Until FPSF’s Hold My Beer moment came along two weeks ago, Houston Open Air 2016 held the unfortunate distinction as the most regrettable recent concert experience in the Bayou City. With evacuations and cancellations due to severe weather conditions, what would have been the Danny Wimmer Presents franchise's inaugural show in Houston sadly became a running joke among local metalheads.
Yet, for all the missed opportunity to rock, you have to credit DWP for its tenacity and dedication to at least regroup and try again. Clearly, they got the message about fickle Houston weather and have relocated this year’s event to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands. Say what you will about Houston’s love/hate relationship with the outdoor venue, at least it’s at the Pavilion, meaning it provides options the asphalt-heavy aesthetic of NRG never could — shade, an air-conditioned indoor VIP room, actual bathrooms, and real seats.
For that we’re thankful, as we are for the revised date. Adjusting to mid-October almost guarantees a milder weather pattern. Do a few weeks really make that much difference? In Houston, yes.
And by featuring an astronaut on this year's lineup poster, DWP's planning and marketing teams seem to have not only scouted for more favorable weather conditions, but read up on Houston culture. Dropping the hideous “gourmet man food” slogan of 2016 and instead opted for “Texas-sized eats” is another positive change. The overall presentation just feels much more inviting this year because, let’s face it, women eat too. (Crazy, we know…)
Even better, this year’s lineup is a much classier caliber of metal acts. While last year tended to lean on established staples like Slayer, Anthrax, The Cult and Ministry, HOA 2017 offers a more eclectic menu of bands. From djent French rockers Gojira to prog poster child Mastodon to edgy, harder acts like Code Orange and Radkey (who played Monday at WOMH), the bill offers interesting and rare touring artists on both days. By God, there are even women on the roster, from Lzzy Hale of Halestorm to In This Moment, New Years Day and Code Orange. And at least one Texas band, Power Trip, with more to be announced.
Hopes were high for this year, especially after the recent announcement of the Aftershock lineup (another DWP festival). And with the exception of no Ozzy Osbourne for the Houston date, HOA's 2017 lineup looks like an impressive selection of solid bands.
Except for Saturday's headliners (for now), Five Finger Death Punch. Just...why?
It’s bad enough that these substandard bro-metal brosephs are on an otherwise solid ticket, but they’re actually headlining the entire first evening. Wrap your brain around this for a minute: Five Finger Death Punch is headlining above not only Gojira but Marilyn Manson, too.
How in all of God’s green earth did (first) FFDP make it onto a bill like this and (second) make it to headliner status? Their subpar metal isn’t even in the same league as that of the other bands on the ticket. It just doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps Danny Wimmer Presents is hoping to clear the Pavilion before 9 p.m. to short-circuit any potential curfew issues? All bets are clearly off.
Further, Houston is not a city that will rubber-stamp a festival that hosts performers who have even the appearance of committing violence against women, as seen by FPSF’s booking of R. Kelly in 2015 and the bitter public backlash that ensued. Though the charges were ultimately dropped, FFDP lead singer Ivan Moody was arrested in Las Vegas that same year after allegedly strangling his girlfriend at the time. His own sister and mother took out a restraining order against him the previous year; in late 2016, Moody tested his audience's patience further still with recurring bizarre onstage behavior. If that's not enough, late Monday night, Moody appeared onstage in the Netherlands, only to apparently quit the band by announcing it was his last show with FFDP.
In other words, this band seems like the worst possible headliner scenario for Houston. No thanks.
Let’s all hope for a late-addition surprise announcement that the Ozz Man Cometh (that's Ozzy Osbourne) after all, to grace us with some dark Sabbath sensibilities in place of FFDP. Some more local and/or Texas acts that can court a heavy audience would be nice too. As with last year’s Battle of the Bands, which afforded locals To Whom It May an opening slot, we’d love to hear more from our own.
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There’s no reason heavy hitters like Venomous Maximus, Oceans of Slumber or The Convalescence shouldn’t also be on this bill. Even casting a Texas-wide net would draw in acts like Shattered Sun, Nothing More (who were billed last year), Wo Fat, The Well, Honky or even long-running bands like Helstar, D.R.I. or Deadhorse.
There’s no shortage of quality metal acts here, and while each of our own can far out-play FFDP, they at least deserve opening slots for exposure. Seems like that’s the least Danny Wimmer can do for our scene, especially if they're going to fob off FFDP on us.