First year festivals can be anything but smooth. Back when I worked Free Press Summer Fest, there were definite growing pains as we learned while we went. However, now as the re-branded, rescheduled, and re-invented FPSF turns into In Bloom, the year one festival ran on time even with attendance that was much larger than anticipated. Aided by great weather and performances that included Beck and Lil Uzi Vert, the festival from C3 and Pegstar gave the city a pretty solid two days.
As with FPSF, In Bloom started the day with locals. The way this festival is laid out is that there are two large stages (the Bud Light and the Flora) and two smaller (the Ostara and the Fauna). The Flora stage housed Houston's Velveteen Echo, whose blend of shoegaze and indie rock were a great and easy going way to kick off the day.
Houston's Pearl Crush had a full band in tow, performing both old and new songs early on. As with most festivals in our region, the earlier moments of the day weren't super packed, but each stage had what felt like between 1,200 and 5,000 attendees in front. There were also great performances from Vodi and Get A Life in the first day, both playing like they were meant to perform to a larger audience.
By the time Atlanta's Ying Yang Twins hit the Bud Light stage, it was obvious that things were going to pop off. The duo worked through a solid mix of tracks that got the audience moving. The duo dropped tracks from their newest dropping rumored for later this year, while their high energy seemed to impress all who caught them.
When Ugly God took the Bud Light stage later in the day, he came to impress. The Soundcloud rapper rhymed much better than he did on his debut tracks. He seemed to be at home on such a large stage while he kept his energy high.
While I've never been too impressed with the jokey and almost tongue in cheek rap of Lil Dicky, his performance at the festival was definitely entertaining, and surprised me while those who watched him seemed to soak up every note. He cracked jokes and rapped, and many in the crowd knew enough of the words to sing along. After a pretty boring performance from Grizzly Bear, and a bumpin' set from Mija who's Ostara stage was running behind on time, I wandered over to watch Broken Social Scene who really blew me away. Taking over the Flora stage, the Canadian collective of artists kept the crowd going from start to finish, playing a set full of fan favorites.
Philadelphia's Lil Uzi Vert started off a performance that rocked the audience, that by now had gotten closer to the ten thousand person mark.
Vert was going along strong, until the very end when he performed the same song twice before throwing a wireless microphone into the audience. This action, flanked with him yelling, "you sing it," seemed to have his set cut short as he was accompanied off stage before the stage hands begged and bargained for the return of the microphone.
After Vert's set, and catching attempt by Cigarettes After Sex to put me and several thousand others to sleep with their dreary tunes, I got into position to catch Beck perform. Opening with "Loser," the set went back and forth between fan favorites and new tracks with the ease that you'd only come to expect from the California artist.New tracks like "Up All Night," and "Dear Life" really seemed to pop while he kept the energy high with a mix of fan interaction, shout outs to the city, and a dizzying array of lights and video.
While Beck drew a large crowd, the set that I was mostly shocked by was the one from Incubus. Because the whole "let's add a DJ to our alt rock sound" never really resonated with me, I was surprised to not only see that the band had packed out the entire area around the Flora stage, but that they seemed to make everyone there overjoyed with their set of hit songs and newer tracks. While Beck drew plenty of fans and onlookers, Incubus seemed to have the best set of the day with an audience that knew and adored the words to every song they played.
Day Two of the festival got underway with a pretty stellar performance from Houston's Astragal. Tearing through a 30-minute set with ease, the indie rock trio definitely made new fans as they played from their catalog and kept things going smoothly from start to finish with tons of energy. JERK and Venomous Maximus both played great as well, giving the festival a solid start in the second day.
The indie rock of Houston's Birthday Club was also a welcomed addition to the festival, proving themselves as an act worth making it out for no matter how big the stage. Performing with an ease that felt like they were ready and waiting for the festival, the band had no problem holding the audience's attention while performing the 30-minute allotted set time.
The impressive sound of Galveston's EL LAGO seemed to have the strongest performance of the locals on Sunday. Playing the massive Bud Light stage, the four piece had no problem showing that they were ready for such a huge space. The band's sound echoed throughout the large bowl as they burned through the songs from last year's Colors with ease, keeping the energy high and giving one of the better sets of the second day.
One of the more surprising highlights of Sunday, came from Craig Finn. The lead singer of the popular group The Hold Steady, sounded pretty amazing from start to finish. Finn was in high spirits as he covered a good run of songs from his three solo releases, while proving that rock can still do well in a festival littered with hip hop and electronic music. T-PAIN was better than the auto tuned vocal style he'd become known for, and honestly shocked me with his set. Sometimes performing on a pad, sometimes rapping, all in all, for an artist I forgot existed, his set was another highlight.
Another splendid set came from North Carolina pop duo, Sylvan Esso. Not to say that these two don't make great songs, because they certainly do. But, a two piece on a giant festival stage could be pretty boring though these two had no problem. Singer Amelia Meath danced her way around the Bud Light stage, getting the audience going. With the exception of one slower track, the duo played with plenty of pop and gave a set that was hard not to stay engaged with. I wish the same could be said for Twin Shadow, but his set was slow to begin and though it was chill and he had a large audience, it was if he was trying to not care who did and didn't watch him. While it's true, he plays chillwave music, maybe he isn't the best fit for a festival.
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After a switch up of stages for Explosions In The Sky and Broods, the post-rock group from Texas took a different stage and played like the end of the world was coming soon. Their set seemed to go against the way an audience would look at post-rock music, keeping a tension and energy that was mesmerizing as well as one of the better attended performances of the day. While 21 Savage made the very youthful attendees happy on Bud Light, Explosions seemed to know that their genre can be boring and they steered from being anything but amazing for the entirety of their set.
The day was closed out by sets from Queens of The Stone Age and Martin Garrix at either end of the festival grounds. While Queens played a mix of old favorites like "No One Knows," and "You Think I Ain't Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire," alongside newer tracks like "The Way You Used To" and more; their set was solid but not the greatest one they've performed in Houston. While they had a solid attendance for their stage, 21 year old Martin Garrix not only dropped a killer set, but he seemed to be exactly what the young crowd came out for. With the bulk of the festival dancing and grooving during his performance, the dizzying array of light and video work complete with fireworks was definitely worth catching, and a perfect way to cap off the festival.
While there were some takeaways from this festival like the fact that attendees were younger than they've ever been, or that there were plenty of acts that you could've missed and missed nothing, the overall vibe of the fest was positive. With a much better climate than previous years, the former FPSF has grown into something else that could bloom for years to come if given the time to thrive.