Bayou City

The Best and Worst of FPSF 2017

Trill Sammy
Trill Sammy Photo by Marco Torres

The closest this year's FPSF crowds got to seeing Lil Uzi Vert was catching HTown's own Trill Sammy on the Neptune Stage on a scorching Saturday afternoon, just an hour before the rain evacuation. With dreamy-smooth production and a hazy vibe, Sammy turned up and exploded into his set, which rattled the nearby downtown buildings that towered over him. He defiantly shot the middle finger up to all the haters while he trap-rapped about racks, both monetary and anatomical. His new single "Look At That" is perfect for rolling around the Houston streets at night from the bar to the club to the late-night tacos or Whataburger. He also has a track called "Road Runnin," which is humorously ironic since the tall, gangly rapper with the wild, curly hair certainly resembles the Warner Brothers bird of the same name. The audience went extra wild once Sammy crowd-surfed his way into the already hyped crowd. DJ Mr. Rogers played the perfect counterpart to this set, which could only be described with a trio of "lit" and "one hunnid" emojis. MARCO TORRES

While I didn’t get to travel through the entire festival before Saturday's evacuation, had the weather been right, the hike between stages would have been the best feature by far. Too many festivals corral thousands of people into cramped quarters where the vista becomes redundant. Stretching beyond I-45 and into the edge of downtown, the sheer size of the festival was enough to keep fans occupied for the two-day experience with new, exciting experiences. Had the weather been right. KRISTY LOYE

click to enlarge Anna Lunoe - PHOTO BY JACK GORMAN
Anna Lunoe
Photo by Jack Gorman
Mother-to-be Anna Lunoe hopped behind the decks and started pushing out banger after banger at a rapid pace, keeping the crowd dancing late Saturday afternoon. The sound was a touch off at the beginning of the Aussie’s set but was quickly taken care of, allowing her to hit a perfect stride about 15 minutes in. She started off with a very shortened version of “Stay Awake,” the best dance song of the year up to this point. She was throwing everything she could at the FPSF fans, mixing in Chris Lake’s deep-house hit “Operator (Ring Ring)” to her own song “Godzilla,” then “Double Bubble Trouble” by M.I.A. The heavy bass shook the foundation of the Allen Parkway exit above the makeshift dance floor. One of her best transitions came when the energetic Lunoe melded Drake’s “Fake Love” into the Dubstep classic “Woo Boost” by the ailing artist Rusko. Master mixing at its finest. JACK GORMAN

click to enlarge Khruangbin - PHOTO BY MARCO TORRES
Photo by Marco Torres
Khruangbin was the perfect band for a sultry summer afternoon; the three-piece Houston group blended together soul and funk that drifted out from the Saturn stage and into the grooving crowd. Driven by the bass beats of Laura Lee, the band showcased tremendous precision and range: One song emulated the turned-up funk of James Brown, while another painted chillwave soundscapes into the sky. The whole performance was notable for its precision, musicianship and refinement. Simply put, this band didn't miss one beat. It takes a lot of skill to hook an audience with lyric-less jams, but Khruangbin got the entire audience swinging their hips, and even drew in a few new listeners who were wandering about. We're lucky that these guys are locals, because they're worth seeing again and again. KATIE SULLIVAN

I wasn’t able to make it out to the festival on Saturday, so the abbreviated portion of early Sunday afternoon was the full extent of my FPSF coverage. In that time, I got to see sets by Minnesota alternative rock band Hippo Campus and the dark electro-pop duo Echos. Hippo Campus were fine, upbeat and jovial considering they were playing a large stage to a mud-soaked crowd of maybe a couple of hundred people, who seemed to be into it. The whole band sang together in a gang vocal style on the closing song, and it reminded me of a mix between Local Natives, Hot Hot Heat and Beach Fossils. Had the rest of the day gone as scheduled, I doubt I would have written about them. Echos were less interesting, a slightly more EDM-heavy version of Chvrches. I only got to see them play a cover of “The Hills” and one original before they got pulled off the stage and evacuated, but it was serviceable background music. DAVID SACKLLAH

click to enlarge Cherry Glazerr - PHOTO BY JACK GORMAN
Cherry Glazerr
Photo by Jack Gorman
Cherry Glazerr played their last stop on a tour supporting their recently released Apocalipstick album, providing FPSF fans with a tight and energetic set of distorted garage-rock, noise-pop, whatever you want to call it. Their noon start time, which seemed to be somewhat of a negative at first, actually became a blessing in that they actually had an opportunity to perform. This band should be much better-known. Just before playing their third song, “Had Ten Dollaz,” a female fan yelled from the crowd, “You're doing great.” Front woman Clementine Creevy, with a confused smile, said, “Thanks, but I'm not worried.” If anything, Creevy oozes confidence even at an age closer to her high-school graduation date than the legal drinking age. Sasami Asworth was a force in her own right, rocking back and forth while playing the Roland and supplementing vocals. At times it seemed like some feedback and distortion creeped into the set, but then that could easily have been done on purpose in a Thurston Moore sort of way. It is easy for drummer Tabor Allen to get overshadowed by the powerful women up front, but his relentless work with the sticks seemed to be another huge factor in the group's overall cohesiveness, raising their performance to one of the better sets of FPSF. JACK GORMAN

My girlfriend and I celebrated a special occasion at The Pass about four months ago, and found the restaurant to be one of the best dining experiences we’ve had in Houston in the two years she’s been living here. I was a little stunned to see that The Pass had a spot on the Houston Eats lineup, and was incredibly excited to have the chance to get some food from that kitchen at a much more reasonable price. I tried the orange sherbet and it was perfectly refreshing for the hot, muggy atmosphere. I was dismayed that there was practically no line there whereas a large group of people was waiting for Torchy’s, as if there isn’t one on seemingly every corner in the Houston area these days. I guess branding works. DAVID SACKLLAH

click to enlarge Bishop Briggs - PHOTO BY JACK GORMAN
Bishop Briggs
Photo by Jack Gorman
Bishop Briggs's set was delayed about 15 minutes and then cut short by the torrential downpour, but she delivered the hands-down best performance of the weekend. Stagehands held plastic sheets to protect the equipment and pushed standing water off the stage as fans nervously waited for the performers to emerge before a guaranteed evacuation was called by FPSF officials. As the rain began, she came out onstage and thanked the fans for sticking with her through the rain. As she plunged into “Dark Side,” security even turned around to see what was producing such a powerful and soulful voice. The appreciative young lady belted out “Pray” and “The Way I Do” back to back before the grounds at Eleanor Tinsley Park turned into a “River.” Keep an eye on the rising star as her name starts to spread, especially around awards season. No doubt she will be up for a handful of Grammys. JACK GORMAN

click to enlarge PHOTO BY JACK GORMAN
Photo by Jack Gorman

Rain is so customary at FPSF that they literally have branded ponchos indicating as much. So when the sky ripped itself open over the festival, leading to a nearly two-hour evacuation, you would think that the festival would have been prepared. But no. Artists still hit the stage during the heaviest parts of the downpour, and as the rain dissipated and skies began to clear, the festival started pushing attendees to the gates on account of lightning. Some security guards even erroneously told those exiting that the festival had been canceled. Insult was only added to injury on Sunday, when the festival was actually cancelled. Safety, of course, is paramount, and FPSF is right to follow standard evacuation protocols. But is pushing a bunch of wet, drunk concertgoers out into the streets of Houston really the best solution? If FPSF insists on holding its festival when the weather is dangerous, it can do better than just spitting us out into the city to fend for ourselves. Having designated evacuation areas and routes prepared in advance would keep fans safer. Beyond that, it would make it easier to return to the festival once the all clear is given. If FPSF wants to keep people coming back and spending their money, it needs to start planning realistically for Houston's bad weather. KATIE SULLIVAN

It’s hard not to make comparisons to last year’s other failed festival attempt due to severe weather, Houston Open Air. The similarities abound, from canceled sets on both days to social-media swarms of patrons demanding “REFUND!” Perhaps Houston just really isn’t the place for a weekend outdoor festival, considering our summer months are also our wettest months, or else God just hates music, or else Day For Night got it right by having a winter gig. Either way, this whole outdoor festival trend is the future of music and Houston is going to need to either create an enormous outdoor space that’s still safe (as reasonably possible) in various weather conditions or move indoors. I mean, let’s be real here: Another “festival” at the Pavilion sounds like a day spent in I-45 traffic and a return hike back to the car with hundreds of drunk music fans through the darkened woods at night. No thanks. Figure it out, Houston. KRISTY LOYE

Like many readers, I was surprised to learn late last week that the original founders of FPSF were still involved with the festival, especially after the letter published by Free Press Houston that seemed to disavow any connection with the event. Whether it was the original founders or new owners C3 and Live Nation, it certainly seemed like some poor decision-making took place in how everything worked out Sunday. No one can control the weather, but as I put in an op/ed piece last spring, it’s not a good idea to hold a festival next to a bayou during a time of the year when it always seems to pour down rain (co-founder Jagi Katial said as much in last week’s interview.) They didn’t listen, and a storm that nearly everyone saw coming did its damage. To top it all off, they left fans in the lurch for nearly four hours after evacuating before officially canceling the festival, including almost three hours of radio silence.

I’m sure some statement will come out about how they were vigilantly working to deliver an experience to their fans, but the lack of communication is simply inexcusable, especially when you have thousands of fans wandering the streets of downtown during a flash flood, unsure of their next move. Canceling the festival earlier could have allowed for more time to plan makeup shows, like what ACL did back in 2013. Maybe this will finally be the wakeup call for FPSF to realize that a festival at Eleanor Tinsley the first week of June simply isn’t feasible, and that if they want to survive as an organization, they should make some sort of major change going forward. DAVID SACKLLAH
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