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Best of Free Press Summer Fest Day 2: Willie Nelson, Avett Bros., Wallpaper, Etc.

Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson
Photo by Marc Brubaker

More FPSF 2012 Coverage:Summer Fest line-up reviews on the Rocks Off blog.
Free Press Summer Fest 2012: The Sexy, Sweaty Crowds
Popsicles and Pizza: The Food of Summer Fest
FPSF: The Bands from Saturday
FPSF: The Bands from Sunday

Nathan Smith: The best part of Summer Fest Day 2 was the sight of tens of thousands of young Texans basking in their musical birthright as Willie Nelson plucked his sacramental strings. Willie needed no introduction on Sunday afternoon, and no one gave him one. There was no preamble and not much chit-chat from the Red Headed Stranger -- the man had a lot of songs he wanted to play, and at 79 years old, his time is rather precious.

The biggest cheer of his set came when he bade the crowd to "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die," but his voice sounded so fine and his guitar strumming so powerful that it was easy to imagine Nelson living, singing and smoking forever. I reckon that'd be just fine with all of us.

The Avett Brothers
The Avett Brothers
Photo by Jim Bricker

Matthew Keever: For a while now, the Avett Brothers have been on my ever-growing list of bands to further familiarize myself with, and their set Saturday afternoon moved them to the very top of that list. Even in 2012, when every genre seems to be merging with its converse, it's rare to hear a band that puts together such a well-rounded musical performance, one that can bring you to tears just a moment before extending a hand and helping you back onto your feet, causing you to jump and dance. But the Avett Brothers do just that, and their performance Saturday was the highlight of my day.

Brittanie Shey: My husband and I made our way towards the stage for Avett Brothers about 30 minutes before the band took the stage. We found a nice clear spot in the grass and spread out our beach towel to sit on. Once we sat down, husband started chatting with the women next to us. The two of them, both pushing probably 60 years old, had driven from Baton Rouge to see the Avett Brothers play, but having bought a ticket to both days of the festival, decided to check out some local acts.

Their favorite? Robert Ellis. I let them know about his recent AMA accolades and basked in the glory that people from other cities are making pilgrimages to Houston for a music festival. That is pretty rad.

Robert Ellis
Robert Ellis
Photo by Jim Bricker

Craig Hlavaty: Yeah, I have to go with Robert Ellis's afternoon set. Houston was pretty spoiled having him here once a week for his and the Boys' weekly residencies, and whenever he comes back it's something to see. The band has grown even tighter somehow, and as a colleague noted, they are starting to weave those guitars more fluidly than ever.

Ellis debuted a new song, as yet untitled, about religion in a small town, more than likely his hometown of Lake Jackson. It was stirring, damning, bluegrassy stuff, and shows off a rockier side that we have been waiting to see. His set and that of Grandfather Child (for which he plays bass when in town) served as a great appetizer for Willie Nelson later on the same stage.

 

Quiet Company
Quiet Company
Photo by Groovehouse

Chris Gray: Quiet Company is the second bearded, brawny band in a row to sweep the Austin Music Awards (after Bright Light Social Hour), and after Robert Ellis's pickin' party, impressed a halfway-decent Stage 5 crowd on Summer Fest Sunday afternoon. The band has a trombone, which adds a bold element to their guitar-heavy sound, and they were sweating their asses off in black shirts and ties (although the trombonist's shirt was gray).

They didn't offer an immediate critical reference point -- Paul Westerberg must have been an important musical figure for them at some point, though -- just falling under the very broad "modern rock" umbrella. I took that as a sign of some real originality. Supposedly Quiet Company's debut album, We Are All Where We Belong, is about singer Taylor Muse's crisis of faith, but their belief in rock and roll's redemptive powers was approaching Springsteenian levels Sunday.

William Michael Smith: Once again Stage 3 seemed to be where the beat was, where the party was happening. Nothing I'd heard about Wallpaper prepared me for the power of their punk rock/rap collision. Backed by two drummers (one original member Arjun Singh), a keyboardist and a bunch of electric boxes, front man Ricky Reed exploded in the afternoon heat.

A very interactive crowd spurred Reed's humor streak that comes out full force in raps like "Stupid Facedd" and, for a sweltering afternoon on a sandlot, this was the place to be if you were looking for a party. Walked over to catch the beginning of Portugal. The Man's set, but within two songs I'd hustled back to Wallpaper and hung on for dear life. For my pick of the day, Wallpaper beat out punk/art-rock-politicos Demonic Hens (surprise find of the day), the tail-shakin' L.A. funk of Orgone (who I want to move into my place and just play) and old reliables the Descendents.

Young the Giant
Young the Giant
Photo by Marco Torres

Taylor Moon: A classic microphone, something you'd normally see Elvis singing into, and a tambourine going at 3 in the afternoon. Somehow a sweaty-ass hot crowd was swaying back and forth and singing along, all thanks to Young the Giant. However, the guy next to me was so dehydrated his friend had to carry him out. An announcement was made to the crowd that the band would hit the studio in the fall.

Corey Dieterman: With just as much crippling heat as Saturday, it may have seemed unlikely that anyone could get down for a hardcore show. Luckily, the breakneck rhythms and screaming vocals of emotional hardcore band Touche Amore won over their admittedly small crowd of dedicated fans surrounding Stage 6 to provide my personal highlight for Sunday. The band ran through a set of almost all their brief but hard-hitting songs, grabbing the moshing crowd for the ride to scream every word alongside vocalist Jeremy Bolm. Props also go out to them for still continuing their set with only one guitarist after blowing an amp. True punk pros.

 

Shabazz Palaces
Shabazz Palaces
Photo by Marco Torres

Alexa Crenshaw: It's nearing the end of Day 2 at Summer Fest, and I'm drained. Stressful, hard-knock issues were on my mind including: I wore the wrong shoes, and I wanted a $10 drink but didn't want to spend $10. Sitting at the phone-charging station next to Stage 3, contemplating my hard-knock existence as my iPhone charges, I hear soothing electronic beats coming from the stage nearby.

The source was Shabazz Palaces. All joking aside, their relaxing sound stood out to me in how it brought me to a state of ephemeral contentment. There were many good things playing Sunday, but this duo was refreshing in that they were the perfect time out.

Christina Lynn: One of the things I like about the Tontons is their eclectic mix of rock and sultriness. To me, they are an indie band that appeals to everyone and not just indie lovers. I think if they keep up the good work, they will go far. Better yet, the overall mood of the music fit well with the time of day they played: Evening. One of the things that really got me about them was that there were probably some newbies in the crowd as well as diehards. Bottom line: They had a fairly large crowd at Stage 7.

Demonic Hen
Demonic Hen
Photo by Marc Brubaker

John Seaborn Gray: The highlight of Sunday for me, apart from Demonic Hen's black-humored nightmare over at my beloved Super Happy Fun Land stage, had to be getting to see Second Lovers again. I had seen those guys before when a band I used to be in played a show with them about a year ago and not since, and I have to say: They've gotten really, really good. They were good then, but suffered from a tenuous unfocused-ness beholden to most new bands. Well, they've got that shit straightened out.

Minus a vocalist but plus a guitarist, their sound is full and focused, and Nicolas Morales's vocals are sweet and sharp. They're pretty muscular these days, coming across as more of a hard-charging Americana folk-rock act a la Uncle Tupelo or Reckless Kelly, as opposed to their former, more subdued indie manifestation. Yes, in this case, that's a good thing. I was late to the next show I wanted to see because I couldn't walk away from them, and that's high praise for a festival as jam-packed as SummerFest.

Cory Garcia: While the majority of the crowd was waiting for Willie to take the stage, I again found myself taking in some local sounds down at stage 7 with the people in New York City Queens. They provided the welcome relief after a long day of disappointing performances elsewhere. A little rough around the edges at times, the band laid down a solid set to one of the biggest crowds I saw over in that part of the park. If they keep it up, I see good things for them here in the city and other destinations.


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