FPSF 2015 Rundown, Pt. 2: Buxton + Twin Peaks + Flogging Molly + Tove Lo + Second Lovers + Hiram + Con Brio + The Bright Light Social Hour + ODESZA + BOAN
Yup, we’re back again, as promised, with Part II of our yearly rundown/preview thing of as many of the bands playing at this year’s (and weekend’s, June 6th & 7th) FPSF as our intrepid writers Jeremy Hart and Jason Smith can cram into their respective earholes before it’s go-time and they have to trek out to NRG Park to slow-roast their brains in the hot H-town sun.
In case you missed it, by the by, Part I is over here for your perusal, and with any luck, we’ll keep chunking these things up here on a relatively regular basis between now and Saturday morning, so keep checking back.
Anyway, I’ll keep the introductory blathering to a minimum this time around, and just say allons-y:
Yes, today we’re kicking off with H-town’s golden boys of Americana, Buxton, long may they reign. While I have no doubt they themselves would modestly downplay it, in my own estimation Sergio Trevino and his band of moody, thoughtful, indie-folk-rock heroes have done more to push forward the whole roots-rock/Americana thing in this city than pretty much anybody else, not because they set out to be icons or anything but simply because of the sound they’ve spent the past decade carefully crafting. In the process, they’ve ended up becoming one of that handful of bands I use as a touchstone for the whole genre of music — lately when I hear some new roots-pop band, my initial thought is, “hey, that kinda sounds like Buxton.” And that’s no minor thing, given the relative glut of bands like that these days.
With this year’s Half A Native, too, the band’s doing some welcome broadening of their horizons, opening their arms to grab hold of some more retro-rock sounds than they have before, specifically sun-kissed ’70s California pop-rock. There’s an earthy, relaxed vibe to it, but still enough bite to sink into your skin, at least before they tip their collective hat and ramble on to wherever they’re headed next. (Jeremy H.)
[Buxton plays at 9PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Fancy Pants Tent & at 12:10PM on Sun., June 7th, at the Saturn Stage.]
Looking at the cover of Twin Peaks‘ most recent album, Wild Onion, I found myself nodding and smiling, thinking, “yeah, that makes perfect sense.” It’s washed-out and scuffed-up and worn-looking, like an old Polaroid you dug out of a box in your parents’ garage of your dad and his best buds back when they were kids. The music’s similarly beat-up around the edges and old-school, in the best way possible, bringing to mind both vintage garage-rock from the ’60s and early-’80s pop-rock wearing denim jackets and cutoff t-shirts.
It’s four dudes making straight-up, back-in-the-day rawk not because they’re riding a wave of any kind because, fuck, they want to, and it’s pretty damn great for all that. There’re several spots on Wild Onion where I find myself thinking of I Should Coco-era Supergrass — they’ve just got that same don’t-care-who-cares? level of manic, youthful energy, especially on “Fade Away” — and others where they draw heavily from the power-pop of The Cars (down to a serious vocal resemblance to Ric Ocasek on “Making Breakfast,” even), and I’m grinning wide the whole way through. (Jeremy H.)
[Twin Peaks plays at 12:40PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Saturn Stage.]
I’ve got a big soft spot in my quarter-Irish soul for the many varieties of Celtic folk-rock floating around out there, and one of the brightest lights going in that realm is absolutely L.A. band Flogging Molly, formed back in the mid-’90s by Dave King, a transplanted Dubliner who’d previously been the lead singer for blink-and-miss-’em ’80s metal band Fastway (which yours truly remembers fondly mostly for their sweet-ass soundtrack to the reportedly-terrible horror flick Trick or Treat; never saw the movie, but I loved that cassette tape once upon a time…).
The band’s notable not only for its grafting of Irish folk sounds and instrumentation to loud guitars and punk-speed rhythms, but also for their strident politics, singing songs in the vein of Woody Guthrie about the working man who can’t find honest work, about governments allowing once-vibrant neighborhoods to fall into decay, and about illegal immigrants who’re trapped in the shadows in American society and living in constant fear of deportation. King’s one hell of a storyteller, and a firebrand, to boot, and he (and the rest of the band) lends the songs an awesomely righteous fury, a fury I’m seriously looking forward to witnessing live. (Jeremy H.)
[Flogging Molly plays at 5:30PM on Sun., June 7th, at the Neptune Stage.]
Okay, so here I have to make an admission that feels a little weird, to me, although I suspect it’ll happen more and more as life rolls on: if it weren’t for my 11-year-old daughter, I would have no idea who Tove Lo is. Thanks, however, to my child’s obsession with The Hunger Games books and movies, I most certainly do, because the Swedish singer’s “Scream My Name” spent a good long while in rotation on the minivan stereo (along with the rest of the Mockingjay soundtrack) in 2014.
And yes, I resisted the lure, at first, but I’m finding myself drawn more and more to Queen of the Clouds, Ms. Nilsson‘s (her full name’s apparently “Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson”) debut album. It’s surprisingly dark once you peer behind the lush electronic sounds and bouncing beats; the lyrics are actually very gritty and honest and down-to-earth, an unvarnished look at desire and humanity that’s a far cry from the ultra-shiny, sexualized-yet-bland pop that’s all around these days. So now I’m torn, cringing at the thought of my daughter listening to stuff like “Talking Body” but hoping at the same time that she can hear a song like “Timebomb” and recognize the vulnerability and risk in it. (Jeremy H.)
[Tove Lo plays at 3:20PM on Sun., June 7th, at the Mars Stage.]
I’m listening to the Second Lovers‘ new single, “Hold On,” and realizing what progress and many member transitions the band have endured (or indeed how much they themselves have had to “hold on”) to get to this point. Through all of the experimenting and figuring out exactly what he wants to tell Houston and the rest of the world with his band, Nic Morales has been steadfast in his commitment to make a big statement. And with this song — and certainly with the help of producer (and maybe one of Houston’s top sound artists) John Stephens of New York City Queens — Nic and company do make a big statement. It’s definitely on the poppier — maybe even dancey — side of Americana (think Family of the Year and The Mowglis, with a dash of Kings of Leon). The harmonies sparkle, and the drums and bass drive us ever forward, and now they’re really taking us all toward the destination Nic wants to drive us to. (Jason S.)
[Second Lovers play at 12PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Neptune Stage.]
Damn those name changes… Okay, so I grabbed the name Hiram and did my best to dig up anything on the guy, but I came up with not a damn thing other than A) he’s in the FPSF 2015 lineup, B) he’s a DJ/producer, C) he’s from Houston, and D) he’s the founder of something called the Heuristic Collective, which might be a record label or might be a bunch of affiliated EDM artists or might be something else entirely. Then I dug a little deeper and discovered, lo and behold, that I’ve heard this guy before, back when he called himself Yung Slutty. Seems he changed his behind-the-laptop name to his actual name, which is kind of refreshing to see.
What I can hear of his music under the new moniker is refreshing, too. It’s warm and bright but not as sleepy as some of the other stuff I’ve listened to so far for these FPSF rundown things (although there is a resemblance to what George West is doing, to my ears); lots of shiny-sharp sounds, spacey/futuristic electronic touches, low-to-midtempo beats, and the occasional downcast synth (see “hypertension”) all combine to make something that’s not easy to nail down to one EDM subgenre but is cool to listen to all the same. (Jeremy H.)
[Hiram plays at 11:10AM on Sun., June 7th, at the Mercury Stage.]
Whoa. Okay: imagine an alternate universe where Michael Jackson didn’t die and (better yet) didn’t go crazy, but instead groomed a young protege and taught him everything he knew, and then that protege got hooked up with retro-soul guys the Dap-Kings, producer extraordinaire Pharrell, and funky electro-Frenchmen Daft Punk with the sole purpose of coming up with a damn-near perfect blend of funk, soul, pop, and rock.
Got that in your head? Good; the band’s name is Con Brio, they hail from San Francisco, and as soon as they take the stage and frontman Ziek McCarter opens his mouth and starts to strut his stuff, you’ll see what I’m talking about. Oh, and did I mention the guy’s got a flawless falsetto that puts Bruno Mars’ to shame? Not even kidding. (Jeremy H.)
[Con Brio plays at 2PM on Sun., June 7th, at the Jupiter Stage.]
The Bright Light Social Hour
So here’s where I like to pull my old man hipster rank on everyone. I first saw Austin’s The Bright Light Social Hour back in 2011 (thanks to Lunaface Promotions!) and immediately had to book them for a show of my own. I just loved their freewheeling vibe and unbelievable chops (that’s hip musician speak for “talent”) and needed to bring them back to Houston again. Since I was in on the ground floor, so to speak, I’m really proud of what they have been able to do in the 4+ years since. As for some musical cues, I think you will like these guys if you like your Dark Side mixed in with some Allman Brothers. In other words, you will like them if you don’t mind your British Psych mixed with your Freedom Rock. Yes, TBLSH are classic and they rock! (Jason S.)
[The Bright Light Social Hour plays at 5:10PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Venus Stage.]
Next up, there’s ODESZA — not super-heavy metal dudes Odessa from DFW, mind you, but the Seattle electronic duo of Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, who also go by the respective monikers CatacombKid and BeachesBeaches because of course they do (why use one name when three will do?). They’re apparently chillwave, but I’ve got to admit that I have no real clue what that label means, sound-wise. To my EDM-outsider ears, they draw a fair bit from ’80s-style electro-pop, with lots of big, bright, sweeping sounds and primary-colored melodies to make you wave your arms dreamily in the air, but they amp it up to stadium-sized levels and then blend in bass that’s almost stripped of any edges whatsoever and some interesting Indian(?)-sounding touches and manipulated vocals.
I’ve been listening to the band’s 2014 release, In Return, and it makes me think of Pretty Lights, which is no bad thing — both acts have a very “visual,” cinematic feel to their music, like it’s music that’s meant to be set to something up there on the big screen. Listening to some of the album, especially tracks like “Sundara,” I feel like I should be watching the sun come up over a distant beach somewhere as the people who make their homes there begin their day. (Jeremy H.)
[ODESZA plays at 9PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Mercury Stage.]
You may not know the name BOAN, but if you’re at all an afficionado of the incestuous nexus of experimental-ish electronic music that stretches between Houston and Austin, you probably know the people involved, at least — this is the latest project of Mariana Saldana and Jose Cota, once upon a time of Medio Mutante, //TENSE//, SSLEEPERHOLD, and probably another half-dozen all-caps projects I’ve never heard of. This time around, Saldana and Cota are making music that’s a throwback to retro-synthpop of decades past, calling to mind early industrial and New Wave electro music (I keep thinking of early Depeche Mode, in particular, at least on the more melodic tracks) and holding tight, it seems, to their old-school hardware; no laptops here, apparently.
I’ve only been able to hear bits and pieces of BOAN’s soon-to-be-released debut, Mentiras, but I’m intrigued so far; Saldana speak-sings primarily Spanish lyrics in an icy, detached tone while Cota’s synths and vintage drum machines drone and stutter along beneath, and the effect is kind of like a darkwave, south-of-the-border Gary Numan, but maybe with Siouxsie Sioux on the microphone. Not sure how the sound will work in the bright light of day, mind you — to my ears, this is music far better suited to a late, late night on a darkened stage… (Jeremy H.)
[Boan plays at 2:10PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Mercury Stage.]
And with that, I need to sleep, badly. Keep checking back, though, because there’s more on the way, alright?
(Photos [top to bottom]: Buxton; Twin Peaks; Flogging Molly; Tove Lo; Second Lovers; Hiram; Con Brio; The Bright Light Social Hour; ODESZA; BOAN. Twin Peaks photo by Pooneh Ghana; Second Lovers photo by Daniel Jackson.)