Light Crowds Don't Dampen Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Fest's Vibe

Photo by Marco Torres
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VIBES by Sports Illustrated Swimsuit
Post HTX
February 17-18, 2017

Ever since the decommissioned Barbara Jordan Post Office at the edge of downtown Houston was transitioned into an event center, its grounds have hosted a fun slew of eclectic dinners, parties and festivals. Presented by Sports Illustrated magazine, this weekend's event may not have been particularly well-attended, but it certainly was colorful and glamorous. Swimsuit models, celebrity chefs and rock stars descended upon Post HTX for two nights of New York posh and Hollywood glam. However, Houston fans must have still been suffering from a post-Super Bowl hangover because only about 1,000 people showed up on Friday night, with only an additional 2,000 the next (and that's being mighty generous). Still, the solid music lineup provided the eager crowd with much boogie fuel to dance their troubles away among the most beautiful models on Earth.

A beautiful night for a VIP party on Friday.EXPAND
A beautiful night for a VIP party on Friday.
Photo by Marco Torres

The headliner for Friday night's VIP party was R&B crooner Miguel, who began his set with the track "Simplethings" from his 2015 album Wildheart. "I just want you, baby!" he sang as the Houston skyline served as the backdrop. That was followed by "Sure Thing," a throwback track produced by Houston's very own Happy Perez. In many ways, Miguel represented the perfect option for the sexiness required to play this festival.

"A little understanding goes a long fucking way," he told the crowd as he took a moment to reflect and relax between songs. He extolled the power of diversity, patience and belief in humanity, especially in these troubled times. "We need this love, man!" he continued. "We can overcome!"

Photo by Marco Torres

Which led into the best part of the night, beginning with the dreamy notes of his track "Do You... (Like Drugs?)." This song has to be one of the smoothest and moodiest tracks to be released in the past decade. He veered into a cover of Bob Marley's "Stir It Up," much to the approval of the ten or so supermodels dancing in front of the stage, as well as to Chrissy Teigen, who had since fallen asleep on the couch sitting next to her husband, John Legend. The night ended with "Adorn," which is the lyrical embodiment of what successful flirting should always sound like.

R&B star John LegendEXPAND
R&B star John Legend
Photo by Marco Torres

After a cold night, the bipolar Houston weather served up an absolutely gorgeous 80-degree afternoon for round two of this "festival." Lucky for us, three of the best DJ artists that Texas has to offer were on deck. First up was the always wonderful DJ Gracie Chavez. Unfortunately, the festival misspelled her name as "Grace" on its signs and flyers, including on social media. "It's all right," she told me. "They'll know my name when I'm done!"

DJ Gracie ChavezEXPAND
DJ Gracie Chavez
Photo by Marco Torres

It's confidence and heart like that which makes Gracie one of the best musicians in Houston, and one of the best DJs in the state. The Houston Press Music Award winner was tasked with three sets on Saturday, and she tackled each one with precision, poise and puro pinche party vibes! From cumbia to crunk, Jersey club to Houston SLAB, Chavez provided a supremely upbeat soundtrack that kept spirits up (and awake) for the majority of the day. In one ten-minute span, she played Crystal Waters's "Gypsy Woman" into "Uber Everywhere" by Madeintyo, followed by a dance mix of TLC's "No Scrubs" into "Pony" by Ginuwine and "Jumpman" by Drake. When she felt in the right mood to slow it down, out came the Houston classics "International Player's Anthem," "25 Lighters" and "Front, Back & Side to Side." Go Mami!

Pqhoto by Marco Torres

Houston boys Wrestlers didn't allow the sparseness of the crowd to deter them from formulating a dance party in the middle of the afternoon. What makes a successful set anyway? They played amazingly and made the ten people in front of the stage dance their butts off. That sounds like a success to me. With a mix of house tracks, fun remixes and funky vibes, it was all smiles from the nicer side of the EDM spectrum. Some Beastie Boys, some Kygo and even a calypso track rocked the stage. But with the sun still out, Houston didn't show up.

DJ Mel
Photo by Marco Torres

What they missed is one of Austin's musical treasures as DJ Mel took the stage. His parties at Nasty's in Austin are legendary, as are his ACL afterparties. Dude is like the mayor of Austin's DJ scene, an OG in the truest sense of the term. With a Topo Chico in hand, he party-rocked and mashed-up with a determination that a president would be proud of. He was Obama's DJ for eight years. Mel will play the most obscure instrumental that will evolve into a Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon family tree and finalize into the perfect complementary track. "I'm going to get really random today," he proclaimed at the start of his set. Here is a cross-section of the randomness (and awesomeness) that followed:

  • Brass-band instrumental of Dr Dre's "The Next Episode"
  • "Mary Jane," by Rick James
  • "Peter Piper," by Run DMC
  • an Anderson Paak. Medley
  • "Murder She Wrote," Maxi Priest
  • "Spottieottiedopaliscious," OutKast
  • "Beautiful People," Marilyn Manson
  • "International Player's Anthem," UGK & OutKast
  • Cash Money and No Limit hits medley
  • "Work" remix, Rhianna

And then finally, after waiting all day, it was time for Diplo. I'm not quite sure why they began this festival at noon with only one headliner on the bill. It would have been much better to begin around 4 p.m. or so, then start all the music programming. At least the people finally showed up after the sun set. There may have been around 2,000 people in front of the stage waiting eagerly for the Major Lazer front man to do his thing. Once he began, it was just a sea of dancing bodies and fun.

The crowd goes wild for Diplo.EXPAND
The crowd goes wild for Diplo.
photo by Marco Torres

The Houston Press just saw Diplo two weeks ago at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for the Rolling Stone Live event during Super Bowl Weekend. There he played a more chillax hip-hop-heavy set. Out at Post HTX, it was his traditional "stand-on-the-table-hitting-the-bass-drops" kind of set. After fixing a few technical issues with his CD-Js, he jumped into a rhythm with Fat Joe's "All the Way Up."

What followed was a journey through his EDM hits, current trap rap club bangers, and several classic viral tracks just to mess with people. Wanna hear the saxy sounds of George Michael's "Careless Whisper"? Diplo plays it. How about that timeless classic by Los Del Rio, "Macarena"? He plays that too. "Gasolina" by Daddy Yankee? Yep, Diplo.

And it all works somehow. Which is really the way music is supposed to be, a fun array of sounds that just make you move, dance and shout for more. The night ended after an hour and a half of this hilarity, the same way it had begun with "What's Love" by Fat Joe. It was only 10 p.m.

"Where's the afterparty?" asked Diplo, surrounded by 20 Sports Illustrated swimsuit models.

"Probably New Orleans," I thought to myself, as the NBA All-Star Game Weekend was happening simultaneously.

Goodnight, Houston.

Welcoming gateEXPAND
Welcoming gate
Photo by Marco Torres

When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond. You can follow his adventures on Instagram: @MarcoFromHouston.

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