At this point it’s hard to imagine many people are on the fence about going to Free Press Summer Fest this weekend. Either Houstonians are already slathering on sunscreen or simply can't be bothered. Certainly the Houston Chronicle, in previous years perhaps FPSF’s biggest cheerleader, got its shots in Wednesday, calling out the festival for its conspicuous number of recent repeat artists, low social-media buzz, sloppy “curation” and other symptoms of an alleged lack of excitement from the surrounding community. All of that may or may not be true, but either way, just think how far we’ve come from 2015, when seemingly half the city was up in arms about R. Kelly’s appearance and the other half was queueing up to defiantly dance to “Ignition (Remix).”
That said, 2017 feels like a transition year for the festival, so it may be wise to give it the benefit of the doubt. After some pretty rough weather-related interruptions the past couple of years, FPSF is coming home to Eleanor Tinsley Park, so automatically it’s got its home-field advantage back. The overall number of performers may be down, but that might only make it easier for the crowds to navigate the grounds. For once, the weather has been merciful...so far. And in case you hadn’t noticed, this year’s lineup (especially the headliners) should retire once and for all those ugly accusations of misogyny that once dogged the festival for years. Despite its flaws, FPSF still has a lot going for it, and — besides the Houston-based acts we told you about Wednesday — these five artists should prove that point rather soundly.
Saturn Stage, 12 p.m. Sunday
Cherry Glazerr might be on the undercard for FPSF this year, but that doesn't mean they're an act to miss. Headed by teen rock prodigy Clementine Creevy, The L.A.-based band has been slinging out gritty garage hits before its members could even drive. The group's latest album, Apocalypstick, is a big step in the band's evolution. They've substituted their distortion pedals for synthesizers, toning down their guitar-driven rock songs with spritzes of electronic glam. The song "Told You I'd Be With the Guys" writhes with bassy angst, while "Nurse Ratched" evolves from dreamy vocal echoes to blistering guitar riffs. After a long Saturday lineup that relies heavily on EDM acts, Cherry Glazerr's early-Sunday set will be a refreshing palate-cleanser. If you're looking for the defiant pop antics of Blondie served up with a side helping of Bikini Kill, then be sure to catch this band. KATIE SULLIVAN
HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF
Budweiser Stage, 1:20 p.m. Saturday
Street-smart populism permeates the songs of Hurray For the Riff Raff, the musical alter ego of singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra. In precisely the sort of background that seldom fails to yield compelling music, Segarra ran away from home, and busked century-old blues songs to get by before landing in New Orleans, the ideal spot to cultivate a fan base for her cross-cultural folk music. She knocked around various Gulf Coast dives until NPR took a liking to “The Body Electric,” a song from Segarra’s 2014 LP Small Town Heroes. This past March, her fifth album, The Navigator (ATO), introduced a title character who gradually becomes a sort of folk hero, closely paralleling the Puerto Rican-American Segarra’s own artistic reconnecting with her South Bronx roots via the music of Hector LaVoe, Rodriguez and the Ghetto Brothers. As fully realized as The Navigator is, it’s impossible to ignore the subtext here — that Segarra is promising still greater things on records yet to come. CHRIS GRAY
Saturn Stage, 8:30 p.m. Sunday
Headliner Lorde encapsulates the shifting dynamic of FPSF: Her music is full of deep electronic ruminations, yet still pierced with enough energy to get all the kids dancing. That mix of maturity and revelry will make for an emotionally profound festival experience that's full of fun. The artist is gearing up for the debut of her sophomore album, Melodrama, on July 3, which means festival-goers can get a front-row seat to the singer's latest music. While fans have been buzzing about the high-octane dance single "Green Light," be sure not to sleep on her latest ballad, "Liability." The track promises to be the sad-girl song of the summer; lines like "The truth is I am a toy that people enjoy/ 'Til all of the tricks don't work anymore" are sure to run a whole lot of mascara. Sway your hips, get in your feelings and listen to Lorde. KATIE SULLIVAN
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Saturn Stage, 6:30 p.m. Sunday
When local fans first scanned the FPSF lineup, some said this year's choices are lackluster or predictable. I couldn’t disagree more. There’s plenty of solid talent camping on the Bayou for the weekend, and personally, the band at the top of my "must see or die trying" list is Albuquerque-born indie-rockers The Shins. As with most listeners, they escaped my radar until I saw the 2004 film Garden State and heard Natalie Portman’s proclamation, “You have to hear this one song. It’ll change your life.” Sure, it was oversold, but The Shins endure, still making some damn sweet tunes. This year’s release, Heartworms, sounds like a cross between some of the band's more eclectic cuts and Of Montreal. Yet let’s not forget The Shins are quietly powerful, once signed to Sub Pop and Grammy-nominated for 2007’s Wincing the Night Away. What more do you want from FPSF? These ears are satisfied. KRISTY LOYE
Budweiser Stage, 6:30 p.m. Sunday
While Houston has never slept on the radical talent of Solange, the release of her latest album, A Seat at the Table, made the music world at large sit up and take notice. The album received effusive critical praise for its vanguard sonic storytelling, earning it Pitchfork's 2016 Album of the Year. Her songs were brooding, visceral and full of ethereal verve, but, more important, the music solidified her reputation as a distinctive, groundbreaking artist. Her recent performances at the Guggenheim and The Menil Collection showcased Solange's ability to deftly blend song and movement into compelling pieces of art. All those reasons make her one of the must-see acts of FPSF. Solange will bring her audience a full-on, high-art visual spectacle mixed in with some of the best R&B around. The set promises to be highly emotional, highly fashionable and all-around amazing. Plus, if we know Solange, she's likely to have some special surprises in store for the city she calls home. KATIE SULLIVAN
Free Press returns to Eleanor Tinsley Park this Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4. Gates open at 11 a.m.; see fpsf.com for details.