Summer Fest paid out much more than necessary over its two-day span, offering local artists the chance to take the same stage as major artist and, rather than be treated like small opening acts by an unknowing crowd, some audience members knew the words to their songs better than to the headliners'. As for those major artists, their sets were solid, but didn't do it for us quite like the locals. Devin the Dude brought up everyone in his entourage up on stage with him, adding to the community-minded vibe. Skillwise, Devin has been around long enough to perfect his craft; like a fine wine, years of rapping have helped him reach his current skill level. Of Montreal, they hold a special place in this member of Rocks Off's heart, sharing songs from this band with not one but two exes. However, something still makes the Georgia ensemble seem like they came straight out of a hipster's wet dream; maybe it's the too-cute-for-school animal costumes.
From a local standpoint, all the bands held their own. Starting Sunday off with Chase Hamblin was definitely a good choice. His wispy voice and gypsyesque style made the heat seem somewhat bearable. Also, after hearing it live, Hamblin's song "We're Going to Make It" holds a lot of power to it. On a day like Sunday, where the rain brought nothing more than extra heat, his voice was just the right amount of happiness. Fulfilling the daily need for punk rock was the Hates. These guys knew they were what most would consider "seasoned." Joking with an audience member at one point, guitarist Christian Anarchy asked "Does your dad know you smoke those?" But one of the joys of punk rock is that being older than most people attending your shows doesn't matter. In this case, the Hates had the kids in the audience ready to mosh before the first guitar lick reverberated. Musically, their styling is very minimalist - fast drums, fast guitars, and "oi's" galore, but lyrically, they've got the right idea with anarchist chants and subtle speeches about the pains of living in present-day America. Seeming a little out of place at the beginning of their set, the Hates are a staple in Houston, making them a perfect choice for a festival such as this.
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However, what made Aftermath's day was the Eastern Sea's performance. Taking on the same persona has Broken Social Scene, they took everything, and everyone, but the kitchen sink up onstage with them - something that usually comes off as "cute" or unbearable if all the stage-dwellers plan on performing, but this wasn't the case. Lead singer/guitarist Matthew Philip Hines' energy led his Eastern Sea pack on its mission. Though they have elements of folk in them, the band keeps an upbeat tempo reminiscent of pop music but not quite up to that level of cheeriness. News on the March's Austin Sepulvado getting up on stage and playing the accordion - an instrument considered dorky by some but that takes a lot of patience to master - brought an even bigger smile to our face. His accompaniment brought the pace down from previous songs, but added something no one knew was really knew was needed until it was there.
Though the weather tried its hardest (and hottest) to keep Summer Fest down, it was just no match for Houstonians' love of massively sized events. Over this weekend, Rocks Off was very proud to be from Houston for several reasons: the amount of local musicians willing to play roadie/security for two days, the lack of bitching about Sunday's rain delay and most of all the fans. Thousands coming out in more than 100-degree weather, and staying from high noon to after sunset, brought back that famous line from Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come." Summer Fest was built and hyped for months, and Houston did indeed come.