In just a few hours, or right now if you're just waking up, the blind pre-sale for this year's Free Press Summer Fest begins at 10 a.m. at fpsf.com, and tickets should disappear faster than a rich banker when the collection plate in church gets passed around. For those who may have swallowed too much bongwater, that's your first opportunity to buy passes to the seventh edition of the Bayou City's annual bacchanal in Eleanor Tinsley Park, where the only thing hotter than the acts onstage is the temperatures in the portapotties.
This year's FPSF is scheduled for June 6 and 7, and if you remember, last year's presale did not quite go off without a hitch. Namely, when last year's was announced, some people saw the increased price tag and said, "Say what now?" But Jagi Katial, co-founder of the festival and the man behind Pegstar Concerts, the local promoters who are building their own concert venue on Houston's near Northside (more on that in a bit), promises that fans are not in for another case of sticker shock. Prices this year, he promises, are "more in line with last year."
"I think last year the problem was that people were not prepared (by us) about the presale happening," Katial says. "We were surprised about how fast they sold. So, by the time they got online to buy a ticket we had blown through a lot of the cheaper passes in a matter of minutes.
"I think people know now that if they want to buy at the cheapest levels, they are gonna have to be ready to go early," he adds. "And even at the top level of the blind pre-sale, the passes are very affordable, a steal, really."
Although he won't name a number (we'll find out soon enough anyway), for comparison's sake, Katial says the pre-sale prices are similar to what fans might pay for a regular tour stop by one of the headliners. As to who those might be, Katial says the lineup won't be announced for another four to six weeks, but he will say that there are approximately the same number of acts as in 2014, and that local musicians will continue to play a crucial role.
"Rest assured we love local musicians," he says. "And for Pegstar, it is part and parcel for us to do whatever we can to get as many of them in front of people."
Beyond that, Katial says it's not just the local performers who give FPSF its distinct identity, but that fans play an important role in determining who they see there.
"Whats the population in Houston now, 4.5M?", asks Katial, who swears FPSF is booked through 2017. "Not to sound like a pretentious play-cater, but I'm mostly serious. It's very much about feeling the pulse of the city, taking feedback."
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If you're dying to know who might be at FPSF this year, though, this little nugget might offer a little insight. For the past couple of years, Katial says that in addition to Pegstar's local staff, he and partner Omar Afra have begun working with a couple of people from Red Light Management, "to take the festival to the next level." Red Light is an international talent-management agency with offices in New York, Nashville, London and several other cities; and that "partners" in a similar fashion with almost a dozen other festivals besides FPSF. A separate arm of the company manages several clients with new albums out this year, including the Decemberists, Belle & Sebastian, Borgore, Tiësto, Justin Townes Earle, JD McPherson and Brandi Carlisle.
All of them would not only make ideal FPSF acts, but are probably within its price range. On the other hand, Katial says it was Afra who came up with the "Welcome to Houston" set by a half-dozen local rap heavyweights, a move he calls "pretty genius" and that turned out to be the No. 1 takeaway moment from last year's fest for many, many people. Beyond that, the only hint Katial will drop is that the first act they signed comes from Austin, "and he is a big one for us." They started booking this year's festival the week after FSPF 2014 was over, and went from there.
"Booking the festival is about as fun and painful as trying to build a Lego set while skydiving," Katial says. "It takes hundreds and hundreds of hours of moving slots around, dead-end convos, research, and simply thinking, 'This makes no sense -- you can't have those two bands playing at the same time."
But if that wasn't enough, Katial has also been readying the multi-stage venue off North Main that was announced last August and that Pegstar is planning to open in a few more months, around the turn of 2016. He hasn't broken ground yet and won't reveal its name ("very close to announcing") or share any artists' visualizations of the place ("soon"), but will allow that the venue will have "three spaces of varied size and capacity to enjoy music" and an "insane" amount of parking -- "the first and most important logistical issue we are dealing with," he says.
"More than I could have ever imagined [has] started," adds Katial. "Very exciting and new."
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