Lauryn Hill Stole the Show at FPSF 2014
Outside the gates of FPSF 2014 were members of the Communist Party of America passing out one-sheet pamphlets and issuing their warnings. Outside the gates were Wu-Tang Fans, too poor or too smart to enter the sweltering fest but who had better seats than 99% of ticket-buying Wu-Tang Fans, who suffered from the band being mis-programmed on the third stage like Cage The Elephant and others.
Inside the gates were dozens of uniformed policemen ignoring thousands of marijuana smokers. One white boy in a “Reagan Bush ’84” T-shirt enjoyed the music of Z-Ro. Irony knew no bounds.
Amidst the anonymity of the main stage throng, hundreds of Bud Light-emboldened white dudes crunched 24-ounce cans into hockey puck-sized projectiles and — jubilantly sun-drunk and psychotic — threw them deep into the backs of strangers, a hundred or so feet away.
One young black man was arrested, presumably for wearing four layers of sweatsuits and a winter coat, though he may have been a gate crasher.
If legends still grew out of present-day occurrences, then books would be written about Lauryn Hill‘s tight, fascinating drumbeats, and a rarities-filled set, as she played the main stage in 100-degree heat with a perfection rarely attempted anywhere, anytime. If the show had ended right then and there, she’d have stolen it from Vampire Weekend and the festival-one-off rap collective Welcome To Houston, who brought together Devin the Dude, Paul Wall, Bun B, Z-Ro, Slim Thug, Yungstarr, and Mike Jones.
Mayor Parker and Omar Afra took the main stage after Lauryn Hill. Speaking in a dialogue that could’ve been a thread from any group of friends’ text messages that weekend, the mayor said, “I’m here to introduce Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Then I’m going to watch Wu-Tang, but I’ll meet you back here for Jack White!” Several people in the crowd knew who she was.
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros — like Lauryn Hill — could have anchored, headlined, and ended the festival alone. They’re stronger than a daytime slot in an overheated fest can allow them to prove. Their singer, Alex Ebert, proved this by handing his microphone to — and thus turning all cameras/eyes onto — a few young girls who treated him like a god, or a Beatle, or…a rock star. For those of us who believed young girls didn’t do that for tasteful music anymore, the moment held everything dear to us: pathos, humor, serendipity, grandiosity, and discovery. All things missing in rock radio, but all being things that Ebert, as Edward Sharpe, and the Magnetic Zeroes find regularly on stages around the world.
The long and short of it is that Lauryn Hill stole the show. That’s why Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros took twenty minutes between the time Mayor Parker introduced them and the time they took the stage. The crowd had cycled throughout the grounds, been to the bathroom and the bar. The palate was cleansed. I’ve seen a lot, and nobody would want to follow Lauren Hill that day.
I think that’s why Jack White closed with the famous soccer stadium anthem “Seven Nation Army”. He’d been bitching about stage, sound, electricity, and equipment problems all night. He talked about it, giving it every name you can think of. He even blamed the gods. (He’s Jack White, he wastes time on myth-making.)
But at the end of the festival, at 10:00PM on Sunday night, he knew the only way he’d have truly headlined Houston’s Free Press Summer Festival was to play “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” for ten minutes. And for him, that’s called “Seven Nation Army”. END
(Photos: Tree People inside and outside the gates at Free Press Summerfest; Devin The Dude landed a spaceship onstage; A baby girl in the Fancy Pants tent wearing noise-canceling headphones. All article photos by Creg Lovett. Feature photo by J. Hart.)