FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 3: The Chain Gang of 1974 + The Kills + Wild Moccasins + J. Roddy Walston & The Business + Wu-Tang Clan + More

chaingangof1974-1Yes, 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 to get as many of these things written and up as we can. The big day is fast approaching, and yeah, we’re running out of time.

We’ll soldier on, though, with the next pile of bands you might want to check out — all randomly-selected — this Saturday (May 31st) and Sunday (June 1st). And as I’ve mentioned before, we’re not the only people currently blathering on about the FPSF festivities; I’ve run across some more articles & such by other folks, and you ought to read those, too:

laurynhill1Oh, and when Googling this AM, I noticed an interesting little change; yesterday there was a story up from Katy-based paper The Rancher entitled “Free Press Summer Fest ‘putting Houston on the map'”. It seemed a little bit hyperbolic to me, I’ll admit, but hey, what the hell. As of this morning, though, the title’s been changed — it’s now “‘putting Houston on the map’ for young folks“. So…I guess that means somebody out in Katy complained that goldurnit, Houston’s been on the map for more than a century now, and what’s with all this newfangled rock music those delinquent kids listen to these days? Ah, Katy…

Annnnyway. Off we go:

The Chain Gang of 1974
Currently based out of Los Angeles, The Chain Gang of 1974 became famous among video game players last year when the song “Sleepwalking” was featured in Grand Theft Auto V. Not being a gamer myself, they were just another band on the list of acts I wanted to see at SXSW this year but missed in my overplanning — I tend to only get to see a third of the bands I want to see at SXSW. Luckily, we’ll have another chance to see them here at FPSF! Musically, they’re a synth-pop, indietronica band that reminds me a lot of M83, though live they use guitar and bass, along with the electronics, where M83 is all electronics (save drums). Chain Gang of 1974 is also more high-energy live and makes an effort to get the crowd involved in the performance. So get ready to dance and rock out in the heat! Then quickly retreat into the Fancy Pants Tent to recover and get ready for the next band. (Jason S.)
[The Chain Gang of 1974 plays at 3:30PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Mercury Stage.]

Ms. Lauryn Hill
Alright, so I’m just going to come out and say it: what the hell happened to Lauryn Hill? Throw your mind back to those heady days in the late ’90s, when the Fugees were still a big thing, neo-soul was in its ascendancy, and the world seemed good. Ms. Hill released her stellar debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, in 1998, and everybody loved it, and then… Well, apparently she went a little nuts for a few years there. She reunited with the Fugees, then broke up again acrimoniously, rambled in and out of the spotlight a few times, performed her own songs to mixed reviews, insisted that everybody call her “Ms.” Laury Hill, and went into a self-imposed “exile”.

And now, she’s back. Kind of. She actually went to prison last year for not paying taxes, and the song she recorded around that time, “Consumerism,” is a hell of a lot more experimental than anything I’ve heard from Hill before now, seemingly informed less by old-school soul and more by spoken-word poetry; it’s fast-moving, so much so that the sounds are occasionally rarely recognizable as words but instead sound more like the sounds that make up those words, disassembled. It and previous single “Neurotic Society” are dark and bleak and claustrophobic, the music stuttering and bumping along in a way that echoes Saul Williams or P.O.S. at times more than it does any of Hill’s earlier work. Yeah, she’s back, but she’s changed since she’s been away; whatever happens this weekend, it should be interesting… (Jeremy H.)
[Ms. Lauryn Hill plays at 4:50PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Mars Stage.]

thekills1The Kills
Though the super-music-snob in me resists the music of The Kills (I prefer Alison Mosshart‘s collaboration with Jack White, The Dead Weather, and I’m a real fan of The Raconteurs), I have friends (like our editor, Jeremy Hart) that swear by the veteran group, which debuted in 2003 and has four LPs behind them, so I am listening to some of their music to myself today and finding some enjoyable dark and danceable qualities I hadn’t noticed before.

On songs like “The Future Starts Slow” and “DNA,” I’m won over by Mosshart’s charm and beauty (and hair flipping), though the music seems to stay in the same place most of the time (X meets Jesus and Mary Chain meets Garbage). I will certainly be front and center to capture her on “digital film,” and I bet I’m not the only photographer to have them marked as a must-see. Come join me? And then later in the evening cross your fingers with me for some Dead Weather songs during Jack White’s set… (Jason S.)
[The Kills plays at 4:50PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Saturn Stage.]

thedeadlinks1The Dead Links
The roster of Houston-based industrial-tinged pop outfit The Dead Links may look a little familiar to folks who’ve paid attention to music in this fair city for the past couple of decades, and for good reason. The band’s a relatively-recent collaboration between Scott Ayers, guitarist and songwriter for ’90s noise-rock icons Pain Teens and a member of more “side” bands than I can count, and Ken Sheppard, the vocalist for fellow (although significantly poppier) ’90s band Twenty Mondays, and it comes off as nearly a perfect median between the two.

I had pretty high hopes for the band’s one album so far, last year’s High As It Goes, and the band blew them out of the water with ease. Musically, it rides a line between murky, menacing modern rock and more sweet-sounding, straight-up electronicized pop, with Sheppard’s vocals bringing to mind Placebo more than anything else; it’s electronic while remaining a firmly “guitar” band, it’s anthemic and lush at points, and it’s almost post-modern in feel. Not sure how it’ll fare in the bright light of the sun, but I’m psyched either way. (Jeremy H.)
[The Dead Links play at 11:10AM on Sun., June 1st, at the Venus Stage.]

wildmoccasins1Wild Moccasins
Everyone knows these guys and a lady, right? Houston’s own Wild Moccasins have been a natural phenomenon for just about as long as FPSF has been around. In fact, it’s hard to believe they ever didn’t exist, but there was a time. Indeed, I can be one of the few to lay claim to being at their first show. They played the “Secret Saturday Show” series (someone should bring those back!) — in about 2008.

I’ve probably seen them about a dozen times since, most recently at their album release show at Numbers earlier this year, yet I still find it hard to describe their sound, except to say that you have to experience them for yourselves. Other than that, I describe them as somewhere on the poppy spectrum between Talking Heads and B-52s. You really need to get that album on vinyl, friends. (Jason S.)
[Wild Mocasins play at 1PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Mars Stage.]

J. Roddy Walston & The Business
Tennessee-bred, Baltimore-dwelling dudes J. Roddy Walston & The Business play rowdy, raggedy-edged, soulful, boogie-woogie rock ‘n roll like the last 40 years or so just plain didn’t happen, and yeah, that’s a damn good thing. They’re rootsy and raw, in a way that feels awesomely unforced, like they came meandering out of the Appalachian backwoods having spent their respective childhoods being steeped in nothing but vintage Jerry Lee Lewis, Otis Redding, Skynyrd, and Zeppelin. There’s a resemblance to fellow country boys (and FPSF performers) Drive-By Truckers, but also a heavy similarity to early, pre-hype Kings of Leon and Austin rockers Moonlight Towers, all of which are just fine by me. Listen to the bumping, ’60s-tinged “Take It As It Comes” or the soul raveup of “Midnight Cry,” and tell me these guys aren’t the real thing; you simply can’t. (Jeremy H.)
[J. Roddy Walston & The Business play at 1:40PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Saturn Stage.]

wutangclan1Wu-Tang Clan
What can I really say here? If you’re not at least aware of who the Wu-Tang Clan are, then you’ve somehow spent the last 20 years sealed in a cryogenic chamber or something; even if you first heard ’em on the Knocked Up soundtrack (yeah, you know who you are), you’ve heard ’em. They’ve risen to the top tier of the hip-hop realm, both collectively and on their own, and the whole thing about the Wu “dynasty” seems a lot less silly when you look at the insane amount of recorded output that’s come from every damn member (except U-God, the poor guy) over the years. There’re only five real Wu-Tang albums, not including this year’s promised A Better Tomorrow, but easily four times that in affiliated/solo albums, some of which are freaking amazing on their own (Ghostface Killah‘s Fishscale and Raekwon‘s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, for two).

I’m seriously psyched to (hopefully) finally get to see these guys live. There aren’t many rap groups who laid the foundations like these guys did, and fewer still are still rolling after two decades. (Jeremy H.)
[Wu-Tang Clan plays at 7:30PM on Sun., June 1st, at the Neptune Stage.]

I’m just starting to realize where my schedule conflicts will be, and here’s the first one: 1PM on Saturday. On the Mars Stage, we’ve got Wild Moccasins, while on the Mercury Stage, we’ve got BLSHS. I’ll flip a coin and try to catch a little of each.

Anyway, about BLSHS’ music; my first inclination is to compare them to CHVRCHES. Both bands have the ALL CAPS thing going on. Both bands have gimmicks in their name. Both bands have absolutely gorgeous female singers and two excellent synth- and sequencer-playing men backing her. Both play energetic, danceable synth-pop. But the bands diverge, upon further inspection. BLSHS offers a darker, sadder, more goth sound than CHVRCHES, and adds some Portishead-type influences. On top of that, they’re from Houston, so they’ve got the home field advantage going for them. I definitely recommend BLSHS! (Jason S.)
[BLSHS plays at 1PM on Sat., May 31st, at the Mercury Stage.]

Gah. Okay, I need sleep; more tomorrow…

(Photos [top to bottom]: The Chain Gang of 1974; Ms. Lauryn Hill; The Kills; The Dead Links; Wild Moccasins; Wu-Tang Clan. The Chain Gang of 1974 photo by Shane McCauley.)

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One Response to “FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 3: The Chain Gang of 1974 + The Kills + Wild Moccasins + J. Roddy Walston & The Business + Wu-Tang Clan + More”

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2014 Rundown, Pt. 4: Lord Huron + Destruction Unit + CHVRCHES + Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros + tUnE-yArDs + Jack White + More on May 31st, 2014 at 1:07 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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