One Month Out: FPSF 2017 Is On Its Way, So You Better Get Damn Ready

It’s that time in H-town’s musical year when it feels like the festivals just keep popping up left and right and left again, y’know what I mean? Hell, we’ve already had a couple slide by, namely Houston Whatever Fest and The Munchies Picnik.

There’re some coming up even faster, but I figured I’d better start with the big one first, namely FPSF, formerly known as the Free Press Summer Festival — it looks like they’ve dropped that moniker, by the way, possibly because Free Press Houston no longer has much to do with the festival.

Now, I’ve had my issues with FPSF these past couple of years. The ownership change from the Free Press crew to festival big-timers C3 Presents, the fact that the festival’s had to be moved from Eleanor Tinsley Park down to the concrete desert of NRG Park, the forced evacuations of the festival, the weird booking of bands who played a couple of years previous, the incomprehensible booking of child predator R. Kelly back in 2015, and finally, the tragic death of Megan Tilton during last year’s FPSF.

To be honest, it’s felt to me like the festival has lost its way. I’ve seen some excellent folks play this last year or two, and that’s always cool — it was excellent to see Frank Turner and Refused last year, at long last, in particular — but I found myself enjoying things less.

Things came to a pretty bad head for me personally last year, when I ended up covering FPSF while sick with the flu, in a sometimes-torrential downpour (which caused the festival to be evacuated on Sunday), and had to miss pretty much every night-time performer because my wife broke her hand in a car door (Day 1) and then, again, the whole damn festival got evacuated (Day 2). Granted, none of that is the fault of the festival organizers, but it still left me exhausted, sick, demoralized, and frustrated by the weekend’s end.

That said…I’m hopeful. I’ve been keeping track of the numbers since FPSF debuted back in 2009, and they’ve shown some pretty not-good trends in a couple of areas, with fewer and fewer local acts, fewer and fewer female-fronted/-led bands, and more retreads from earlier years.

With this year’s lineup, though, the female-fronted band percentage is up to 25%, the second-highest its been since 2009, slightly more locals than last year (up from 11% in 2016 to 18% this year), and a smaller number of rerun headliners than last year, too (only 14% total, with the headlining repeats being Flume (2015), G-Eazy (2015), Cage The Elephant (2014), and Tove Lo (2015 again).

That beats last year, which saw 7-8 repeat headliners, depending on who you count as a headliner. The one area that’s hit a low is the number of metal/hardcore/”heavy” bands, which is down to below 5%, but that may only be a bummer for me.

It ain’t a lot of progress, no, but it’s some, a slight reversal from years past. And I don’t think the blame can be laid on C3, either; these trends have been happening for years previous to the Free Press divesting itself of its stake in its namesake festival. The years with the lowest percentages of female-led acts playing were in 2011 and 2012, with 14% each.

So again, I’m hopeful. I know Andrew Dansby over at the Chron isn’t, and I absolutely get his reasons why. I can’t help it, though — the numbers give me hope that things are changing back a bit to the way it used to be, and so does the relocation back to Eleanor Tinsley.

Because fuck, I hate NRG Park with the fire of a thousand suns. I would so, so, so much rather be hanging out under trees and on grass (okay, and mud) while watching/listening to bands, as opposed to baking my brains out of my skull on flat, featureless, hot-as-a-griddle concrete.

Of course, some of the reasons are to do with the lineup itself. Ultimate headliner and Kiwi pop oddball Lorde is somebody I’ve personally wanted to see for quite a while, and the same goes for Portland-dwelling indie-rock outfit The Shins.

Then there’s Swedes Miike Snow, who I think have only made it through Houston once or twice in the last decade, and who I love completely to death. And Milky Chance, who I’ve been subjected to by my wife & daughter on repeat for the past few months (“Stolen Dance” was the first song my wife figured out she could get our Amazon Echo to play on demand).

I’m also psyched to see Bishop Briggs, up-and-coming producer Jauz, cool Canadians K.I.D., soul-rockers St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Aussi DJ Anna Lunoe, quirky singer/songwriter Hurray for the Riff Raff, L.A. rock trio Cherry Glazerr, and London/H-town Thai funk-rock band Khruangbin.

Basically, while I don’t care a lot about most of the headliners, there’s a whole slew of down-bill bands I’d really like to check out. There’re also some cool local friends, like excellent political pop-rockers The Wheel Workers, murky night-electronicists Bang Bangz, electro-pop singer Miears, indie-popsters Rose Ette, and surf-pop guys Deep Cuts.

At the very top of my oh-shit-I-need-to-see-that pile, though, is Scottish indie-rock band Frightened Rabbit, of whom I am a huge fan. Last year’s Painting of a Panic Attack is flat-out stellar, even stacked up next to the remarkably high bar of 2013’s Pedestrian Verse.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the full lineup:

That’s all I’ve got for now, but we’ll be back to yammer more about FPSF before it hits. Keep an eye out, alright?


One Response to “One Month Out: FPSF 2017 Is On Its Way, So You Better Get Damn Ready”

  1. Lydia Wacasey on May 4th, 2017 at 11:23 pm

    Spot on assessment. I’d tolerate the heat for Black Swan Yoga.

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