iFest's Second Weekend Brings It All Back Home

elylucinda may9.JPG
Jason Wolter
Texas Connection: Joe Ely, Lucinda Williams and Townes Van Zandt (not pictured)
See lots more iFest pictures from Saturday and Sunday (and some food) in our slideshows.

Yes, it was hot at iFest this weekend. Houston hot. Sunday afternoon, partway through Lucinda Williams' surprisingly nostalgic set, both the temperature and humidity were in the low 90s and Rocks Off felt like we were losing weight by the gallon.

But the thing that stood out to us most about the Houston International Festival's second and final weekend of 2011 was how easy it can be to drop that "International" out of the equation. And how satisfying - even international - a "Houston Festival" can be.

Unlike last weekend, Rocks Off did not (accidentally or on purpose) stumble across anything as alien to our Southwestern ears as Kora Connection or the Homayun Sakhi Trio. We sat and watched Bollywood Blast's surreal and fairy tale-ish performance for a few minutes, and walked through the castle-like Great Wall of China replica, where the gong about two-thirds through was especially popular with the kiddos, if not so much any adults within earshot.

redbaraat may9.JPG
Red Baraat
But the most exotic thing we heard this weekend was Red Baraat, a New York-based Indian-American group that describes themselves as "Bhangra funk," but sounded to us like a polyrhythmic New Orleans brass band whose esprit de corps springs from ragas instead of second-line parade marches. Someone at iFest must have agreed with us, because after double-dipping at the Bud Light World Stage and Fadi's Caravan Tent Saturday, there they were on the Louisiana stage Sunday.

Maybe we're just spoiled, because all the international flavor we needed this weekend came from local bands we've seen umpteen times. As usual, Los Skarnales triangulated tropical cumbia, Jamaican ska and their own trademark East End pachuco boogie to a fine decimal point, frenetic front man Felipe Galvan acting as a one-man welcoming committee. (See you on Friday, guys.)

blaggards may9.JPG
The Hair Up There: Blaggards
Blaggards, meanwhile, stitched a Celtic corker into Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" and a country shuffle into Thin Lizzy's "Whiskey In the Jar." Brandi Belle Clarke's fiddle acted as the high-powered sewing machine, while front man Patrick Devlin whipped his hair hard enough to spin the clock back to ...And Justice For All. Even The Octanes added some Tex-Mex San Antonio stroll to their 80-proof rockabilly/roadhouse-country cocktail.

Curiously enough, the only real local misstep we saw was Grandfather Child, who were uncharacteristically erratic and hesitant on a song that moved (perhaps a little too far) into smoothed-out Steely Dan territory. Lucas Gorham's crew recovered nicely on Stonesy slow blues "Waiting For You" and its stompier flipside, "Dog Water," though, and whatever that Prince thing was they were doing when we walked up, it made Rocks Off wish we had gotten on the train a little sooner.

That left this year's two crown jewels, Joe Ely and Williams, who each flipped the iFest script somewhat. Instead of bringing the world to Texas, both have been bringing Texas to the world for more than 30 years now.

Location Info


Sam Houston Park

1000 Bagby St., Houston, TX

Category: General

Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help

 Lucinda's set was fantastic.

Shook her hand after show and her husband Tom, Butch, David and BOBBY KEYS!!!



Moodafaruka may be the most pretentious, silly band in town. Gakkkk....

Vincent Aurelio
Vincent Aurelio

The Fadi's Caravan tent was in the unfortunate confluence of noise from three surrounding stages. We listened in on the oud player on Saturday night, but his group was drowned out by music from Center, Latin, and Lousiana stages.

The observation about the 29-95 stage held true for us, though, as Chris Bell earned a couple more fans. (I was very relieved to see it wasn't the local politician launching a new career!)

I'm also finding it increasingly hard to justify the face value of the iFest tickets. I'm going to be doing my best next year to search out discount offers.


Thanks for letting me know that the good stuff was all first weekend. I didn't make it until the 7th.

The markets were a third to half smaller than previous years and very few of them were anything other than the Usual Houston Street Festival Suspects. The Cultural Exhibits, while interesting, were basically heavily dependent on a couple of amateurishly crafted plywood-and-paint-roller prop pieces and a bunch of laminated web printouts stapled to the wall. The prices for admission and basics -- sorry, guys, but $18 for a slightly upgraded street festival $4.50 for a half-liter water bottle? Thinking "no way."

I've always been a huge iFest fan, but after this I'm probably done with it. Wish I'd gone to the Dragonboat / APAHA festival instead.

Christina Uticone
Christina Uticone

Michael Franti was, as always, amazing and inspiring. This was my third show (he was at Houston HOB last fall) and it gets better every time. It was a thrill to see Robert Rudolph, whom I've heard of but had never seen live--great experience. I love seeing a group "cold", without any point of reference -- that's how I discovered Spearhead, back in 2006 at Grassroots Festival in Upstate NY. Spearhead will be at The Woodlands on September 10 w/ Santana - it's going to be a great show!

Now Trending

Houston Concert Tickets

From the Vault