Girls Rock Houston Continues "Cancel R Kelly" Efforts

As of now, the controversial Chicago-based singer is staying put in the FSPF lineup.
On Wednesday evening, approximately 40 men and women gathered on the first floor of The Montrose Center to meet and discuss progress on the "Cancel R. Kelly" campaign, which was launched in response to the R&B singer's booking at this year's Free Press Summer Fest.

"We spent about four hours on the phone with Omar Afra the day the line-up was announced," explained Muna Javaid, an affiliate with Girls Rock Camp Houston -- a nonprofit organization that hosts a weeklong rock band camp every summer for Houston-area girls.

Since the announcement for the seventh installment of the annual music festival, feedback has bombarded social media both in support and protest of the controversial singer. But none have been more vocal than the men and women of GRCH, who have banded together to begin the "Cancel R Kelly at FPSF 2015" campaign. And for good reason.

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10 More Acts Who Could Take R. Kelly's FPSF Spot

Photo by Jim Bricker
Would an Arcade Fire "homecoming" make a suitable FPSF palate-cleanser?
Here it is almost two weeks later, and we're still talking about Free Press Summer Fest inviting controversial Chicago R&B star R. Kelly as one of this year's headliners. Until he is either stricken from the bill or takes the stage at Eleanor Tinsley Park June 6 or 7, the old PR saying "any press is good press" will continue to be in effect as Houstonians weigh in with as many opinions as there are colors in a rainbow.

But lest you think this is all a bunch of hype, have a look at the petition started by Girls Rock Camp Houston entitled "Cancel R. Kelly at FPSF 2015," which Tuesday afternoon was a little more than 100 signatures short of its goal of 800. We know we wrote about this very topic yesterday, and last week, but hey, it's a great story, and it's obviously not going away anytime soon. Today we wanted to open the floor and allow our music writers to offer their thoughts.

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10 Acts Who Should Replace R. Kelly at FPSF

Hot Gossip Italia via Flickr
Could Bey be a hometown hero for FPSF?
For the first time in its burgeoning existence, Free Press Summer Fest is engaged in a legitimate controversy. Activist groups, music bloggers and Summer Fest ticket buyers have called on the festival to cancel one of its main-stage acts, R&B crooner R. Kelly.

Kelly has long been dogged by accusations of pedophilia. His alleged sex crimes against youths were classified as "stomach-churning" and "horrific." He was tried and acquitted of child pornography charges, but the stigma remains. In the eyes of many, Kelly is a sexual predator whose presence is unwelcome.

The most vocal opposition has come from the ranks of Girls Rock Camp Houston, which helped launch the "Cancel R. Kelly at FPSF 2015" social-media campaign. Over the course of about a week, the movement has drawn the interest of most local-media outlets as well as the attention of music-news observers from Stereogum and the Washington Post.

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City Hall Staying Out of R. Kelly Controversy

Photo by Ed Schipul via Flickr
"Can't we just go back to listening to people complain about potholes?"
Right now a lot of people in City Hall are probably wishing they'd never heard the name "R. Kelly." After multiple entreaties to the mayor's office, late Tuesday afternoon the Press received an official statement about R&B star and alleged pedophile R. Kelly's upcoming appearance at Free Press Summer Fest in June, perhaps the most-discussed subject on Houston social media since the festival's lineup was announced last week. The message was delivered via email from Janice Evans, Chief Policy Officer and Director of Communications for the Office of Mayor Annise Parker:

This is a privately-produced event. Our concern is that the organizers abide by all the permitting requirements for such an event. Those requirements do not include city approval of the participants. We have nothing to do with booking the performers.

So there you have it. But we also learned more about the meeting that took place Monday night between FPSF founders Omar Afra and Jagi Katial and members of the community who are upset with the decision to book Kelly. Among them were representatives of local nonprofit Girls Rock Camp Houston, who posted the following open letter to FSPF's producers on the GRCH Facebook page Tuesday afternoon:

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FPSF Taking Some Heat for R. Kelly Booking

Photo courtesy of RCA Records
"Yall keep your teenage daughters safe during FPSF with r kelly being in town," says @the_sassy_salvy on Twitter, one of many users to voice displeasure with the singer's appearance at the festival.
Free Press Summer Fest's booking of R. Kelly, the R&B star who has been dogged by allegations of sexual improprieties for decades, is striking a sour note with some people on social media. Others, however, seem perfectly fine with the idea. City of Houston officials, on whose property FPSF is scheduled to take place June 6 and 7, have thus far kept mum on the situation.

Kelly is billed second on this year's FPSF lineup, below only Skrillex and above Weezer, Steve Angello, St. Vincent, Mastodon, Belle & Sebastian and the Decemberists. Perhaps the people in charge are banking on fans' enthusiasm for the festival's other performers outweighing their disdain of the Chicago-based singer responsible for hit songs like "Your Body's Callin'," "Ignition (Remix)" and "I Believe I Can Fly." Omar Afra, co-founder of FPSF, declined comment until the outcome of a meeting Monday evening, where he was planning to discuss the matter with a group of "old friends and buddies."

"All I can say until we meet with these guys and know if they're even asking for anything, is that we're meeting with them tonight and we're glad to hear them out," Afra said. "We've always been available to the community to discuss any concerns, and we still are now."

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Why It's Okay Your Band Isn't Playing FPSF '15

Photo courtesy of The Bad Drugs
Jaqui Kill (right), the Bad Drugs' resident throat, says the local garage-punks are over stressing about an FPSF nod.
So, your band isn't listed among the many invited to play Free Press Summer Fest 2015. Is there anything that could conceivably comfort the gnawing ache in your spurned bones? Well, for starters, just remember that Run the Jewels, Lana Del Rey, Beck and Drake won't be playing, either.

In all seriousness, being called to perform at FPSF is indeed a huge honor for Houston-area bands. And the sting of not being invited sometimes needs a salve to remind you that being passed over doesn't mean you need to rush all your equipment over to Action Pawn.

So, we enlisted the help of Jacqi Kill from The Bad Drugs and Ganesha front man Ricky Dee to pass along some reminders why it's okay if your band is not playing the fest this year.

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2015 FPSF Lineup Brings On Mixed Emotions

Photo by Marco Torres
To say opinion is split over FSPF 2015 headliner R. Kelly (shown at a 2011 Toyota Center date) is the understatment of the year.
Scanning this year's FPSF lineup, my first thought was "I see they're not going out of their way to quiet those people who keep calling it a sausagefest," followed closely by, "R. Kelly...seriously?" I was thrilled to see the likes of Gary Clark Jr., St. Vincent, Charles Bradley and Riverboat Gamblers, and impressed by the names that can only help FPSF's mission to be taken seriously as a front-rank music fest: Decemberists, Mastodon, Belle & Sebastian, Skrillex, etc.

Could not care less about most of the rest, but I think the organizers chose well with this year's first-time local acts (Catch Fever, George West, Moji, Geo Chamba...) -- unless said acts happen to play hip-hop; the admittedly bonkers "Welcome to Houston" reprise notwithstanding. (Also, Lecrae!) Personally, all that doesn't quite add up to $200 worth of entertainment to me, so that's what media passes are for, I suppose. But throw a sucker-punch like Tears For Fears and it's like, well, maybe... CHRIS GRAY

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The FPSF 2015 Lineup Is Right Here

As promised, above you should see the lineup card for this year's Free Press Summer Fest, scheduled for June 6 and 7 at Eleanor Tinsley Park near downtown. If some of the names are a little difficult to read, we'll be glad to oblige below.

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FPSF's Journey From Crazy Idea to Civic Institution

Photo by Amber Roussel
A crowd watches Austin's The Sword during FPSF's very first day in August 2009.
We tried our best to come up a question for Omar Afra that was a clever play on "seven year itch," but failed miserably. It's just as well -- the co-founder and producer of Free Press Summer Fest says he wasn't thinking in those terms anyway.

According to Afra, the date of the lineup announcement could be revealed as soon as Friday morning. For at least the past week FPSF's Twitter account has been pinged steadily by antsy fans wondering when it's going to drop. Right now Afra says the roster for FPSF's seventh go-round, which returns to Eleanor Tinsley Park on June 6 and 7, is about 98 percent finalized, but he and the festival's other senior staff are still working up a few last-minute "curveballs."

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Local Acts We'd Like to See at Free Press Summer Fest '15

Photo by JenniFive/Courtesy of Reybee Inc.
White-hot Beaumont trio Purple would make a rockin' addition to FPSF this June.
About this time of year, local acts begin to wonder if they'll get called to represent the best in Houston music at Free Press Summer Fest. As the event has grown larger, though, this opportunity has grown smaller, which in turn makes the honor of getting called even greater.

Excusing from consideration acts who have previously played the festival (for the most part), here's a list of several it would be fun to see onstage somewhere in Tinsley Park this June 6 and 7. Good luck to them and everyone else being considered and remember, Houston, whoever does get the nod, get out there and show some support during their sets.

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