Free Press Summer Fest
May 31 & June 1 from 11–8
Eleanor Tinsley Park
500 Allen Pkwy.
It’s Day 2 of Free Press Summer Fest, and you’re sunburnt, sore, and sleepless from Day 1. Well, shake it off—there’s plenty more kick-ass music on the way. Alongside great acts like New York City Queens, Shakey Graves, and Jack White, here’s a quick rundown of five more bands that deserve your attention. But don’t take my word for it! Get out and dance like nobody’s looking.
For me, “alternative rock” was the sound of the early aughts, led for a time by bands like 3 Doors Down and Better Than Ezra, before it eventually morphed into the whisper-voiced, deliberately-obtuse “indie rock” that we’re all so tired of now. But it turns out that alternative rock didn’t go away – it was just me that left. And so I come upon Another Run, a Houston five-piece rock band who never abandoned the clean, powerful guitars and strident vocals that were for a time everywhere. They released the full-length LP I’ll Be There in 2010, and in the succeeding years it’s spawned three singles that have gotten national play, including the title track, which perfectly encapsulates their appeal. Emotional, energetic, and blissfully sincere, it features no faux-Americana banjos, no Theremin, and no auto-tune. There’s no kitsch and no distance here. All of the walls that I’ve gotten so used to hearing between myself and the music are absent. This is just rock, and that’s all it needs to be.
Jupiter Stage, 1:00 pm
Houston may be a city known primarily for giving the world Beyoncé and syrupy southern rap, but if you haven’t been to a metal show in this town then you’re missing a huge swath of the music made here. Venemous Maximus are tireless workers, playing around Houston constantly and raining down dark, heavy riffs wherever they go. 2013’s Beg Upon The Light is a pummeling and that’s just as it should be – a metal show is something you don’t just hear, you feel it. Singer Gregg Higgins has a huge voice with which he dispenses evil-sounding pronouncements, and there’s barely a moment to catch your breath through the whole album between crushing guitars and pounding bass. Venomous Maximus is loud, tight, melodic, and scary. Bring earplugs, let down your hair, and get in the pit.
In case anyone needs a primer, there are guides available online to proper headbanging technique. Do your homework, everyone.
Venus Stage, 1:30 pm
Last time I saw tUnE-yArDs (at Austin’s FunFunFunFest in 2011) my friends and I had our faces painted during the show by a group of friendly young women. It’s music that inspires bad dancing, strange behavior, and instant kinship in the crowd. Maybe it’s Merrill Garbus’s completely unpredictable vocal style, maybe it’s the saxophones, maybe it’s the raw emotion that she loads into every song. Whatever the case, tUnE-yArDs is a party.
Garbus has released three albums as tUnE-yArDs, and with each one she’s become more emphatically herself. 2009’s Bird-Brains was an unassuming but catchy lo-fi showcase of Garbus’s penchant for erratic rhythms and thoughtful lyrics. Her follow-up, 2011’s W H O K I L L, exploded with fury and passion in stories of death (“Doorstep”), defiance (“Gangsta”), and sex (“Powa”). With this year’s nikki nack, Garbus has borrowed (or appropriated, for those less sympathetic) the polyrhythmic sounds of Haiti after a trip there to learn more about their musical traditions. The single “Water Fountain” is loaded with hand-claps and shout-alongs that are guaranteed to be taken up by the jorted and the headdressed alike.
Neptune Stage, 3:50 pm
White Sea is the solo project of Morgan Kibby, who plays keyboard and sings in French synthpop band M83. Kibby has been essential to the sound of some of M83’s most iconic songs (“Kim & Jessie,” “Midnight City”), so lovers of stratospheric grandiosity won’t be disappointed by White Sea, which retains the epic scale of her other work.
Kibby has a voice that’s pitched for sports arenas, and she arranges her songs accordingly. “They Don’t Know,” the opening track from this year’s In Cold Blood, sounds like the soundtrack to a victorious army, with Kibby’s vocals soaring over chiming bells and droning synths. “Prague” is a slinky ’80s dance number that periodically erupts in volcanic rips of bass. Throughout it all, Kibby retains the gravitas of an oracle, angelic and pure over echoing, spacious orchestration. This concert is the place to be for anyone who feels like being stuck in graceful slow-motion for 45 minutes.
Jupiter Stage, 4:00 pm
The Kills are the party you shouldn’t have attended. They’re the drugs you shouldn’t have taken. They’re the fight you wish you weren’t about to get into. They’re Jamie Hince and Alison Mossheart and they are way cooler than you.
The Kills released four albums since 2001. I first caught on to them via the track “URA Fever” from their third album, Midnight Boom, and was entranced by the sleazy confidence of the vocals Hince and Mossheart trade back and forth over glitchy noise and rumbling bass. Songs like “The Search For Cherry Red” and “Cheap and Cheerful” sound blown-out and tired from their own excess, but utterly committed to finishing this party.
I’ll admit that my allegiance to The Kills stems in large part from Mossheart’s work in The Dead Weather (with fellow FPSF artist Jack White), in which she took the animal hunger of her persona in the Kills and dialed it up to 11. As a part of both acts, Mossheart has presence like few artists I’ve ever seen—she stares at the audience as if she could swallow them.
Saturn Stage, 4:50 pm