About this time of year, local acts begin to wonder if they'll get called to represent the best in Houston music at Free Press Summer Fest. As the event has grown larger, though, this opportunity has grown smaller, which in turn makes the honor of getting called even greater.
Excusing from consideration acts who have previously played the festival (for the most part), here's a list of several it would be fun to see onstage somewhere in Tinsley Park this June 6 and 7. Good luck to them and everyone else being considered and remember, Houston, whoever does get the nod, get out there and show some support during their sets.
BEATKING As Rocks Off's own Brando recently reminded us, Houston remains the epicenter of Texas rap music. We're happy to see other cities putting in work, but don't get ahead of yourselves, other Texas cities. Just last year, FPSF trotted out a virtual rap hall of fame for the "Welcome to Houston" set, which had a sea of people swaying to a sound born and bred here.
BeatKing is a good example of why Houston remains at the top of its game. The rapper built a following over the last few years by rhyming about WorldStar wonders like Amber Cole and Jaide the Bully, viral oddities with name recognition in the millions thanks to all those YouTube hits. That translates into instant, large audiences. That's H-town innovation, y'all.
Of course, it wouldn't work if BeatKing lacked skills. Instead, his sometimes-too-honest raps hit home like Jaide getting a fist (or 100) to the face. He just dropped Club God 4, an 18-track album that clocks in at a little over an hour and features guests like Danny Brown and Kirko Bangz -- another great choice for the fest.
BLAGGARDS/DEAD RABBITS Battle of the Bands
If they need a couple of acts to move some of those $10 beers at the festival this year, the FPSF organizers should consider this Celtic dragon battle. In this corner, the stalwart Blaggards, workmanlike and fine-tuned, with a following that will literally follow them annually to Ireland. And never before booked at Summerfest, according to our research.
And, in that corner, "The Warren,"the happily irreverent, frequently drunken Irish punk rockers with new music about to drop; also never before featured at the festival (we think). That watery Bud Light is already starting to taste like a Guinness just thinking about this matchup.
COMICS Maybe Summer Fest prides itself on not doing what other music festivals might, so the hope for a comedy stage may never be realized. That's too bad, because Houston's comedy scene is as exciting as its music scene, teeming with on-the-cusp funny people who have the connections to urge quality national acts to Houston stages.
Just last month, local comics helped build a successful comedy fest from nothing but hard work and good will. It would be exciting to see who they might attract with the promise that some of the 100,000-plus in attendance could use a laugh break from all the music. Put 'em in that Fancy Pants tent where nothing goes on but drinking and air conditioning.
THE GRIZZLY BAND Summer Fest organizers haven't just booked the buzz bands in the past, they've also awarded some of the city's hardest-working acts with festival slots. The Grizzly Band would fill that niche nicely in 2015. The group's "Southern whiskey punk" was heard regularly at venues like Rudyard's and Scout Bar in 2014, while the band rubbed elbows with acts like the Reverend Horton Heat here in Houston and Motley Crue and Zac Brown Band at 2014's Buffalo Chip in Sturgis, S.D.
HANDSOMEBEAST These guys have put the funk in your face for a couple of years now, which is where you seem to like it, Houston. They're known to FPSF organizers and, in fact, will share a bill at Fitzgerald's this month with Catch Fever and Fox Parlor, also worthy festival candidates. HB's self-described "space-rock-bump-and-grind" has the wocka-wocka guitar riffs needed to get asses shaking, something every summertime music fest needs. Check out their danceable offerings from last month's Wonky Power Live Sessions.
NICK GAITAN & THE UMBRELLA MAN 2014 was an exciting year for the Umbrella Man's main man, Gaitan. He went on the road with Willie, hung out with Letterman and was named Houston's best bassist in Houston Press Music Awards voting (again), a high honor considering the plethora of bass-playing talent here. The music drives this "Tex-Mex-Americana band" from one gig to the next, and they gig a lot. It would be nice to give that drive a little extra premium fuel with a spot on the city's premier music event. And, it'd be great to slot 'em right about sundown, when the set would give us all the feel that we're sharing a stellar moment down at the D&W Lounge.
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PURPLE This grunge-punk trio from Beaumont has all the momentum of a runaway 18-wheeler barreling down I-10. Looks: check; they're all cuties. Chops: check; gritty guitars and a steady backbeat thread together the cacophonous melodies of 409, their 10-cut 2014 album. Work ethic: check; they play a lot, any and everywhere they can get booked. Last year's gigs saw them hit stages as far away as Munich, Germany and as nearby as Last Concert Café.
The band has a strong overseas following, but is starting to gain some traction stateside. Just this week, they were included in NPR's All Songs Considered and last year caught the attention of music purveyors like the Austin Chronicle, Ellenwood and Kerrang! magazine.
THE SUFFERS Yes, they have played the festival previously, and FPSF doesn't normally return local bands to its stages so soon, but the Suffers are rapidly moving from the bayou to the ether and that deserves another look at the biggest Houston music event of the year. The 10-piece act is crowding up column and stage space everywhere these days, it seems: they're Entertainment Weekly and Buzzfeed darlings. They're booked for Alabama's Hangout Festival in May and are taking the show on the road this month.
WE WERE WOLVES Someone can correct us if we're mistaken, but a glance at past FPSF rosters suggests We Were Wolves has never played its version of bombastically loud rock at the open-air event. It'd be fun to see how far their ear-shattering sound would carry from whatever stage they're situated on.
There's something to be said for no-nonsense, gimmick-free rock and roll and the art of perfecting it over time. At work since 2008, these wolves don't prowl; the songs are more like violent sprints to the kill. The guitar licks in songs like "Space Whip" and "Heavy Shrimp" are attention grabbers that would easily beckon the fest's audiences to WWW's assigned stage.
ZZ TOP Can we stop messing around already and book ZZ Top as a headliner, even if only to pay deference to the Tres Hombres? Not relevant in 2015, you say? Maybe you missed them taking the purple hue out of "25 Lighters" and adding the blue for "I Gotsta Get Paid" a couple of years ago, a retooling endorsed by the Screwed Up Click. Can you get more Houston than that?
More recently, the band performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live the same night Houston titan J.J. Watt appeared, and just this past week was paired with Rivers Cuomo for Kimmel's "Mash Up Mondays," throwing down as "Wee Z Top." It would be pretty great to hop in that Eliminator coupe with the band and time-trip across six decades of Houston-based rock and roll, from American Blues and Moving Sidewalks to La Futuraand beyond. Last alphabetically but first in our hearts -- ZZ Top on the main stage, please.
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