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The Six Best Stages at Free Press Summer Fest

The Neptune stage (center left) during the "Welcome to Houston" all-star rap set
The Neptune stage (center left) during the "Welcome to Houston" all-star rap set
Photos by Chris Gray

Even for a music festival that is already not quite like any other, one of the most unique aspects of Free Press Summer Fest is its ever-shifting footprint. From one year to the next, very little about the two-day bash -- including the admission gates, vendor booths, music stages and the row of portapotties that can get pretty ripe when the sun starts going down -- is ever in the same place twice. This year especially, the ongoing renovations to Buffalo Bayou and Eleanor Tinsley Park have dramatically shifted the geographic center eastward back toward downtown, allowing it to envelop Sam Houston Park for the first time.

So coming to FPSF each year is a little bit of a guessing game, something that definitely adds to the festival's charm. Especially in the past couple of years, the event's producers have found some downright ingenious locations to stash the stages, but their precise charms are not always communicated by the somewhat spartan (though not inaccurate) map available on the FPSF Web site and mobile app. So after spending most of Saturday at the festival, Rocks Off thought we'd chip in with what we hope is a clearer picture of each stage's personality based on a few completely subjective but, we hope, logical aesthetic judgements. As always, we're here to help.

The Orwells on the Venus Stage
The Orwells on the Venus Stage

6. VENUS STAGE

Location: Shoulder of Allen Parkway eastbound lanes, beneath first pedestrian bridge west of I-45 Size: minuscule; indistinguishable from nearby beer and food tents Sound Quality: Mighty-mite Scenic Value: 6 (bridge and oak trees make a pleasant backdrop, but audience sits in a major pedestrian artery) Shade/Rain Cover Factor: .5 Sunday's Acts (chronologial order): The Dead Links; Born Liars; Venomous Maximus; William Fitzsimmons; Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors; Shakey Graves

Jana Hunter on the Jupiter stage
Jana Hunter on the Jupiter stage

5. JUPITER STAGE

Location: Shoulder of eastbound Allen Parkway, immediately east of the I-45 overpass Size: Teeny-tiny Sound Quality: Robust Scenic Value: 6-7 Shade/Rain Cover Factor: 5 (counting overpass) Sunday's Acts: Gracie Chavez; Another Run; Los Skarnales; White Sea; Flatbush Zombies; Robert DeLong

The Six Best Stages at Free Press Summer Fest

4. MARS STAGE

Location: Down the "hill," at a 90-degree angle (facing downtown) where the FSPF main stage has been in the past Size: As big as they get Sound Quality: War-like Scenic Value: 7 (ringed by trees and open sky) Shade/Rain Cover Factor: 2 Sunday's Acts: Wrestlers (formerly Bagheera); the Oh Hellos; the Naked and Famous; Ms. Lauryn Hill; Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros; Jack White

FLOSStradamus on the Saturn stage
FLOSStradamus on the Saturn stage

3. SATURN STAGE

Location: Sam Houston Park Size: Significant Sound Quality: Beefy Scenic Value: 8 (heavily wooded, including a few ancient oaks) Shade/Rain Cover Factor: 4 (further back) Sunday's Acts: Pleasure 2; Grand Old Grizzly; J. Roddy Walston & the Business; Drive-By Truckers; the Kills; Die Antwoord; Above & Beyond

List continues on the next page.

 

Austin's Driver Friendly on the Neptune stage
Austin's Driver Friendly on the Neptune stage

2. NEPTUNE STAGE

Location: Eastbound lanes of Allen Parkway c. 50 yards west of I-45 overpass Size: Large Sound Quality: Good Scenic Value: 9 (skyline makes a brilliant backdrop) Shade/Rain Cover Factor: 1 Sunday's Acts: New York City Queens; Sylvan Esso; Washed Out; Tune-Yards; Cage the Elephant; Wu-Tang Clan

Houston's BLSHS on the Mercury stage
Houston's BLSHS on the Mercury stage

1. MERCURY STAGE

Location: Underneath I-45 South and Walker Street exit ramp Size: Medium Sound Quality: Strong Scenic Value: 8 (heavily wooded plus the overpasses...it's pretty) Shade/Rain Cover Factor: 8 Sunday's Acts: A Fistful of Soul DJs; MAKE; DMX; The Chain Gang of 1974; Poolside; Laidback Luke; Adventure Club

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Eleanor Tinsley Park

500 Allen Parkway
Houston, TX 77002

713-247-3500


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