The Best Surprises of Free Press Summer Fest 2014

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Photos by Groovehouse
ANOTHER RUN
Sunday, Jupiter stage

I could hear Another Run from outside the festival, and I followed their sound all the way from the gates to the stage, where I stood impressed for the remainder of their show. You guys who know about them know how good they are, but somehow they've flown completely under my radar. One of the good things about festivals is that you get a bunch of chances to find a new band to fall for in between seeing the bands you already love. Those are the best surprises. CORY GARCIA


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Photo by Jim Bricker
DMX on the uniquely located Mercury stage
The New Layout
The biggest surprise for me at this year's event was the new layout of the festival. While there were still a few traffic problems, especially whenever someone big was playing the Neptune stage, this was by far the best layout in FPSF history. The addition of Sam Houston Park and the removal of the major Allen Parkway and Gillette bottleneck of years past made this stage setup easier to traverse than ever before.

It also made the festival much prettier and added so many new shade elements that it was easy to stay cool while enjoying the gorgeous downtown parks and bayou at the same time. Hidden pockets made it easy to relax away from the hordes of kids trekking through the grounds, and the new stage setup made it easy to see any of your favorite acts as close up or far away as you wanted to. JIM BRICKER


FLATBUSH ZOMBIES
Sunday, Jupiter stage

I knew these guys would have a crowd and I knew that things might get a bit crazy, but what really surprised me about their set was just how mature they are as performers. When some technical difficulties arose mid-set, right after they asked the crowd to get closer to the stage so things could get turned up, they managed to keep the crowd hanging on by going a cappella for a bit before getting things wild again. Respect to these guys for making the best out of what could have been a sorry situation. CORY GARCIA


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Photo by Marco Torres
MS. LAURYN HILL
Sunday, Mars stage

Going to see Lauryn Hill, I was equally excited and terrified. Like many other women my age, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is like a sacrament to me, and I was petrified I was going to be let down by something I love so much. Her show gave me two excellent surprises: 1) She killed it and sounded amazing; and 2) She did a different spin on every single song than it was originally produced, and it worked for every song.

Typically when you see an artist perform, he or she might put some kind of unique twist on one or two songs of their set, but Hill and her crew made an entire show of new music out of old music. "Killing Me Softly" was slow and super reggaed-out; "Everything is Everything" was a suddenly a rock song. "Zion" was the most straightforward, but still sounded completely unique. Everything about Hill's set surprised me in the best way possible. SELENA DIERINGER


ISHI
Saturday, Mercury stage

Ishi announced themselves as our funky cousins from Dallas, but felt more like outer space. What else can explain front man John Mudd looking like an Aztec king in the middle of the sticky humidity? Or that the group's brand of electronic rock swayed more towards lean versions of N.E.R.D and Hot Chip? Ishi is a three-man outfit but hearing them lead a group around with boots caked in mud makes you wonder how they would do at a temple revival or something. BRANDO


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Photo by Selena Dieringer
That Amazing Sandwich
Festival food is not typically one of the best surprises to report at the end of a weekend. Let's be honest, if a slice of pizza is satisfactory, we as a festival-going public are pretty happy. But the food trucks absolutely dominated the festival fare this year at FPSF (sorry, booth food). After interviewing the ever-pleasant Angie of Les Báget Vietnamese Food Truck on Saturday and having a less-than-edible sandwich from a booth that shall go unnamed, Sunday I decided to trek back by the Saturn stage and grab some grub from my new acquaintance.

I cannot sing enough praises about the deliciousness that was my lemongrass pork sandwich with truffle oil. This was not only the best food I've ever eaten at any festival ever, but one of the best things I've eaten in the past few months, period. (And for the record, I really like food.) For a foodie city, FPSF really brings it with the local flavor at their fest. Way to represent your town! SELENA DIERINGER


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Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
LIZZO
Saturday, Jupiter stage

After the rain delay Saturday, Lizzo is just what the festival needed to jump off. The former Houstonian told us it was "surreal" to be performing at FPSF, which she'd hoped to play back when she was an upstart living in Alief. She showed love to Frenchy's, S.U.C., The Galleria and then rolled into "Luv It," which rhymes on all those H-town wonders and more. She's personable and energetic, so it was fun to be up close at the Jupiter Stage. Best examples of her rhyming prowess were "Paris," "Be Still" and the crowd-mover "W.E.R.K. Pt. II."

"I used to wanna play this festival so bad. As far as I'm concerned this is the main stage," she said. The talent and drive are there, so we just need luck to do its share to get Lizzo to the true main stage, where she's showing she belongs. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.


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Photo by Groovehouse
A New Stage?
I was surprised to discover on Sunday that somebody had stuck an entire stage inside Sam Houston Park. If I hadn't been told, I'd have never known. I managed to trek over to catch some of the Kills. Not a bad spot for some live music, as it turned out, with plentiful live oaks to shade sweaty picnickers. Hopefully they'll get all the trash out of there before the next couple shows up to take wedding photos. NATHAN SMITH


No Single-Day Options?
So word on the street is that FPSF offered single-day passes the first year and hasn't since. (I'm sure someone out there will correct me if that is not 100 percent accurate.) But I'm curious: why wouldn't that be an option? I can think of many reasons why it should be, but here are a few:

Many people work weekends and aren't able to take an entire weekend off, and would wind up buying what amounted to a very expensive one-day pass; it would help to keep the lineup evenly balanced and desirable over both days; if someone really just did not want to see one day's music, he or she would still be motivated to attend the other day; and people on a stricter budget could still enjoy the awesomeness that FPSF is curating. SELENA DIERINGER


Story continues on the next page.


Location Info

Map

Eleanor Tinsley Park

500 Allen Parkway, Houston, TX

Category: General

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8 comments
nathanjmcmullin
nathanjmcmullin

I thought Free Press was awesome this year. Vampire Weekend, Robert Delong, Zedd.... Definitely could've used more water though.

Oh - Jack White definitely killed it too. I've been streaming his new album since that show http://smarturl.it/LazarettoAlbumStream

Johnny Brandenberger
Johnny Brandenberger

The new layout is what everyone found to be the WORST part of the fest (at least, every person I spoke with). EXTREMELY congested. This year felt like a much bigger clusterfcuk then any other year, and that layout played a large role in it. Adding a new stage, waaaay too many vendors, and the only working water station into one area that used to be used strictly for foot traffic (without expanding that area width-wise to accommodate) was extremely poor planned, and really put a damper on things. I haven't spoke to a single person who preferred this layout to the layout of the past two years. They used to utilize both areas with hills for stages, as this allows for a bit of "natural stadium seating; but instead neither stage faces them well. I will agree that adding the new Saturn stage at Sam Houston Park was nice, but to take away the other large stage (the stage where Calvin Harris, Bassnectar, and Pretty Lights have closed out in the past) was disappointing. Bathroom areas only on the two opposing sides of the festival? Did anyone else feel the space (on the ground and air) for the sound-booths was larger than in the past? Felt excessive, and the whole place felt much more cluttered than ACL and Coachella - which it feels like they're trying to be. This is not those fests, and that's why we like it. Also, having ONLY ONE WATER STATION is extremely irresponsible by the planners, and the number of people getting stretchered out of the venue, and kids walking around looking like the zombie apocalypse is a clear example of that.

johnnyboy729
johnnyboy729

The new layout is what everyone found to be the WORST part of the fest (at least, every person I spoke with).  EXTREMELY congested.  This year felt like a much bigger clusterfcuk then any other year, and that layout played a large role in it.  Adding a new stage, waaaay too many vendors, and the only working water station into one area that used to be used strictly for foot traffic (without expanding that area width-wise to accommodate) was extremely poor planned, and really put a damper on things.  I haven't spoke to a single person who preferred this layout to the layout of the past two years.  They used to utilize both areas with hills for stages, as this allows for a bit of "natural stadium seating; but instead neither stage faces them well.  I will agree that adding the new Saturn stage at Sam Houston Park was nice, but to take away the other large stage (the stage where Calvin Harris, Bassnectar, and Pretty Lights have closed out in the past) was disappointing.  


Bathroom areas only on the two opposing sides of the festival?


Did anyone else feel the space (on the ground and air) for the sound-booths was larger than in the past?  Felt excessive, and the whole place felt much more cluttered than ACL and Coachella - which it feels like they're trying to be.  This is not those fests, and that's why we like it.  


Also, having ONLY ONE WATER STATION is extremely irresponsible by the planners, and the number of people getting stretchered out of the venue, and kids walking around looking like the zombie apocalypse is a clear example of that.  

captainpunch
captainpunch

@johnnyboy729 I generally agree with you but...


-there were atleast 2 water stations (one by neptune and one by saturn)

-at least 4 restroom areas. 2 were by saturn and one of those literally never had a line the whole weekend. people probably just didn't see it.


I liked the new layout EXCEPT for neptune stage. the placement of that stage caused such a shitshow on day one that I mostly avoided it day two. The chokepoint with the saturn stage was easily avoided if you realized there were two fences.


Also the mars stage was were calvin harris/ PL/ Weezer played, just rotated 90 degrees cause of the construction to the park. I preferred this set up better, but it did take away the option to sit on the hill and still have a good spot.


but the fest at times did feel like it was one long congested tube. kinda like 610/59 

johnnyboy729
johnnyboy729

@captainpunch @johnnyboy729 The water station by Saturn was there - but broken all weekend.  I went up and asked security if it was working, and he said the only one was the Neptune one. 


The Mars stage was actually the other main stage from years past (where Postal Service closed at the same time as Bassnectar last year; Portugal. The Man, Matt & Kim, and Flaming Lips all played on it at times).  The stage where Bassnectar closed was down the hill from where Neptune was this year - where there was no stage this year.  I agree that the Mars stage setup was better this year; but personally I would've liked both big stages.  Didn't think that Saturn are was big enough for an opposing headliner.  


You may be right about bathrooms - every security person I asked would only direct me to the ones at the two opposing ends.  I did see two sections near Saturn, but they were still so far from the rest of the event.  


I'm definitely not a fest snob or anything.  I've really had a blast in every year past, and felt it was setup about as perfectly as it could be.  I just think somethings weren't thought through here, and hopefully the planners took note for next year.


I think one thing can be agreed upon; if they want to continue to add people and vendors into this space; the congested freeway could certainly use some expansion...an issue this city certainly has experience with.

captainpunch
captainpunch

@johnnyboy729 @captainpunch


hm I had no problems with the water there sunday (didn't know about it saturday)


oh i guess i just got a little confused with the new layout then. I didn't see any headliners at the saturn stage, but it was fine for big gigantic and die antword.


yeah they've been good about fixing small problems with the layout between years. I just hope they find a new place for the neptune stage. the backdrop was cool but it was really impractical, especially as the day went on. 


a lot of the vendor locations made no sense. some were so tucked away you could barely find them and some were so close to the main stages that you couldn't get to them.

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