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How Summer Fest Was Born

Pegstar's Jagi Katial hunted and pecked until he put together a big-time music festival.

Hate to disappoint anyone, but there won't be a Tupac Shakur-style hologram at Free Press Summer Fest. The slain rapper's translucent appearance with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg (a FPSF 2012 headliner) at Coachella this spring did set a rather unique bar for other music festivals, but don't expect a surprise set by a reunited Beatles or Led Zeppelin this weekend.

"I don't take it seriously at all, but there is kind of a joke thing about doing that," says Jagi Katial, whose Pegstar Concerts owns half of Summer Fest as a partnership with Free Press Houston. "I sent Omar [FPH editor/publisher Afra] a text yesterday saying, 'Just please promise me we won't have any holograms of dead people at this festival.' His response was simply, 'Fuck, now I gotta redo everything.'"

Summer Fest is no joke these days. In just three years (2012 will be the fourth), it has gone from an idea no one thought would fly to an event Katial says local music fans "demand," and draws music lovers from places like Austin and Dallas. Significantly more than 60,000 people should stream through the gates of Eleanor Tinsley Park Saturday and Sunday, a big enough number to squash once and for all the notion that Houston is both too hot (in June) and not nearly hip enough (all year round) to support a Coachella-style music festival.

Free Press Summer Fest has always prominently featured local rappers such as Slim Thug, shown in 2010.
Marco Torres
Free Press Summer Fest has always prominently featured local rappers such as Slim Thug, shown in 2010.

But not long ago, the city's reputation as a hostile environment for alternative and indie artists, which bottomed out with the 2006 Two Gallants/HPD brawl at Walter's on Washington, also meant it was a place with almost unlimited potential for the right promoter — someone who was willing to hear the word "no" enough times until he got a "yes."

Katial was a college student in 2001, wanting to be a part of the local music scene but feeling left out because he didn't play in a band. After September 11, some musician friends of his wanted to help out, but lacked the know-how to put together a show. Katial organized one for the Red Cross at Numbers in November 2001, which went well and gave him a "bug" to do more.

Some of his friends played in Houston synth-pop band Modulator, and Katial began managing them. His friend Tim Murrah ran the Metropol and then Stuka, two of the few Britpop-friendly places in town, and would urge him to ask improbable artists like Jam and Style Council founder Paul Weller to play Houston.

Weller didn't pan out, but Katial managed to book a show for Ash because Murrah was friends with the Irish punk-pop trio's manager. That show, at Stuka (now F Bar), was also a success, although Katial and Ash's manager almost came to blows over towels. (They were buddies by the end of the night, he adds.) Then he brought Oklahoma power-pop band Starlight Mints with Steve Burns of the children's TV show Blue's Clues to Stuka and sold it out again.

That show gave Katial more confidence because it involved a real contract instead of a favor. He booked as many local bands as Stuka would let him and kept an eye on acts coming through Texas that he wanted to see himself. His computer background helped, because he could find out how to get in touch with a band he wanted to book by tracking down who paid for their Web site. (This was long before Facebook.) But in those days, it was still a matter of what he calls "learning the business through rejection."

"Some psychologists might say that there's a problem in this philosophy, but to me 'no' just means 'try harder,'" he says. "It always has in everything, or else I'm just not doing the right thing."

Katial, who went to Klein Forest High School and both UT-Austin and U of H, eventually needed a name for his company, so he settled on Pegstar (for no particular reason, he says). About six and a half years ago, he recruited Jason Petzold, a local musician who plays in electro-rockers the Watermarks. Petzold volunteered to help at some shows Katial was doing at Stuka, and Katial kept adding odd jobs for him to do until the position became full-time.

In July 2010, Katial and Afra bought Fitzgerald's, the former Polish-American dance hall in the Heights that is one of Houston's longest-running live-music venues. Although Pegstar once in a while books shows at larger rooms like Warehouse Live, Fitz is very much a home base now. Pegstar has a two-man production staff that handles lighting, sound and such for the venue, and even another volunteer for whom Katial and ­Petzold are trying to figure out enough things to do.

After almost two years at Fitz, and many years before that bouncing his shows anywhere from Numbers to Mango's to Walter's, Katial says Houston isn't quite as tough a sell as it used to be — that more bands are realizing not only that they probably won't be attacked by the cops if they play Houston, but also that they might actually draw a crowd and make some money.

"I won't say we're there, but we've turned the corner, and [now] it's about maintaining that momentum," he says.

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2 comments
Weaver Jannie
Weaver Jannie

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Alexander
Alexander

ASIANS CAN ACTUALLY READ MINDS!!!!!!!!!!!!they can hear, and see what your visually thinkingthis is all entirely true

The reason a lot of Asians have completely expressionless faces, segregate from everybody else-only associate with Asians and don't associate with non Asians that much, and are very unfriendly in general is to avoid accidentally revealing that they can read minds. If all over a billion Asians where to show facial expressions all the time just as much as non Asians, integrate and associate with non Asians much more, and be much more friendly and talkative, then a lot of them might accidentally reveal that they can read minds by accidentally showing a facial expression or dirty look when someone thinks, or visually pictures something in their mind they don't like, find astonishing, or funny etc because those people might see that and and really wonder what that was that just happened there and see the connection, and they might accidentally say something similar to what the person was just thinking and going to say. If they all associated with non Asians a lot more then there would be a lot more people around for them to accidentally show facial expressions when those people think things they don't like etc, so they segregate and only associate with Asians so there won't be anyone around for them to see that and have any accidents happen in the first place.

Every single Asian alive is hiding their mind reading abilities, they don't want ANYBODY to know that they can read minds, they will always deny that they can read minds, they will lie about having mind reading abilities forever!!!!Because they value hiding their mind reading abilities more then their own lives!That's why nobody knows about it!

Try thinking, best yet visually picturing in your mind something absolutely crazy as you possibly can when you are around Asians, and try looking for Asians who give people particular looks, especially dirty looks for what appears to be for completely no reason, that is them giving people looks when they hear and visually see someone thinking something they don't like, find astonishing, or funny etc.

You have to spread the message!!!!!The world has to know about this!!!!!

 
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