FPSF 2015 Rundown, Pt. 3: Seratones + Steve Angello + St. Vincent + Freeman + The Suffers + The Band of Heathens + GTA + Ben Kweller + Tears for Fears + Weezer
Annnnnd here we are, once again, with the third installment of SCR‘s forever(?)-annual FPSF rundown deal, where Jason Smith and Jeremy Hart yammer and gush about a randomly-selected pile of bands that just so happen to be playing this coming Saturday, June 6th, and Sunday, June 7th, over at the festival’s backup venue, NRG Park. I’ve seen some pictures online of the festival site so far, and I’ve gotta say, it’s making me a lot more excited for this thing than my grumpy-old-man self had expected to be…
Now, first off, for the previous two parts of these here rundown things, you can hop on over here and here, read to your heart’s content, get excited, all that stuff. We’re still rolling on these previews and attempting to get as many bands written-about as we can handle in the time remaining between now and Zero Hour.
Then I wanted to mention something that’s kinda neat about this year’s Fancy Pants tents before we truly dive into this thing: if you happen to snag one of those sweet, sweet FP passes, not only does it get you vital access to air-conditioned tents (for which you will be saying “thankyouohsweetmotherofallthatsholy” by about two hours into Saturday), but you’ll also get to see special, exclusive sets by a cool slate of FPSF performers. That means an acoustic sets by The Suffers (woo!), Buxton (double woo!), Ben Kweller, and Portugal. The Man, a solo set by Major Lazer‘s Diplo(!), a set of cover tunes by Robert Ellis (triple woo!), and DJ sets by Iceage, Future Islands, and Tycho (but…wait…isn’t he already a DJ…? Never mind…). Space is limited, apparently, so even if you do have a Fancy Pants pass, you’d better get there early.
Oh, and if you’ve never been to FPSF before, I’d highly, highly recommend checking out the handy guide those Free Press Houston folks have put together for how to prepare and what to expect/look forward to once you’re there. It’s all good, good info, especially those last two on the list, which boil down to “don’t be a dick” and “be safe and make sure other people are, too”.
While we’re at it, you should be aware that SCR is most definitely not the only media-ish thing talking about FPSF; here’s other mentions I’ve run across the past few days:
- “12 Cant-Miss Acts at FPSF 2015,” Houston Press
- “Photos of the FPSF Buildout at NRG Park,” Marco Torres, Houston Press
- “FPSF Rolls with the Punches, Into NRG Park,” Chris Gray, Houston Press
- “John Darnielle wrestles with his music,” Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle
- “Free Press Summer Fest venue changes explained,” Joey Guerra, Houston Chronicle
- “Free Press Summer Fest will offer Fancy Pants tents upgrade option at the door,” Darla Guillen, Houston Chronicle
- “10 things you need to know before going to this weekend’s Free Press Summer Festival,” Craig Hlavaty, Houston Chronicle
- “Free Press Summer Festival preview: Second Lovers,” David Cobb, Houston Calling
- “Free Press Summer Festival preview: Deep Cuts,” David Cobb, Houston Calling
- “Free Press Summer Festival preview: Tears for Fears,” David Cobb, Houston Calling
- “Free Press Summer Festival preview: Band of Horses,” David Cobb, Houston Calling
- “Free Press Summer Festival preview: We Were Wolves,” David Cobb, Houston Calling
- “Free Press Summer Festival preview: Robert Ellis,” David Cobb, Houston Calling
- “Limitless Music in Houston! A Free Press Summer Fest Ticket Giveaway,” Houston: The City With No Limits
- “Summer Fest & More: The Best of the Week,” David Garrick, Free Press Houston
- “Tread Lightly: Mastodon Returns to Houston,” David Garrick, Free Press Houston
- “Getting to Know the FPSF Locals: Guilla,” David Garrick, Free Press Houston
- “Getting to Know the FPSF Locals: Deep Cuts,” David Garrick, Free Press Houston
- “Getting to Know the FPSF Locals: Night Drive,” David Garrick, Free Press Houston
- “Music fests, world premiere dance and dazzling magic headline the best weekend events in Houston,” Alex Bentley, Culturemap Houston
- “Top Things to Do This Weekend: June 5-7,” Maggie Berardo, Houstonia
- “Big names, Texas favs at two-day Houston festival,” Leah Fillion, The Advertiser
And with that, away we go:
I’ve only been able to dig up a measly two songs by Shreveport’s Seratones, and dammit, now I’m jonesing for more in a big, big way. They’re raw and loud and gritty and bluesy, riding the line between Alabama Shakes and Noisettes, but with bigger, heavier guitars and vocals that actually sound a little like Neko Case at times (on “Chokin’ On Your Spit (Karma),” at least). Frontwoman A.J. Haynes is a fireball of soulful blues-rawk-stomp fury, simmering low when it’s necessary and roaring like a woman possessed when that’s necessary, and she and her bandmates make it work awesomely well both ways.
Now I just need to hear more of this band beyond the two songs they’ve released so far over on their Bandcamp page. Please-please-please give us a little more, Seratones folks — seriously, I need it bad. (Jeremy H.)
[Seratones play at 1:40PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Venus Stage.]
I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of EDM is sorely, sorely lacking; my liking of electronic music doesn’t really encompass the most recent couple of generations of the now-massive musical genre, so I feel like I struggle with it when my main comparison points are people like Leftfield, early Daft Punk, and The Crystal Method, y’know?
That said, listening to Steve Angello, I feel a little more at home. There’s just something about the music the ex-Swedish House Mafia member that feels — to me, anyway — like it’s tied more firmly to the electronic music I became obsessed with in my post-college years. It’s more straightforward, in a way, just these gigantic beats and synths that sound like they need to be booming out of speakers the size of your car while your head explodes with the colors and noise; I get the same feeling listening to his tracks that I did the first time I heard The Crystal Method, and in my book that’s not bad company to be in. (Jeremy H.)
[Steve Angello plays at 9:50PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Saturn Stage.]
No introduction necessary, right? I love love love St. Vincent and I know that in 40 years, when I’m in a wheelchair at the old folks’ home, the nurses will all say, “hey, that’s the guy who got to photograph St. Vincent.” (Jason S.)
[St. Vincent plays at 8PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Saturn Stage.]
I was a little unsure about this one. I’ve never been a big Ween fan — don’t hate ’em, but never really liked ’em, either — so I didn’t have high expectations for Freeman, the eponymous band of Aaron Freeman, the “Gene” half of the band, who apparently quit Ween because he needed to deal with his addictions and remain sober (which, yeah, I get that being necessary). The first random couple of songs I ran across didn’t do much to change my outlook, leaving me thinking, “Okay, so this is Gene Ween as Paul McCartney, I guess? Not bad, but y’know…”
Then I heard “Covert Discretion,” the quiet (mostly), fragile, Elliott Smith-esque guy-and-a-guitar track that starts off Freeman, which sees Freeman fighting those very demons of fame and addiction and need, dealing with an audience that wants interaction with you but maybe doesn’t even see you as a real-live human being and doesn’t care about the pain you’re going through as long as they get what they want. Towards the end of the song, he hits bottom…and then he comes back up, and so does the song, roaring into an electrified, anthemic, full-band break, with Freeman defiantly declaring, “Fuck you all / I got a reason to live / and I’m never gonna die.” And it’s so freaking perfect, so intensely personal, so powerful and honest, that I can’t help but love it. And now I need to take a deeper listen to the rest. (Jeremy H.)
[Freeman plays at 1PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Mars Stage.]
Ah, yeah. I feel like we talk a lot about The Suffers ’round here, but dangit, they’re worth it, I swear. Since their arrival on the scene a few years back, they’ve literally done not a damn thing that wasn’t awesome, from their stellar live performances (the last time I saw ’em, in fact, was on an early-in-the-day FPSF stage; they handled the beach balls thrown at them while playing with remarkably good humor) to the smooth-but-warm, deliciously layered Make Some Room EP they released this past January to their surprise appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman (where, yes, they absolutely won over Letterman & Paul Shaffer). Plus, they’re all genuinely nice, down-to-earth folks who seem honestly happy to be where they are.
Beyond all that, though, it’s the music that really does the trick. They meld together Southern-fried funk, old-school soul, reggae/rocksteady, and straight-up, good-time rock together in a way that few other bands ever have, and with Kam Franklin‘s amazing voice right out front there, I can’t help but compare The Suffers to folks like Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Bettye LaVette, and Aretha Franklin. They’re that good, honest; you can ignore anything I’m saying, absolutely, but just listen, and you’ll see. (Jeremy H.)
[The Suffers play at 2:10PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Saturn Stage, and at 4:10PM on Sun., June 7th, at the Fancy Pants Tent.]
The Band of Heathens
At this point in the ever-shifting world of music, Austin boys The Band of Heathens are nearing to the status of Grand Old Men of Texas-bred Americana — and justifiably so, given their finely-tuned, impeccably crafted, ’70s-tinted take on country-rock. Most of what I’ve heard from the band comes from 2013’s Sunday Morning Record, which is a hell of an album, a distillation of the music of folks like Townes Van Zandt, The Eagles, and Gram Parsons (and the more contemporary Uncle Tupelo) poured into a hazy-yet-clean glass at the bar at some dusty, workaday town near no place in particular.
It’s that rare album that is exactly what’s advertised on the label: a record that’s meant to be listened to on a lazy, warm Texas Sunday morning, maybe after you come home from church and absolutely when no store in town’ll open its doors for the day, so you just sit back on a porch or backyard chair or gentle rock, with a record player nearby, and smile as you listen along. (Jeremy H.)
[The Band of Heathens plays at 1:30PM on Sun., June 7th, at the Mars Stage.]
Out of the different EDM acts I’ve listened to so far, Miami duo GTA are by far the most straight-up dancefloor-centric group of the bunch. They’re not here to expand your mind, or make you gape in wonder at the lush beauty of their sound, or chill out in a field of bright yellow flowers, or whatever the fuck else; they’re here for one reason only, and that is to make you get out on the dancefloor and shake your ass.
GTA’s tracks are loud and fast and relentless, with pounding beats and few frills beyond the occasional vocal sample or bit of crowd-working; those trip-hammer drums and that skull-rattling bass, that’s what matters here. And you know, there’s not a goddamn thing wrong with that, not at all. Expect GTA to be the two dudes up there on the stage in front of a crowd of bright young pretty people, all working it and bumping and pulsing like one massive organism. It’s a sight to behold, trust me. (Jeremy H.)
[GTA plays at 5:30PM on Sun., June 7th, at the Mercury Stage.]
I thought I had Ben Kweller pegged. I thought he was yet another country-folk-pop singer/songwriter, the likes of which are pretty thick on the ground these days, and mostly just moved on; I was pretty grievously wrong, though, and listening to 2012’s Go Fly a Kite has set me at least somewhat straight. See, while there are some country and folk influences to what he does (listen to “Full Circle” for proof), what Kweller’s really about at his core is melodic, harmony-packed power-pop, the kind that’s seriously informed by The Beatles, Big Star, and The Lemonheads.
The songs are impeccably arranged, like they belong in the canonical Great American Songbook — they’re familiar but fresh, those trusty old pieces put together in a way that feels somehow new and beautiful, and I can feel a cheery smile creeping across my face as I listen. Oh, and I love the fact that Kweller apparently included notes with real-live copies of Go Fly a Kite that showed fans how to play his songs; as a once-upon-a-time (and fairly mediocre, even back then) guitarist, I appreciate the hell out of that… (Jeremy H.)
[Ben Kweller plays at 5:10PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Fancy Pants Tent, and at 7PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Venus Stage.]
Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears are one of the acts I got the most excited about when I first saw the lineup. I can’t say I was a huge fan of them in the ’80s, but I’m definitely stoked to have band from my generation on the bill. I am assuming that this will be a greatest-hits-type set. I hope it is. I can’t wait to “Shout Shout” and “Let it all out!”, because it really is a “Mad World”… OK, I’ll stop this before it gets out of hand, because, after all, “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending,” right? (Jason S.)
[Tears for Fears plays at 6:50PM on Sat., June 6th, at the Neptune Stage.]
Brutal honesty time: I haven’t given much of a damn about Weezer in quite a while now. Once, way back when, I would’ve called myself a huge fan of Rivers Cuomo and company, but with each release beyond The Blue Album and Pinkerton, they (well, mostly Cuomo) have steadily eroded away increasingly big chunks of my goodwill, until I find myself giving a big shrug when listening to The Red Album, Raditude, Hurley, Maladroit, or Make Believe. Hell, I’d be hard-pressed to even name a song I truly like off any of those albums. Weezer, for me, has been done for a long time.
Until now, maybe. New album Everything Will Be Alright brings back a lot of what I originally loved about the band: the ridiculously addictive hooks, the unabashed love of all things capital-R Rock, Blue Album producer Ric Ocasek, that self-deprecating self-examination, and best of all, that celebratory geekiness. And the result is a whole lot better than I had any glimmer of hope it might be; it’s no Pinkerton, no, but that’s not a bad thing here, because it sees Weezer expand their sound to into more prog-rock- (see “Eulogy For A Rock Band”) and orchestral-pop-sounding realms (“The British Are Coming”) while still holding tight to the basic-but-awesome shy-boy rock anthems that made them famous in the first place (“Lonely Girl”). Is it pandering to folks like me, who’d given up on Weezer a decade ago? Maybe. But after listening, I’m pretty sure I don’t mind. (Jeremy H.)
[Weezer plays at 8:50PM on Sun., June 7th, at the Saturn Stage.]
Sleeeeeep, I needs it. Have a good night, friends and countrypersons, and we’ll be back again with at least one more of these before FPSF actually hits. Check back, alright?
(Photos [top to bottom]: FPSF 2015 stage being set up; Seratones; Steve Angello; Freeman; The Suffers; The Band of Heathens; GTA; Ben Kweller; Tears for Fears; Weezer.)