10 Acts to Watch at Houston Whatever Fest 2017

Expect Lyric Michelle (center, with Houston's Lee-Lonn at left) to rock tunes from last year's MissDirection at Houston Whatever Fest.
Expect Lyric Michelle (center, with Houston's Lee-Lonn at left) to rock tunes from last year's MissDirection at Houston Whatever Fest.
Photo by J Tovar

Houston Whatever Fest is the little festival that could, or at least the little festival that's trying to. While it hasn't been held since November 2015 (which in turn was a date-change from its ill-timed August 2014 debut), the latest lineup suggests that things are finally coming together. This year, the festival takes advantage of Houston's gorgeous springtime weather and East Downtown skyline views to make for a unique local entertainment experience. Pair that with top comedy talent like Judah Friedlander, music headliners Ghostface Killah and a dirt-cheap ticket price (general admission is only $55 for the entire weekend), and you've got yourself a festival.

HWF also provides a broader platform for some exceptional local talent, lending the mike to rappers Guilla or T2 the Ghetto Hippie and comedians Warren Wright and Son Tran. If you're a sentimental local who has mourned the loss of ye olde Houston block parties, then HWF is the festival you've been yearning for. Of the 50-plus musical performers who will be taking the stage over the weekend — and please don't forget what's going on at the Secret Group Comedy Tent, either — we recommend keeping a close eye on these ten.

6:15 p.m. Sunday, Stage One
Not a big fan of spastically shaking your ass at music festivals? That’s what you think. It’s certainly what I thought before I saw the Queen Diva of sissy bounce perform, but she set me straight quick. Big Freedia will bring the most butt-rippling bass that Whatever Fest is likely to see, and whether you’re a longtime fan or just a gender-bending neophyte, you will dance. Freedia’s frenzied orgy of clapping butt cheeks is just too much to behold without joining in. NATHAN SMITH

12:30 p.m. Saturday, Stage One
You'll have to get to HWF early, but if you pride yourself on alerting others to something new and special in the Houston music scene, then it's wakey-wakey eggs and bakey on Saturday for The Contagious. The trio is making waves with a debut single called “This Time,” which sounds like it was plucked from an early-aughts alt-emo compilation, at home right between Jimmy Eat World and Motion City Soundtrack. Expect a feature on the burgeoning act here in the next few weeks, or just be there for their set, which kicks off a full weekend of music. Yes, you’ll need to be there early, but they’re driving from Montgomery, they’re all teenagers and they actually have to work when they get there…so what are you complaining about? JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

6:45 p.m. Sunday, Wonderland
There’s a big buzz behind Frog Hair among the Houston music cognoscenti, and it doesn’t take long to explain why. Assembling some of the best parts of dead horse, Pain Teens and Spain Colored Orange together with a guy banging on a marching bass drum, Frog Hair is maybe the city’s noisiest, most tuneful Americana band. Plenty of people are saying they’ll be the next act to break out of Houston, even though all these guys have heard it before. Catch ’em Sunday and judge for yourself. NATHAN SMITH

4:35 p.m. Sunday, Wonderland
I’m not really sure what rock genre Great White Fire is supposed to fall into. I guess they’re hardcore. All I know for sure is that they’re probably going to be the heaviest, gnarliest act at the fest, and they’re definitely going to be juiced up and ready to prove it. Both of the band’s vocalists have a tendency to stalk the stage, looking for a face to scream into, and hey, that’s twice the microphones for you to grab. If cutting loose for you tends to find you slamming into someone, this is the group you’re going to want to check out. NATHAN SMITH

2:30 p.m. Saturday, Stage One
Walker Lukens may have moved on from Houston to greener, Austin-ier pastures, but the artist still remembers to come home. His recent EP, Never Understood, is a rollicking roll through the genre of classic rock (with a few indie-pop flourishes sprinkled in for good measure). Songs like "Jacket On Ya Shoulders" grab listeners with ear-catching syncopation, while his latest single, "Where Is Thunder Road" punches with bluesy abandon. Lukens's songwriting is more than the sum of its parts; no one lyric or lick sticks out, but the holistic experience of his sound is memorable and moving. The singer has a long summer tour of festivals ahead of him (including Bonnaroo), so best to catch him at HWF while he's still fresh. KATIE SULLIVAN

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