The 10 Best Acts at Houston Whatever Fest

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ANDREW W.K. Andrew W.K. was a revelation. He came out, trademark grin firmly in place, and immediately told the crowd he was "not a musician." He's a known party inducer and he was exactly what Whatever Fest needed the moment he was booked. He ran through the hits in a frenetic set that featured audience stage-dives and mosh pits. "Ready to Die," "I Love NYC," "We Want Fun," "Party Hard," "I Get Wet"...he played them all while his hype man extraordinaire, Blakey Boy, revved up the crowd.

The energy and good vibes were contagious. It seemed everyone in the crowd was smiling just as widely as the man himself. I was impressed by his piano playing skills as attacked the keys like a modern-day Jerry Lee Lewis and played the craziest version of "Rhapsody in Blue" I've ever heard. Andrew W.K. is a lot of things -- quick-start-party-starter, motivational speaker and Village Voice writer among them. He is also definitely a musician. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

ANOTHER RUN The recent HPMA winners for Best Modern/Alternative Rock turned in Saturday's most energetic performance, even though it was during the early afternoon. The five-piece band worked the small crowd into a sweat even in the air-conditioned comfort of Warehouse Live, highlighted by their mustached mad man of a bassist, Bob Lane.

His bushy reddish hair and impressive handlebar mustache bounced all over the indoor stage of Warehouse Live's Ballroom. Adrian Grammar's vocals were crisp and Zak Weather's guitar solos were played with perfect passion; it's just a shame that the weather prevented more people from seeing them. JACK GORMAN

CHEAP GIRLS The festival gods tested Cheap Girls on Saturday afternoon. A trademark Houston thunderstorm bore down on downtown, setting the outdoor schedule back a bit and forcing the audience and the Michigan-based band to endure both the delay and the humidity. As the festival's two outdoor stages faced one another, the music from them alternated, so we waited patiently for the Girls to follow a Passion Pit DJ set that was ten minutes too long

Once they got the green light, they sped off with straight-ahead three-piece rock and roll. Brothers Ian (bass and lead vocals) and Ben Graham (drums) and guitarist Adam Aymor endured the difficulties with Herculean might to get to the easy part, delivering their well-crafted songs to an adventurous audience. Their solid set included "Communication Blues," "Knock Me Over" and a drum-driven "Ft. Lauderdale." JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

DWARVES When Houston's premier music festival announced its 2014 lineup, the punx were united once more in their anger at its perceived failure to book any legitimate punk acts. But fans got their long-awaited chance to soak up some old-school punk at HWF, which scheduled Dwarves and the Queers within a couple of hours of each other. The former group has been active since the mid-1980s and was appropriately snotty, never mind the years.

Vocalist Blag Dahlia carried on about how incredible the band was between every song, which included favorites like "Everbodies Girl," "Demonica," "There Better Be Women" and "Free Cocaine." Houston's punks showed up in Bad Religion and Black Flag and Screeching Weasel tees, and partied with Dwarves like it was 1989. Blag almost seemed appreciative, staring right into the crowd and saying, "this is one good-looking...band!" JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

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BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT Bobcat Goldthwait's set was naturally funny. The guy has been around awhile, so nothing about his time onstage seemed rehearsed. Even his closing bit seemed like a friendly chat, albeit one about the scathingly honest and totally true time he and a plane full of Special Olympians nearly crash-landed. A lot of it was his true Hollywood stories, including trading arrest tales with Johnny Depp and, unfortunately, Paul "Pee-Wee Herman" Reubens. We also learned he may have ingenuously saved his daughter from getting bedded by Russell Brand, and he even riffed on Grover the Muppet, whom he surmised he'd patterned his early career after.

His recent career has been marked by acclaimed directorial work on films like World's Greatest Dad and 2011's God Bless America. Still, he said, this success has not been enough to get him invited back to the Tonight Show, which he once literally set on fire during the Leno era. Goldthwait seems okay with the show's current direction, though. "I love seeing some of the greatest minds and artists of our times popping balloons with their asses and playing beer pong," he said. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

HELMET After what seemed like an hour of sound check, Helmet finally began playing actual songs, and front man Page Hamilton was happy and laughing with his bandmates. The crowd was ready for the grinding guitars and growling screams, and Helmet delivered. Halfway through the set, Hamilton lamented, "Who the fuck books outdoor shows in the middle of summer in Texas? You people are crazy. You're fuckin' crazy."

He toasted his fans with a Budweiser, then broke into "Hard Times" which he sang with the most conviction of the 45-minute set, which evenly distributed songs from their diverse-sounding albums Meantime, Betty and Aftertaste. Alt-metal icon Hamilton also gets major kudos for hanging out with fans for several hours after his set was over. JACK GORMAN

THE HOLD STEADY Rebirth Brass Band did their best Pied Piper imitation as they walked through minutes before the Hold Steady took the stage and siphoned about 75 people from the crowd. Craig Finn and crew played to approximately 100 people, a small group that was into the music 100 percent. The set turned into a huge singalong, especially with "Sequestered in Memphis" and "Southtown Girls." Just before heading off the stage Finn shouted to the crowd, "You chose to come out and support rock and roll and that's badass." JACK GORMAN

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T.J. MILLER Comedian Miller was trying to deliver a funny bit on the unsung merits of being peanut butter's inventor, but some boneheads at the foot of the stage kept interrupting. He tried various means of calming them down, showing way more restraint than they deserved. Finally, they quieted. "And, just as I am trying to bring some focus in,...a marching band!"

Across the street, Rebirth Brass Band had arrived and was leading a loud procession into Warehouse Live. It was a moment Miller didn't design but chose to own, by urging the entire audience to rush across the street with him to chant "Andrew W.K.!" at the band, in faux protest. And then, he bolted from the stage and Pied Pipered a full festival crowd along.

Miller cut his teeth on improvisational comedy, so he was following his heart as others were following him -- to the great confusion of Rebirth, I'd add. But, it was inspired and exhilarating. His set was genuinely funny, but that moment proved why he's in demand, made him lots of new fans and showed that anything can happen at Whatever Fest, which is something to build on as the event moves forward. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

MUTEMATH I don't think there's any arguing that Saturday was the more successful day of the two. To be honest, it would've been a safe bet to make it just a one-day festival or day and a half, but switching Friday evening for Sunday. But while Saturday was the champion, it was mainly for the music and comedy on display throughout the course of the day.

MuteMath were the headliners for a reason, and showed why with a blistering performance that highlighted their latest material from a yet to be released record that should be hitting shelves sometime this year. Starting with a crowd-surf by suave-as-fuck front man Paul Meany on an LED-lit air mattress, their show was hot and never let up. Every tired soul at Whatever Fest was re-energized thanks to the hour-plus they were onstage. JIM BRICKER

REBIRTH BRASS BAND If Mute Math were the steak dinner, Rebirth Brass Band were the banana split. While they were a bit of a different choice compared to the rest of Saturday's lineup, they provided the perfect afterparty for those that still hung around into the early-morning hours of Sunday. It was a revival -- a funk and soul explosion.

While I think most of the crowd were there just to see Rebirth, I know they gained a few fans from the MuteMath crowd that made it to the small room next door. They really killed their portion of the event, and in the process made this writer a poor tired soul come first thing the next morning. JIM BRICKER


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