seriously got no clue what else he’s been in beyond that. So all I’ve got to go on here is what’s coming through the headphones, and y’know, that’s fine by me. Because listening to Because The Internet is really all I actually need — all I need is that quirky, half-serious delivery, that alternately ethereal and menacing production (which makes me think happily of Mike Ladd at several points), that insanely smart/sarcastic lyricism, and those oddball chunks of guitar rock and strings, and I’m good. (Jeremy H.)
[Childish Gambino plays at 7PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Mars Stage.]

I’m so glad these guys are playing FPSF, as I had completely intended to see Classixx (synthesizer masters Michael David and Tyler Blake, with various guest singers) at SXSW, and I just never found myself at the right place at the right time. Musically, they take me back to Madonna’s first album and mid-period Kraftwerk, and though they do include elements of modern dance music in their songs, Classixx seems to be an appropriate name for them. On YouTube, I have seen them just play with a vocal track, as well as videos of them at Coachella with the singers. I sincerely hope they bring the singers along for FPSF! Rest assured, between CHVRCHES, Classixx, and Houston’s own BLSHS, you are going to have plenty of chances to dance and sweat at FPSF! (Jason S.)
[Classixx plays at 3:10PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Mercury Stage.]

vampireweekend1Vampire Weekend
Yes, it’s true — not long ago I, like most of the world, had gotten heartily, thoroughly sick of freaking Vampire Weekend. They went from being this kinda-neat new band to being this band that was suddenly everywhere, and I got absolutely overwhelmed by ’em. It’s not their fault, strictly speaking — hype is a tricky, dangerous thing — but that’s the way it went. When they finally faded from view, I assumed they’d sink without a trace into the muck that’s swallowed thousands of overhyped bands who came before.

Except that’s not what happened. The Vampire Weekend guys apparently got hit with the backlash, shrugged, and just kept on doing what they felt like doing, and then nonchalantly released Modern Vampires of the City last year. And whoa, is it good. Crystal-clean, shiny-sweet (but still warm-hearted) indie-pop so beautiful it makes me want to cry, then sing along; it’s like what I always figured The Shins were supposed to sound like but never did, or what David Garza might’ve done after his stellar late-’90s album This Euphoria. It’s intricate and wonderful and one of the best things I heard in all of 2013. (Jeremy H.)
[Vampire Weekend plays at 8:50PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Mars Stage.]

Annnnnnd that’s it for us here at SCR for now. Check back soon, eh?

(Photos [top to bottom]: Wildcat! Wildcat!; Gracie Chavez; Paper Diamond; Los Skarnales; Welcome to Houston flyer; Classixx; Vampire Weekend.)

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2 Responses to “FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 2: Wildcat! Wildcat! + Los Skarnales + Cage the Elephant + Welcome to Houston + Classixx + Vampire Weekend + More”

  1. 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 May 30th, 2014 at 1:03 am

    […] 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 […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 4: Lord Huron + Destruction Unit + CHVRCHES + Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros + tUnE-yArDs + Jack White + More on July 31st, 2014 at 12:10 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 […]

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