In three very short years, Free Press Summer Fest has gone from an experiment most people thought would fail to destination music festival most people wouldn't dare miss even if it is going to be 105 degrees outside. Rocks Off has seen quite a bit of online chatter from people in Austin who are planning to come to Summer Fest, something we never, ever thought we'd see - and doubly impressive because the state capital is hosting its own festival, Chaos In Tejas, this weekend.
No, Rocks Off doesn't have any extra Summer Fest passes, so please stop asking.
Among the more than 150 acts playing Eleanor Tinsley Park Saturday and Sunday are dozens who would probably bypass Houston on their regular tours, and a few who aren't even touring at all. Most of the rest of them live here. Rocks Off poked and prodded the members our staff who will be covering the festival this weekend (and not drinking any beer at all) into giving us a few of their can't-miss picks.
Leg Sweeper: This duo from Dallas is one reason you should head to the park early. It's fun, summery, blistering punk rock. Plus, they're nice guys to boot. MARC BRUBAKER 12:35 p.m., Rudyard's Stage
Indian Jewelry: Eleanor Tinsley Park is going to be hot, muggy and smell a little funny. Who else would I want to see? CHRIS GRAY 1:05 p.m., Budweiser Stage
Something Fierce: I'm convinced that this band will never get enough respect from its hometown, which doesn't mean that you should pass up their set. Criminally under-appreciated, Something Fierce has crafted one of Houston's best records of 2011 with their recent release, Don't Be So Cruel. MARC BRUBAKER 1:30 p.m., Warehouse Live Stage
Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears: With Dallas' The Relatives mingling with Austin's hottest rock-n-soul outfit, this one should be cause for what my mom used to call "heat prostration." WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH 2 p.m., Main Stage
Also Picked By: John Seaborn Gray
Those Darlins: Despite their too-easy classification as 'the female Ramones,' from sound to surname, I think these Tennessee chicks' sophomore album showed necessary maturation; it's been part of my 2011 soundtrack thus far, so I'll likely be seeing them Saturday afternoon. NEPH BASEDOW 2 p.m., Budweiser Stage
Bun B: I've been waiting to see Bun B. since the Free Press 10th anniversary show at Fitzgerald's, where he exploded like an IED. H-Town proud. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH 3 p.m., Main Stage
Roky Moon & BOLT: It's Roky Moon & BOLT. I am a RM&B supporter. I would vote Roky Moon into state law if I could. CRAIG HLAVATY 3 p.m., Night Owl Stage
Finnegan: This band feels like a big family, partly because half the members are related. The rest might as well be family, though, and they make great big indie-pop in the vein of Broken Social Scene. MARC BRUBAKER 3 p.m., Warehouse Live Stage
Big Boi: I saw the Outkast rapper at last year's Pitchfork Festival and enjoyed the variation he brought to the table. NEPH BASEDOW 3:30 p.m., Main Stage
Rusted Shut: In a perfect world, Don Walsh would be mayor of Houston. Or at least comptroller. CHRIS GRAY 4:15 p.m., Super Happy Fun Land Stage
Buxton: Gotta hear that new shit before they start opening up for Wilco and junk. If you see bassist Chris Wise, have him tell you the "ball story" and buy him a beer. CRAIG HLAVATY 4:30 p.m., 29-95 Stage
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: I've seen Sharon Jones covered in sweat inside air-conditioned venues, so for this show City of Houston may have to provide Ms. Jones with her own personal water truck. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH 5 p.m.., Main Stage
Also Picked By: John Seaborn Gray
Fucked Up: Crazy, layered hardcore punk. They'll probably trash the place and bleed everywhere. JOHN SEABORN GRAY 5:20 p.m., Budweiser Stage
Also Picked By: Craig Hlavaty; Neph Basedow
Lower Dens: Somehow I've managed to avoid seeing ex-Houstonian Jana Hunter's psych-pop group, despite nearly everyone whose opinion I respect raving about them and digging several songs off last year's Twin-Hand Movement. That ends tomorrow. CHRIS GRAY 5:20 p.m., 29-95 Stage
Ween: Not sure this one needs explanation. NEPH BASEDOW 8:30 p.m., Main Stage
If I was choosing which acts to see from Sunday's bill on band names alone, it'd be an easy answer: Ani DeFranco's Dick, Born Again Virgins, Grrrl Parts, Peekaboo Theory, Harry and the Potters, and Giant Princess. Otherwise, I'm most eager to see Sundress and Yeasayer. NEPH BASEDOW
Rivers/Robert Ellis/Hayes Carll/The Black Angels: It might get loud, country, druggy, and drunk. CRAIG HLAVATY 11:50 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Main Stage
Also Picked By: Marc Brubaker (Ellis, Carll); John Seaborn Gray (Black Angels)
The Handshake: To see if they are as good as I thought they were during the Main Street Block Party. CHRIS GRAY 1:05 p.m., Warehouse Live Stage
By the End of Tonight: As Explosions In the Sky proved at Summer Fest '09 and again opening for Arcade Fire, titanic instrumental rock is best appreciated outdoors. CHRIS GRAY 1:30 p.m., Rudyard's Stage
Kylesa: Huge, creative sludge-metal. All the power, none of the stupid metal Cookie Monster Voice cliche. And two drummers! Badass. JOHN SEABORN GRAY 3:15 p.m., Budweiser Stage
The Memorials: Let's see if this West Coast funk outfit can hang in the heat - and if they can hang with Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH 3:55 p.m., 29-95 Stage
Maria Taylor: Taylor's last album, Lady Luck, was a pop delight; this lucky lady's got popsicle-cool songs and a sweet voice. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH 4:45 p.m., 29-95 Stage
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit: The missing piece of the Drive-By Truckers has started his own band. Definitely worth checking out. JOHN SEABORN GRAY 5:35 p.m., 29-95 Stage
Also Picked By: William Michael Smith, Craig Hlavaty
B L A C K I E: I'm really curious as to how the infamous rap tornado's set will play out. He should have a hefty crowd, but how will his intimate, room-invading set translate to the large expanse? MARC BRUBAKER 6:15 p.m., Main Stage
Lil Keke & Z-Ro: The king of the Southside and Mo City Don could create some serious havoc on the mike. CHRIS GRAY 6:40 p.m., Gritsy/Reprogram Music Stage
Grandfather Child: You'll want your innocence restored before Weezer takes the Main Stage, so hustle up to get saved by our very own Grandfather Child.. If you've never encountered Grandfather Child, it's half take you to church, half make a baby, and all soul-restoring. MARC BRUBAKER 6:45 p.m., Rudyard's Stage
Weezer: Everyone should go and see Weezer whether you think they are played out or you love them. I saw them about 10 years ago in Ft. Worth with Tenacious D and Jimmy Eat World and they were by far the loudest, most rocking band I have ever seen. BRITTANIE SHEY Main Stage, 8:30 p.m.
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Also picked by: Craig Hlavaty
See complete Summer Fest info and buy whatever passes may be left at www.freepresssummerfest.com.