The Best Music of Free Press Summer Fest 2014

Photo by Marco Torres
Sunday, Saturn Stage

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

Photo by Groovehouse
Saturday, Mercury Stage

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

Photo by Chris Gray
Sunday, Venus stage

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

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

Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
Saturday, Mars Stage

"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.

Photo by Jim Bricker
Saturday, Neptune stage

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

Photos by Jim Bricker
Saturday, Neptune stage

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.

Location Info


Eleanor Tinsley Park

500 Allen Parkway, Houston, TX

Category: General

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Tish Squish
Tish Squish

Welcome to Houston set, Jack White, Wu-Tang Clan, and Above & Beyond.

Jeff Nunnally
Jeff Nunnally

I completely 2nd King Khan. Dude doesn't need a light show or fireworks. By far my favorite set of the weekend.

Renia Butler
Renia Butler

I don't care what anyone says.. but L-boogie killed it. Tacky ass pink and green dress and all..


I saw Robert Delong at a post Lolla show and he was awesome!! Was sad to miss seeing him again. He is so impressive!


what, no Oh Hellos?  great end to the set for sure!




Tuneyards (i refuse to use that idiotic casing) are one of the most awful abominations I have seen in 43 years of attending concerts. Once again Selena Dieringer proves reliable. Just do the opposite of what she suggests and you will be just fine.

David Cook
David Cook

king khan! best set all weekend, gets snubbed


wow nothing about Bushwick Bill making an appearance for the Wu Tang set?

Nelo Maciel
Nelo Maciel

No mention of flatbush zombies? That set was insane!!! they tore that shit up

Nelo Maciel
Nelo Maciel

Never heard of classixx before this, now I'm a huge fan


The Orwells was the most fun show I went to. Chvrches sounded just like the radio, they need some better live presence, although it was still good shit after the rain delay. Die Antwoord was better the first time I saw them, not as good without the initial WTF value. Tune Yards was great. Don't know if I was imagining it or not, but Jack White seemed to be letting off some steam. Much more into it than at ACL last year...

CoryGarcia moderator

@booby For some reason, I actually enjoyed Chvrches more this go around than when they played at HOB last year. I thought being in the sun gave them more energy, although certainly they're still pretty reserved. 

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