A Summer Place

Only in Houston

This past week, Free Press Summer Fest announced the dozens of acts who will descend on Eleanor Tinsley Park May 31 and June 1, topped by Jack White, Vampire Weekend, Wu-Tang Clan, Zedd, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Above & Beyond, Childish Gambino, Dwight Yoakam and Deftones. Popular local names including the Tontons, Wild Moccasins, DJ Bagheera, Los Skarnales, New York City Queens and Venomous Maximus also made the cut, as did first-timers BLSHS, Dead Roses, Grand Old Grizzly and Ill Liad.

But talent of that caliber — a broad sampling of rock, rap, EDM, indie, Americana and more — comes with a steep price. The cost of a two-day FSPF pass is almost twice what it was in 2013, leading to a fair amount of criticism. Rocks Off asked our folks to give us their thoughts on FPSF 2014; other than that, it's going to be suffocatingly hot, of course. Here are some of their comments:

My initial, visceral reaction to the lineup was twofold: a) Deftones? Yay!; b) that is a mighty impressive EDM lineup. I figured Zedd was a pretty solid lock for the festival, but Above & Beyond is an outside-the-box choice that I'm in love with. Having just seen them put on a wonderful set a few weeks ago at Lights All Night, I'm pretty stoked to get them again, outside under the Texas sky. Add in Adventure Club (who killed it at Something Wicked) and Flosstradamus, and you've got an EDM lineup with something for everyone. Cory Garcia

I'm just going to put my best foot forward on this one and start with the things that are awesome: Zedd, Lauryn Hill, Deftones. Jack White: not awesome. A lot of acts here I can really dig, but some of this is very confusing.

Somebody dropped the ball on the hip-hop artists, in my humble opinion. DMX and the Ying-Yang Twins? Surely we could find something more credible than that. And you will never, ever, ever, ever, ever convince me of Wu-Tang without Ol' Dirty Bastard. The end. Angelica Leicht

This isn't an ACL lineup. This isn't a Coachella lineup. This is FPSF doing what it does best: giving you a chance to watch artists you never thought you'd be able to at a time when you didn't even know you wanted to see them. Kudos, guys, you've done it again. Alyssa Dupree

I'm either getting old or my taste is growing more eclectic as time goes on. For the first time in the festival's admittedly short history, nothing here entices me. I'm sure it will be a great time for the target audience, but I'm not the target audience anymore. Such is life.

On the positive side, if all of Wu-Tang Clan shows up, that's going to be a hell of a show, and the Deftones are a perfectly reliable ­token metal band to have on the bill. Un­fortunately, the dearth of metal, punk, ex­perimental and alternative music in the lineup, even on the undercard, leaves me cold. Corey Deiterman

Well, shucks, I kinda had my heart set on OutKast after that tease of a FPSF Facebook post. This may mark the first time in history that a city has "settled" for the Wu-Tang Clan. Jack White and Vampire Weekend aren't personal favorites of mine, but the Wu, Lauryn Hill and Deftones are going to make for some good times on the bayou.

For the first time, as far as I can recall, there's no big-name local rapper on the bill. Shame, too, since I've always looked forward to seeing the likes of Devin the Dude, Bun B and the Geto Boys on the big stage. That said, it's FPSF. I ain't missin' it, and neither are you. Ought to be fun catching a new batch of artists (especially those EDM types!) that I've never heard of before. Nathan Smith

A pretty damn good lineup, to be sure, but I'm not sure if Jack White, Vampire Weekend, DMX and the Deftones are the draws that will pull in the trust-fund kids/retired baby boomers who can afford to pay $140 for a ticket. John Seaborn Gray

When the announcement was made and nope, no OutKast, very few of you were foolish enough to dismiss it all just for their absence. No one I know said, "Meh." But if you did, stop being an ass and get with the program. Year after year, the lineup improves, and if you can't see that, then just stay home and listen to your obscure, too-cool-for-us-all records on your phonograph. You'll be one fewer body in line at the porta-toilets. Jesse Sendejas Jr.

Texas Me

Winter's Tale
A veteran Texas bluesman gets the royal 70th-birthday treatment.

Bob Ruggiero

A December 1968 edition of Rolling Stone featured Texas musicians who were at the time making inroads into the magazine's then-home city of San Francisco. Bearing a cover photo of cowboy-hatted Doug Sahm (balancing toddler son Shawn on his knee), it mentioned players and singers both known (Janis Joplin, Steve Miller, Boz Scaggs) and others familiar only to hardcore fans.

But it was mention of a shit-hot blues player, Johnny Winter, that seemed to generate the most buzz. Soon, the Beaumont native found himself in demand. The article described "A cross-eyed albino with long, fleecy hair, who plays some of the gutsiest, fluid blues you ever heard."

A guest appearance with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper at the Fillmore East gave a major audience its first real look at this mythical figure. Columbia Records execs were in the audience, and it led to a then-unheard-of advance for an unknown act — a reported $600,000 — resulting in Winter's 1969 self-titled debut.

And while his career and personal life have seen plenty of ups and downs, Winter has always stayed the quintessential Texas bluesman, true to the genre even when seeing other guitar heroes reap more popular acclaim. So it's fitting that in time for his 70th birthday, on February 23, he's feted on disc with the career-spanning four-CD box set True to the Blues: The Johnny Winter Story (Columbia/Legacy).

"I was very happy with the way it turned out. They did a good job picking stuff," says Winter, ever succinct in answering questions, from somewhere on the endless road. "I'm happy with it."

True to the Blues features 56 tracks culled from a whopping 27 albums (plus unreleased material) and spans tracks recorded in 1968 at legendary Austin club the Vulcan Gas Company to 2011 collaborations with Vince Gill and Derek Trucks, taken from 2011's Roots CD.

Also making their appearance for the first time are incendiary live cuts from the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival, as well as Woodstock. Sadly, Winter's management didn't think much of the event at the time, hence his absence from the movie.

"It was very emotional music with a lot of feeling. More than I'd ever heard," Winter says of his first attraction to the blues, which he shared with brother Edgar. His similarly albino sibling also carved out a career as a musician, albeit in a more rock direction ("Frankenstein"). The two would play with each other's bands for decades.

But this was also back in the day when, say, having any song by any artist of any era instantaneously at the click of a computer mouse was something akin to science fiction. The Winter brothers had to become something like musical detectives to find the blues.

"Yeah, there were several radio stations that played it. Beaumont had a black station, KJET," Winter remembers. "There was WLAC in Nashville, a 50,000-watt station. In Shreveport there was KWKH, and a big station in Mexico, XKRS, that Wolfman Jack was on. You could get those stations all the way up to Canada."

He also recalls a good record store in Beaumont run by a guy who owned a few juke joints: "He had a good blues selection."

Houston has also played a role in Winter's life. "I loved Houston," he says. "We lived there several years and had a lot of good gigs there. A place called the Act III. There were holes in the dance floor!

"That must have been '66 or '67," he reflects. "And we played Rockefeller's a lot."

Today, as always, Winter is on the road, and is planning a series of celebratory birthday-night shows at B.B. King's in New York City. A new record is in the can and ready to be mixed, featuring collaborations with Dr. John, Billy Gibbons, Mark Knopfler, Joe Perry and Joe Bonamassa.

Finally, a trailer has just been posted for Down & Dirty, the documentary on Winter's life and career that will premiere at this year's SXSW Film Festival.

"I've been working on it for a couple of years now, so I'm hoping it will be out [in general release] soon," he says, in the most animated tone of our entire interview. "It's exciting to have a movie done of your life!"

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