Houston Whatever Fest, This Weekend

And now, from the Better Late Than Never Department (Hopefully)…

I’ve been meaning to post for a good long while now about Houston Whatever Fest, which unrolls this Saturday and Sunday, April 1st & 2nd, over on the eastern edge of Downtown at what’s apparently come to be called EaDo Party Park — that is, the area around Warehouse Live.

Then, controversy exploded, and things got weird and painful and uncomfortable for a whole lot of people, myself included. I’m not going to go into the details of it here, mostly because the Houston Press and SPIN have both reported it a whole lot better than I can, but it was/is a mess, with a whole lot of hurt involved.

That said, though, the festival remains one of the coolest, most unique festivals in these parts or elsewhere, combining a wide range of musical acts with top-notch comedians. We here at SCR would be seriously remiss if we didn’t cover it, in my view, despite the bad feelings floating around the whole thing.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I know jack shit about modern-era comedy, outside of a handful of big names like Patton Oswalt and Louis CK. So, while I’ve heard of T.J. Miller and Judah Friedlander, the two headlining comics of this year’s HWF, I can’t claim to know a whole lot beyond that. So I won’t embarass myself, but will just say, “go watch the funny people in-between the bands you like,” and leave it at that.

On the musical front, however, I can do somewhat better. I’m seriously psyched to see Ghostface Killah up there at the top of the bill, for one thing — I love the Wu-Tang in general, and GFK, aka Tony Starks (because yes, the Wu are seriously into comic books, a fact that kinda makes me love ’em even more), is hands-down my favorite member.

Hell, he’s up in the top five or so of my favorite rappers, period, largely on the strength of his classic 2006 album, Fishscale, which is basically a blueprint for how to make a goddamn perfect hip-hop album about selling drugs.

Then there’s American Football, the classic emo/math-rock outfit that reunited a couple of years back. I was a fan back in their heyday, and in the intervening years have mutated into an even bigger fan than I was back then; somehow, I find myself appreciating the band’s melding of complex, math-y time signatures with the low-key, half-whispered stylings of folks like Mineral or Sunny Day Real Estate.

On the truly legendary front, former 13th Floor Elevators frontman and Texas music icon Roky Erickson will be playing — the man’s a hero, seriously, and if you listen back to his early stuff from the ’80s, you can damn near draw a straight line directly from Erickson to The Flaming Lips, the Elephant 6 crew, and pretty much anybody else making psychedelic pop music in the past thirty years.

I’ve liked what I’ve heard by Long Beach band Cold War Kids (especially “Audience,” off 2010’s Behave Yourself EP), and I wish I’d heard more of Big Freedia before now — I’m told her shows are freaking amazing, and after checking out a few tracks, yeah, I can believe that.

One of the people I most regretted not seeing at FPSF last year has to be Walker Lukens — I completely missed his set, and then, to make matters worse, actually got to meet the guy afterwards and had to admit that I had gotten there too late to see him. Sigh. I dearly wish I had, because he’s something truly special, a pop songwriter who’s able to stick his toe in every pond and puddle he feels like trying and make it work.

It’s funny, but I listened to Lukens’ new release, an EP called Never Understood, and the very first thing that popped into my head was, “wow, this guy sounds like Elvis Costello if he’d been raised in Austin”…and lo and behold, check the cover of the EP, and he’s practically doing the pose from the cover of My Aim Is True. Well played, sir, well played…

Further down the lineup, there’re some excellent H-town folks playing HWF this time out, as well, namely awesome indie-roots-rock supergroup Frog Hair, badass rapper Guilla, who kills it live, cool alt-rock dudes Another Run, EDM-gone-electro-pop gang Wrestlers, and raw-throated metal/rock guys We Were Wolves, among others.

Best of all, of course, HWF is still remarkably affordable, compared to other festivals. It may not have the sheer scale of FPSF, sure, but hell, you can buy a one day pass for either Saturday or Sunday for $39 or an all-weekend pass for $59 — you haven’t been able to do that at FPSF since it’s second year, I believe. Oh, and there’s art and food trucks and vendors, all the fun stuff you generally expect at a music festival. All in all, it’s a damn good deal…

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