It's October in Houston, which means festivals are abundant. Many of these events celebrate certain cultures (Korean Fest; Italian Festival; Egyptian Festival); kids (LEGO KidsFest); beers (Untapped) and corsets and smoked turkey legs (Texas Ren Fest). But few of these festivals are thrown in honor of a specific Houston locale and its inhabitants, which is something that makes the East End Street Fest unique. Year five of the event takes place this Saturday along the Navigation Esplanade. The East End Chamber of Commerce event is a growing celebration of all the area's business and arts communities have to offer.
This year's festival is cognizant of the current amazing musical talent in Houston and beyond, but a new element to the festivities acknowledges that years ten, 20 and 50 of the fest will need performers, too. Our choices for the five best bets at this year’s event showcase what's happening now and how we can all keep an eye on the future.
Los Angeles’s Chicano Batman swung through in June for Free Press Summer Fest, but if you missed that set or attended and had your appetite whetted for more, this weekend’s festival is a good opportunity to see them up close. The band’s bios include terms like “psychedelia” and “Tropicalia” when describing its sound, but what it does best is old-school, keys-driven, crybaby guitar-infused soul music. The group’s been at it for nearly a decade and that hard work has been paying off, particularly over the last couple of years, with a Coachella gig and tour runs with acts like Gogol Bordello and Jack White. That’s cool, but if their laid-back vibe is a hint, they’ll be just as excited to hang with a bunch of Houston east enders on a breezy Saturday night.
You probably need no intro to the ubiquitous Gio Chamba, Houston’s own man in the yellow hat, who leads the curious into ass-shakin’ musical goodness. While he might be able to do that as a solo act, he’s got the good sense to share the fun with his bandmates in Trippy Cholo, self-described as a “digital cumbia dance band.” If that sounds like an amalgam of discordant words, just know everything comes together when they throw down. The group includes Chamba’s number one running buddy, Coffee Guzman, and Svani Quintanilla and Bobby Hinojosa. If you can find it in the web universe, search Trippy Cholo and Drake to find the trippiest cover of "Hotline Bling" available.
MEDIA AND MUSIC CONFERENCE
This year’s festival includes a conference of entertainment-industry professionals who will share their expertise with high-school and college students interested in these endeavors. The workshops were designed, according to festival organizers, to give students who may not be able to afford travel to conferences like SXSW a chance to learn from those in the know right here at home. To that end, the festival has gathered speakers like Fox 26’s Rita Garcia; Houston Chronicle music writer Joey Guerra; DJ Gracie Chavez; entertainment attorney/Glass the Sky musician Erin Rodgers; New York Times-best-selling author Shea Serrano; and visual artist Donkeeboy to head panels on careers in music, media and monetizing art. The conference runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Talento Bilingüe de Houston (333 South Jensen).
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A street festival on the east side of Houston is bound to have accordions. Rising star and Austinite AJ Castillo has that covered, with nimble squeezeboxin’ and a svelte voice to boot. The familiar strains of Tejano music are practically a mandate. This year, San Antonio veterans La Diferenzia will bring their platinum-sales catalog to the fest. But it might be uncommon to hear electronic music at an event like this, which is why festgoers should make some time for El Dusty. The Corpus Christi native is making a Houston stop en route to next month’s Latin Grammy Awards, where he’ll compete in the “Best Urban/Fusion Performance” category. Legend has it El Dusty’s first turntables were lifted from a quinceañera; by age 16 he was DJing clubs and developing a style that mixes trap with cumbia and other classic Latin genres. He leads a strong blend of East End Fest DJs this year, including Xavier Blk and DJ IV.
We got a memorable introduction to Tightn’ Up just about a year ago when we arrived early at Yes, Indeed! Fest and were thrown into a vortex of “the funk.” It wasn’t even dinnertime yet and the band was doing some nasty stuff onstage at Continental Club. Bassist Urica Fernandez’s keep-it-movin’ beat was buoyed by more drums than an ear doctor sees in a day. The band put a Houston stamp on a Billy Preston classic that day that had us shaking our heads and muttering aloud to fellow audience members, “It’s too early for the funk.” We whispered it like it was a warning, which proved prophetic because all that occurred before the band’s singer, Ashlei Mayadia, ever hit the stage. Once that happened, we knew we were in trouble. If you don’t fear the funk, be at the festival early to watch Tightn’ Up turn it loose in the streets.
East End Street Fest runs from noon-10 p.m. Saturday, October 15. Tickets are $10 online, $12 at the gate. Free admission for children 12 and under. For more information see eastendstreetfest.com.