Don’t linger when heading out to Free Press Summer Fest this weekend, at least not if you’re interested in catching the locals who are playing the festival this year. With the exception of Solange, who has advanced well beyond the fixed-address stage of celebrity anyway, all of this year’s Houston artists will play well before the sun goes down. While the early hour may not do the artists’ sunscreen budgets many favors, it does offer all sorts of advantages for fans — it’s much easier to get through the gates and bar lines, and/or find a good spot up front; and artists who play this time of day tend to be much more accessible, often sticking around after their sets to sign autographs, sell merch, or just chat.
Or, if two or three hours of music is all you really ask of a festival, early sets mean there’s still plenty of time left over for various grocery-shopping, sock-mending, weed-whacking, bathtub-caulking domestic affairs. (The traffic to and from is lighter too.) So, although several other Bayou City acts on the bill this year certainly merit your time as well — Khruangbin, Deep Cuts, Camera Cult, DJ Fredster and Bang Bangz, to name some — we think these five are absolutely worth arriving early for.
Mercury Stage, 11:10 a.m. Sunday
When androids dream of electric sheep, MIEARS is the music playing in the background. The Houston-based synth artist released her solo debut Who Will Save You? back in February, blessing the local music scene with her multi-faceted digital project. MIEARS's voice is at the foreground of her music; it's classically beautiful, an operatic clarion call woven into the layers of each song. That being said, listeners shouldn't discount MIEARS's ability as a composer. The EP boasts impressive depth; the title track is equal parts dreamy and mournful, with layers upon layers of digital loops that never seem to get sluggish. That aesthetic — profound yet poppy, complex yet clear — fits nicely with this year's FPSF lineup, which has jettisoned many of its party-driven acts in favor of those with a bit more substance. For the few festival-goers who can manage to get themselves to Eleanor Tinsley Park before noon on a Sunday, MIEARS is a solid way to start the day. KATIE SULLIVAN
Saturn Stage, 12:10 p.m. Saturday
Rose Ette may be a band, and a rather fetching one at that, but its past and present personnel amounts to a roll call of top Bayou City indie tastemakers. Under solo persona Tee Vee, front woman Teresa Vicinanza recently went the avant-electronic pop route on the Soft Spot EP; while not quite traditional, Rose Ette’s own songs, as heard on February’s “Skin”/“Predator” split, evoke classic college radio or even a progressive prom playlist. After 2015’s Jungle EP, Vicinanza swapped out lead guitarist Mandy Clinton (now of Pearl Crush) with Daniela Hernandez, formerly of New York City Queens; and the Young Mammals rhythm section for drummer John Baldwin, once of Wild Moccasins and still proprietor of Deep End Records; and bassist Jessica Baldauf, boss of Rose Ette’s label, the tres chic Miss Champagne Records. Not unlike Hearts of Animals, whose brilliant 2014 LP Another Mutation also happens to be distributed by Miss Champagne, Rose Ette’s dreamlike melodies hint strongly at possible extraterrestrial origins; they’re almost too pure to have been created by mere human beings. CHRIS GRAY
Neptune Stage, 3:40 p.m. Saturday
Rap stardom, especially in Houston, has a way of eating the young. For every teen sensation or young act bit with the bug of cashing their first few checks, there are others dedicated to the craft of rhyme. Neighborhood stars become regional stars, and so on and so forth. Trill Sammy, the frizzy-haired Hiram Clarke product, has taken initial stardom on Vine to constructing big, stretched-out rap tracks with former neighborhood stars turned actual stars such as Slim Thug. Playing festivals is not a new thing for him. Playing the city’s biggest music festival is a whole other being. Trill Sammy may not have a full-blown definitive single outside of “Martin,” but he has enough material to show off that he’s well removed from being a one-year wonder. He’s a neighborhood star turned big, to the point where he’s now in Los Angeles almost 80 percent of the time, if not touring. And that is what hometown heroes are all about. BRANDON CALDWELL
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Mercury Stage, 12:20 p.m. Saturday
-Us. wowed us with his festival debut at Day For Night this past December; the young artist commanded the stage with Ziggy Stardust aplomb, creating a glittery electropop spectacle that made Houston proud. The solo act has been hard at work since, with his new EP Contact hitting shelves June 2, just in time for FPSF. The latest single "Shadows" is an oddity for the artist; it's slow and reflective, reminiscent of the multi-instrumentalism of Kishi Bashi or the brooding electronic beats of Sylvan Esso. That being said, the rest of the EP — and in turn, the artist's FPSF set — promises to be filled with the capricious, lighthearted music that -Us. has come to be known for. The song "Contact" is a particular standout, with an easy chillwave flair that is sure to get a crowd swaying. If you're looking for a set that's heavy on fun and showmanship, then plant yourself in front of the Mercury stage early on Saturday and see this artist. KATIE SULLIVAN
THE WHEEL WORKERS
Neptune Stage, 11:30 a.m. Sunday
Just like they promised on Election Day, the Wheel Workers aren’t taking Donald Trump’s victory lying down. Quite the contrary; recently the band partnered with #ResistHouston to produce a video for their song “White Lies,” lauded by the A.V. Club last fall as “a Devo-like jittery rave-up of angular riffs and vocals spit out with bile.” Here, the song plays over footage from recent anti-Trump demonstrations in Houston, reaffirming the city’s reputation as an island of blue in a distressingly red sea. Just as important, it’ll make you get up and move. “I think music has to work on its own and connect first on an emotional level,” front man Steven Higginbotham told us. “If it doesn't move you, you aren't going to pay attention to the lyrics.” CHRIS GRAY
Free Press Summer Fest returns to Eleanor Tinsley Park this Saturday and Sunday, June 3 and 4. Gates open at 11 a.m.; see fpsf.com for details.