Sophomore slumps apparently don't apply to Summerfest, seeing that Saturday and Sunday they came out swinging all over Eleanor Tinsley Park and Allen Parkway with Girl Talk, Slim Thug and Bun B, and the Flaming Lips, alongside dozens of Houston's best local bands, including Black Congress, who had the Lips' Wayne Coyne standing on the side of the stage at the end asking for a seven-inch single. The scale of this past weekend's event was double the size of last year, if not more. The main stage was massive enough to hold the Lips, and the side stages saw bigger crowds than last year's go-round. Locals were actually watching locals. People were meandering around breathing in the music. Sure you had the rare folks who camped out on the hill facing the main stage, but with three other stages blasting music for at least six hours straight, they would have been fools to not move around just a bit. The KTRU and 29-95 set-ups were a little far-flung, but nothing to complain about. Some of the weekend's best meat could be seen there. Hell, there was even music in the VIP tents if you had the credentials. The heat was oppressive both days, save the drenching the park got Sunday afternoon for a good hour, which sent some fans hiding under 18-wheeler trailers for the duration. And of course the mud soon followed, which naturally begat the mud people. We saw no problems, save the odd passed-out kid or wet lighter, although the DJ on the rickshaw was a shame to see. [Ed Note: Agreed.] If you wanted to smoke, legally, there were even two merchants of death on hand to give you the free poison. Standouts for us on Saturday were Omotai early in the day on the KTRU stage, and Tyagaraja and the Hell City Kings at the bottom of the bowl on the Dos Equis stage. Rest assured this will be the only time that you will ever see those three names in the same Aftermath sentence. Tyagaraja unfurled his new LP, Open Book, showcasing the album's gritty spirituality. "Open Arms" is one of the witchiest things we heard all weekend. As for the Hell City Kings, that was like having Poison Idea open for George Harrison. HCK is and always will be quality death-punk, and was what we needed to rouse us from our booze coma by late afternoon. God bless guitarist Christian Larson for letting lead singer Josh Wolfe violate him onstage six ways from Sunday. Early Sunday, the clouds parted for the first four hours of the festival and gave way to a beating from the sun, which is where Aftermath got the brunt of our brutal head burn. The main stage was already adorned with the Lips' handiwork, as Wayne Coyne had been on the grounds since morning helping to hang the two mirror balls and the video arch in the middle of the stage. We showed up in time for Black Congress' Coyne-awing main-stage set, and stuck around for Grandfather Child. Lucas Gorham's voice sounded hoarse from his recent air travel, but "Waiting for You" was as soulful as ever. Power hour (haha) started a half past three over at the KTRU stage with fucked-punkers The Energy and Weird Party braving the coming showers. The Energy's bleak-as-hell lyrics, from monotone lead singer Arthur Bates, synced up hilariously with the shirtless bros and bikini chicks walking past. Maybe it was "I'm Going to Cut You into Pieces" that kept the faux-tans away, but it got all the rest of us shaking. Even if you think you don't endorse anything Bates sings about, you very well may in your darkest hour. Weird Party played right up against a full-on storm, only moving back a foot from the edge of the stage to not get shocked. People were fleeing or hiding under the stage's tent to watch the band, and even then it was peculiar seeing the band play in the daylight. Slim Thug and Bun B owned the crowd, and maybe Houston, for the hour they shared the stage around 7 p.m.. At one point we snapped a cellphone pic of Slim Thug against our city's skyline and it all made sense. For everyone who saw that tweet from @hprocksoff who doesn't reside here, you won't understand the power of that image. Slim wasn't headlining, he was opening for the Flaming Fucking Lips, with Bun B. In our city, where we eat, sleep, screw, dance, laugh and cry. That's Houston's strength in this day and age. We may sweat our balls and ovaries off and out seven months out of the year, smoke and drink too much, and we probably have too many churches, but damn it if we don't know how to party. Next year's Summerfest is no doubt being drawn up as we type this, and as long as we have a H-Town apartment or shanty to dwell in, count us in. Just, for the love of God, remind us to spray a gallon of suntan lotion on our chrome-dome.
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