Saturday: Buzzfest XXVIII at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
See lots more Buzzfest action in our slideshow.
Buzzfest has evolved beyond a local live-music institution at this point. It's closer to a rite of passage, a biannual keystone concert event for Houston's great, eager suburban hordes. Saturday marked the radio-sponsored festival's twenty-eighth iteration, another sold-out milestone in KTBZ-FM's march toward two solid decades of rock-radio supremacy.
Though familiar, the rituals that make up the Buzzfest experience remain potent touchstones for concert-goers. The drive north, the search for free parking, the long hike toward the Pavilion and the careful crotching of marijuana are as much a part of Buzzfest as the music.
As the crowd filed in gradually over the fest's first couple of hours, everyone was all smiles and high-fives. No one seemed to mind the little inconveniences associated with packing 14 bands into one of the country's pre-eminent sheds.
By far, the biggest inconvenience of the day was the awkward placement of the side stage. In order to check out half of the acts scheduled, the crowd had to hustle, filing out of the Pavilion itself and into a parking lot next door that was notably bereft of bathrooms. It was quite a hike, especially for audience members on the north end of the hill, who had to circle around the entire venue to reach the side stage.
Assuming they bothered to find it at all, of course -- it took me a bit of asking around before I discovered the proper route. By the time I arrived at the tail end of Dead Sara's set, I was almost immediately carried back by a sea of people to the main stage for Mutemath.
Just as they did at their headlining show at House of Blues in January, the New Orleans band pumped out a set filled with gospel-inflected boogie-rock highlighted by the slick shuffle of "Blood Pressure" and organ squalls of "Tell Your Heart Heads Up" from last year's Odd Soul.
Mutemath's frenetic drummer, Darren King, was joined on skins by singer Paul Meany and bassist Roy Mitchell-Cárdenas for a percussive orgy of sound featuring guitarist Todd Gummerman playing his many guitar pedals with his hands for an impressive close to the set. It was all received very politely by the folks in the seats around me, who whipped out cameraphones like quick-draw gunfighters when Meany jumped into the pit.
There was no time to grab a beer or take a piss if you wanted to catch the beginning of the Band of Skulls' set, and so off we were to the side stage. Here, the atmosphere more closely resembled a traditional music festival, replete with beach balls and crowd surfers.
The English trio had feet stomping with its brand of grungy, bluesy alternative, including cuts like "Bruises," "The Devil Takes Care of His Own" and the title track from this year's Sweet Sour. A glimmer of recognition lit up many faces in the crowd during "Light of the Morning," a song I recalled from an old Ford Mustang commercial.