The Best Music of Free Press Summer Fest 2014
No group in electronic music knows how to play to a listener's emotional core than Above & Beyond. It was almost jarring how beautiful their set sounded after two days of heat and rain and evacuations and mud and lack of sleep and the other crazy things one deals with at a music festival.
Still, there's no group of producers that I'd trust my ears to more than these guys. Walking to the car listening to their sounds bouncing off the buildings of downtown was pretty sweet too. CORY GARCIA
Like I said before the fest, this group was going to have a good weekend. Their pre-rain set on Saturday afternoon had all the right things going for it including one of the bigger crowds at the Mercury stage throughout the entire weekend. They are playing the right type of music for the right moment in time, which was clear as they matched the style and sound of some of the more popular acts on the main stages like Chvrches, The Naked & Famous and Chain Gang of 1974. Good job, guys (and lady)! JIM BRICKER
Born Liars are an improvement to any music festival that will have them. The Houston mainstays' early-afternoon set Sunday amounted to a 40-minute throttling with undisguised garage-punk sarcasm. "This one's called tuning up," guitarist Bill Fool said early on in a program that included sneering nuggets like "Contact High," "Exit Smiling" and a brilliant cover of the Replacements' "God Damn Job." ("Since the Replacements couldn't be here, we thought we'd do it for 'em," Fool quipped.) He announced the Liars as from a different city after almost every song -- Montrose, London, Stockholm, San Francisco. What do all those places have in common? They all appreciate badass rock and roll. CHRIS GRAY
CAGE THE ELEPHANT
Sunday, Neptune stage
These guys just get better and better every time I see them. Barely a month since their performance at House of Blues, Cage the Elephant returned to Houston for FPSF Sunday afternoon. "Personally, I enjoy the heat," said vocalist Matthew Shultz, wiping sweat from his brow as light beamed off the silhouette of Houston behind him. "It's a challenge."
Crowd-surfing, standing atop fans' hands and all but losing his voice by the end of the band's set, Shultz was completely spent by the end of his set. And like a good bout of sex, CTE left the crowd sweaty, breathless but still wanting more. MATTHEW KEEVER
"Why does every black actor gotta rap some? I don't know, all I know is I'm the best one," is a rhyme from Childish Gambino's "Bonfire." His rhymes are so strong and his cadence is so good, it's sometimes easy to forget he's another character being played by Donald Glover. Seeing him live reminds one what a good actor he is. He's like a musical version of those John Leguizamo specials where one guy plays an entire cast of characters.
For "3005," he turned on the charm and had the ladies in the massive crowd swooning. During "Bonfire," he ran and raged with crazy-eyed intensity. For "Freaks and Geeks," he played up Gambino's well-known egomaniac. No matter which character he slipped into, the crowd loved it and believed it. Of course, I could be wrong about it all. Maybe he really is the narcissist his rhymes portray. But, the wisdom goes, "it's not bragging if you can back it up." Gambino made a strong case in support of those boasts on Saturday evening. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
After the evacuation Saturday afternoon, the crowd at Summer Fest 2014 was in need of a pick-me-up. They quickly received one in the form of the Scottish trio CHVRCHES, who lifted the crowd's collective spirit with an hour of energetic synth-pop.
Her small stature notwithstanding, Lauren Mayberry showcased soaring, emotive vocals and infectious vigor, while Iain Cook and Martin Doherty kept fans dancing. Unfortunately, I wasn't as well-acquainted with their music as the rest of the crowd, but their performance Saturday convinced me to keep this group on my must-watch list. MATTHEW KEEVER
I admire that, even at a festival, Deftones do things the way they always do. They play their big songs, some of their more recent deep cuts, and then bring it all home with their earliest material, which still has the same energy it had two decades ago. It's about pleasing the crowd, but doing so in a way that is satisfying and interesting for the band.
If there's one thing I remember from this year's festival, it'll be watching these guys playing "Diamond Eyes" while big drops of water fell from the sky and were illuminated by the stage lights. For one shining moment, the music and the weather were finally on the same page. CORY GARCIA
List continues on the next page.