Ed. Note: We're not done yet...
Chris Gray: I think the quickest way to sum up Summer Fest, environmentally, is in fact biologically: In eight hours at the festival Saturday, hydrating continuously with mostly water, I made my own water once, shortly before Beirut. Sunday, in seven hours on only water, I did not see that horse until well after I had gone to Leon's Lounge to piece together my thoughts and pick over The New York Times.
Saturday, my musical blue ribbon goes to Rusted Shut's Don Walsh screaming "Kill! Kill! Kill!" for several minutes (or what seemed like several minutes) over lurching Frankenstein guitars and Ralf Armin's wandering tenor sax. This was going on at the same time as, high on a hill up above, Buxton was enchanting dozens of doe-eyed fans with an otherworldly blend of Bill Monroe and Bright Eyes.
There was more - Big Boi's double-time barrage of OutKast hits, some chosen by the crowd; Indian Jewelry's chopped-and-screwed approach to droney dance music (was that Blondie I heard?); Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears' scorching soul, bumped up to a gospel plane by Dallas' the Relatives - but those two bands, at precisely the same time, made a perfect microcosm of both the city and Summer Fest: It's a big, sprawling motherfucker riddled with pockets of psychosis and beauty.
Houston: You're soaking in it. Strap in.
Neph Basedow: First things first: You can't review an all-day outdoor music festival held in Houston in June without mentioning the obvious: Summer in Texas is hot. Unbearably sweltering, even. As in, it was a cloudless 100 degrees on Saturday and I've got the sundress-shaped tan-lines to prove it.
While fest-goers waited in 20-minute lines to refill water bottles and were literally hosed down by Security during shows to prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion, I indulged one of my favorite festival pastimes: Observing climate-defying hipster fashion.
As usual, many risked both comfort and health for the sake of fashion, including donning knee-high suede moccasins. Not to mention, girls: About those feathery braided MGMT headbands, etc. - the more people who adopt a formerly novel trend make it directly, in turn, the exact opposite of novel. Same goes for (most) Texas-shaped tattoos.
Fashion could have its own blog entirely, but back to the sweaty heart of the matter, music. Between the gallons of sweat lost, the Budweisers that replenished them, a slice of Pink's Pizza as big as my head, a random swig of the warmest vodka I've ever tasted, and some delicious goat curry from Calypso Grill, there was music.
Thanks to Toronto's Fucked Up for restoring the all-necessary grit to rock and roll. Shirtless front man Damien Abraham (aka Pink Eyes) spent the set's entirety enmeshed in the crowd, initiating a sweaty, fevered dust bowl of a mosh pit, his potbelly and plumber's crack on proud display as the band delivered one fiery punk song after another.
Their live sound, while tight, is simultaneously even messier than their recordings, in a refreshingly raw way - a beautiful mess, if you will, positioning their set among my favorites of the day.
Beirut held their own on FPSF's roomy Main Stage; an accordion and auspicious horn section introducing man-behind-the-curtain Zach Condon's suddenly larger touring band. His mix of artsy and whimsy, now with strength in numbers, was suitably chiseled into the stage's pre-headliner set.
As the sun set and the novice drunks and early-birds prematurely retired, the Main Stage area became more breathable and favorably saturated with Ween superfans. With glow-sticks and beach balls abounding, the headliners balanced a setlist of frequented fest-appropriate tunes ("Bananas and Blow," "Spinal Meningitis," "Dr. Rock," "Roses Are Free") with some rarer live songs ("Birthday Boy," "Awesome Sound") and their go-to Bowie cover, "Let's Dance."
The band was jovial and animated, seemingly enjoying themselves onstage, each song sang back to them verbatim by their front-row devotees and dancing hill-top stragglers. Besides leaving us high and dry come encore, Ween rounded out the fest's first day well, setting a high bar for Sunday's remainder.