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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10 Acts We'd Like to See at FPSF 2015

Photo by Craig Hlavaty
Dale Watson would be the honest, tonkiest act at FPSF.
Dale Watson has a lot to offer FPSF. You know he's affordable, considering the kind of price tags the fest has to be looking at for some of the other acts; he's got biker/greaser cred to burn thanks to that suave leather duds and silver-fox pompadour; decades of honky-tonk experience means he knows how to handle a rowdy, boozed-up audience; and FPSF has a successful track record of booking left-of-center country acts from Austin a la Junior Brown and Willie Nelson. But the real ace in the hole is that he and his band the Lone Stars are experts at that Bakersfield-style roadhouse twang that can kick up more dust that a stiff Texas wind.

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More Info on the FPSF Blind Pre-Sale & Pegstar's New Venue

Photo by Groovehouse
FPSF returns to Eleanor Tinsley Park June 6 and 7. The lineup will be announced in a few weeks, co-founder Jagi Katial says.
In just a few hours, or right now if you're just waking up, the blind pre-sale for this year's Free Press Summer Fest begins at 10 a.m. at, and tickets should disappear faster than a rich banker when the collection plate in church gets passed around. For those who may have swallowed too much bongwater, that's your first opportunity to buy passes to the seventh edition of the Bayou City's annual bacchanal in Eleanor Tinsley Park, where the only thing hotter than the acts onstage is the temperatures in the portapotties.

This year's FPSF is scheduled for June 6 and 7, and if you remember, last year's presale did not quite go off without a hitch. Namely, when last year's was announced, some people saw the increased price tag and said, "Say what now?" But Jagi Katial, co-founder of the festival and the man behind Pegstar Concerts, the local promoters who are building their own concert venue on Houston's near Northside (more on that in a bit), promises that fans are not in for another case of sticker shock. Prices this year, he promises, are "more in line with last year."

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Acts We'd Love to See Play Free Press Summer Fest 2015

Photo by Jim Bricker
Before that carton of leftover FSPF 2014 milk in the fridge starts to smell a little ripe, we had to ask...who should the festival bring in next year?

This one's pretty self-explanatory. He fits the general aesthetic of the festival, and would be the perfect-sized headliner. That, and his unmatched catalog would make for the perfect quirky evening of tunes. JIM BRICKER

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