The Best Surprises of Free Press Summer Fest 2014


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Photo by Chris Gray
NEW YORK CITY QUEENS
Sunday, Neptune stage

A while back someone emailed me asking why we never cover New York City Queens, who have become a fairly popular Houston band in the years following their 2012 LP, Burn Out Like Roman Candles. Nothing against them, certainly -- for one reason or another, some bands just escape our radar. But if pressed, I'd say they always seemed a little mainstream for my tastes. (For the record, the Chronicle loves them.)

So I'm happy to report that although the Queens' songs sounded a little thin the couple of times I listened to Candles, they turned out to be a fine festival band that mixes energetic, Strokes-y garage-pop with chilled-out New Wave keyboards, and fast-paced tunes with more thoughtful songs ("Roman Candle") that make good use of their multiple vocalists. They also drew a pretty decent crowd to the Neptune stage before noon, and people were already smoking weed; never a bad sign. So hopefully this will bury that hatchet. CHRIS GRAY


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Photo by Jim Bricker
Vampire Weekend's Small(ish) Crowd
Vampire Weekend played a stunning set featuring their best songs from all three of their albums, and their newest songs from Modern Vampires of the City were played with such finesse that I thought I might melt into the ground. Their show brought out the absolute best in me as a festival goer: I was having the most friendly and free-flowing conversations with fans around me, dancing, and singing. Jesus, we were all singing.

But despite being one of the clear headliners of 2014, they drew a crowd that was smaller than I expected. Certainly some of this was because the Mars stage was structured differently than last year, but I mostly think it was because Erza and the gang were posted up directly against Zedd and his Top 40 phenom "Clarity." I have not made it a secret that I don't like "Clarity," but I do like EDM. What I see here is that the situation was more of a commentary on the state of music festivals than of a reflection of musical quality.

What Zedd brings is a digestible form of today's mainstream music and Vampire Weekend, despite having a large and rabid and fan base, is still unique enough that not everyone was compelled to their stage. Overall this wasn't such a bad thing, because the people who were there for the set truly wanted to be. SELENA DIERINGER


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WHITE SEA
Sunday, Jupiter stage

I looked at the line up for the festival dozens of times since it was announced. I went over the schedule multiple times in the days leading up to it. Still, I somehow managed to overlook the fact that White Sea was playing until about 30 minutes or so before they took the stage. Sadly because I don't know how to read a schedule correctly I missed most of their set, but what I caught was pretty damn spectacular. Morgan Kibby (right) has an amazing voice and a really good stage presence. Definitely hoping to catch more of them next time they're around. CORY GARCIA


The Weather
We lucked out. Straight up. Save for a spot of rain on Saturday afternoon that ended up being a whole lot better than it could've been, we were spared both severe heat or torrential storms throughout the entire weekend. It still got hot, at points real hot, but not "what is this hell that surrounds me" hot.

With so many trees and shady areas, whenever it did reach into the higher 80s, it was easy to get away from it. The only thing bad about the weather was the extreme humidity that caused everyone in the festival to have a nice layer of face-sweat from open to close. JIM BRICKER


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Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
YING YANG TWINS
Saturday, Mercury Stage

A family friend tried to quash my enthusiasm following Ying Yang Twins' berserk set. She said they played a Texas State University function while she was in school there, so maybe I should tone down the rhetoric. But that's precisely why it was fantastic. It felt like a throwback to college days, filled with filled cups and the promise of casual promiscuity.

The crowd was 'bout it, especially during "Ms. New Booty" and, of course, "Get Low." When the familiar chorus morphed into a few bars of "Turn Down For What," it was like Ying Yang passing the party-anthem torch. It was also too much for one young, nubile girl ahead of us to resist the urge to booty-grind all up on my wife, who was standing right behind her. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.


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Location Info

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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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