Let’s just come out and say it: Some Houston music festivals may be guilty of booking the same acts over and over again. And they’re definitely posting up in the most familiar Inner Loop green spaces. But why? Houston is a mammoth city with hundreds of music acts playing their guts out nightly. Still, it sometimes seems that only a handful ever get the biggest and best of the local festival gigs.
If you’re a Houston music veteran like Darr Nieuwoudt, you can either bawl about this perceived injustice or you can do something about it. As owner/operator of Blackbeard Recording Studios and a member of psych/blues/punk rockers Vanilla Whale, Nieuwoudt is an action man. And the action he, his brother Paul and their business partner, Tobin Eugene Anthony, have taken to remedy this problem will be unveiled this Saturday: the inaugural End Hip End It Festival in Old Town Spring.
“There is no event like this in the greater Houston area that specifically represents the psychedelic scene," Darr says. "Every major event is slammed with pop and EDM acts to pack the numbers in, and there is no event that you can escape the concrete jungle and go out to an actual park and see the stars at night with nothing but rock and roll bands.
“Every time Free Press [Summer Fest] or some event rolls around, it is the same exact local-level bands every year," he continues "So we want to end this ‘hip’ scene and bring an event out to north Houston away from the city a bit and give people an old-school approach to a music festival. I am tired of attending big events that are packed [with] corporate imagery and have the same Houston bands playing every year.”
Thus the festival's name, End Hip End It, which is also a play on the word “independent.” But it’s not just clever branding; Nieuwoudt says, “We were able to tap into a lot of the local rock and roll scene, and this is a mass effort by many people and musicians to bring this type of event to Houston.”
Collectively, their grass-roots efforts will bring more than three dozen bands to the Old Town Spring Fairgrounds. Besides headliners Ghostland Observatory and touring Strat-masters Radio Moscow and Black Tusk, the roster of bands includes locals like Sik Mule, Muddy Belle, “Ganesha,” The Grizzly Band and The Dirty Seeds. These groups represent the sort of act Nieuwoudt specifically sought out, the bands who are grinding out shows once, twice and even a few times a week, yet are largely ignored when the large corporate fests roll out their rosters.
“I and Tobin constructed the lineup, and it definitely took the course of a few months," says Nieuwoudt. "We started with a few middle acts such as The Well, Wo Fat, Golden Dawn Arkestra and then Radio Moscow as well, in the beginning. Once we had that, it still took us awhile to get a headliner because quite a few backed out because we are a first-year event, which is understandable — but we were even offering 100 percent payment up front and it still wasn't enough."
Looking at the lineup; the food vendors involved; and beer sponsors like Silver Eagle Distributors, Karbach, Saint Arnold and 8th Wonder breweries, plus the promise of interactive art projects and light shows, it’s almost easy to forget that the festival has been pulled together by relatively few hands.
“It's funny because some of the breweries didn't get back to us very quickly because they thought our lineup and image were a big corporate festival," Nieuwoudt explains. "They had no idea it was just three guys and their own time and money invested in it, and once they found that out, it completely changed the approach and idea behind everything.
“It certainly seems that the majority of the public [has] no clue the work that is put in by independents in the music industry, whether it's a band, a manager, an independent label or what have you,” he continues. “The profit margins shrink every year and people pay less and less for art, so that really has a ripple effect, all the way into industries such as recording.”
But what about the Old Town Spring locale? It seems to fit the notion of ending whatever is "too hip." The area is close to home, Nieuwoudt says, was available, and has the added advantage of bringing music that is regularly heard downtown or in Montrose to the city’s outskirts.
“We definitely thought long and hard on the location and, having grown up in the Spring area, we see ourselves sandwiched between the always-budding The Woodlands and downtown," he offers. "Houston is massive and we are all used to 45-minute drives, so we are aiming to be able to include the Sam Houston State University crowd in this event as well, being further up north.”
The day’s events were designed to factor in families who may be interested in a music fest in their neighborhood. Things like interactive paint walls, costume contests, pumpkin bowling, photo booths, horseshoes and band meet and greets will take advantage of the wide-open space of the fairgrounds and a diverse crowd in mind.
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Nieuwoudt says there have been some hurdles, as might be expected with any kickoff event of this magnitude, but mostly the End Hip End It team has been able to have fun learning on the job. They hope to grow the festival to a three-day weekend camping event within a few years, and are eager to take feedback from those who attend this weekend’s gathering.
“We just want to shine a light on all of the bands in Houston who don't make many of the festival lineups, bands who get overlooked and are just purely talented," he says. "I know it lies on bands and themselves to go as far as they want to if they work for it, but it's a cutthroat industry and there seem to be lots of inner circles and ‘cliques’ in Houston, even though most won’t admit it.
"We are not about that," he promises. "Houston is way too massive to rope off a ‘cool club’ and have the same names constantly being represented [at] the fun events in town.”
End Hip End It Festival runs 11 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, October 22 in Old Town Spring. Tickets are $45 for general admission and $85 for V.I.P., which includes shaded views of stages, personal food trucks, personal bathrooms, band meet and greets, beer tastings and more. For tickets and more information, visit www.endhipendit.com.