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General Observations from the Free Press Summer Fest

See our slideshow of the food at Summer Fest.

Observations while standing near a classic-style mosh pit to see The Descendents, as my friend Jay swigged Beam from a flask in one hand and deflated beach balls with a pocket knife in the other hand:

There is probably not a better drinks program for any outdoor, multi-day music festival in the entire world. Anvil Bar & Refuge partnered with Summer Fest to provide cocktails with fresh-squeezed juices for 80,000 people -- drinks such as Philly Fish House Punches and Palomas, or frozen daiquiris that bore the throwback '80s logo of the Daiquiri Factory, which was once housed in Anvil -- and employed nearly every bartender in town to do so. But it all went off without a hitch, and Houston's concert-goers were some of the most well-outfitted drinkers in the history of festivals as a result.

When Connor Barwin stands next to chef Chris Shepherd and dwarfs him, you know you're dealing with a big mufukka. (In related news, check out Barwin's coverage of Summer Fest over at Rocks Off.)

Speaking of Shepherd, his team at Underbelly and Hay Merchant were responsible for providing food in the Fancy Pants tents that matched the cocktail service: dishes such as crispy spicy pigs ears -- the same found at Hay Merchant -- and thousands of empanadas that took two women three weeks to make and contained suet from Underbelly itself.

Jersey Mike's Philly cheesesteaks were some of the best food deals at the festival. Screw everyone standing in line next door for a $5 corn dog when you could get a full Philly cheesesteak on a six-inch, freshly baked bun for $7 that would feed two people. Go visit those fools.

I couldn't decide whether it was cooler to see so many local restaurants and food trucks -- Banh Mieria, Pink's Pizza, Radical Eats and Jersey Mike's among them -- or so many that drove in from places afar, such as the Geauxsicles guys from Shreveport. (Everyone else seemed to love them, too, as the Geauxsicles line was one of the longest both days.)

Wild Bill's silver mugs with all-you-can-drink free refills all day long were officially the second coolest drinks at Summer Fest outside of Anvil's cocktails. Every time I saw someone with one of those silver mugs, I felt a minor twinge of jealousy. But then I just went back into the air-conditioned Fancy Pants tent and drank some more beer.

Finally, check out this terrific quote that fellow HP writer William Michael Smith picked up from Ricky Reed, the "hyper-kinetic crazoid behind the Oakland, California techno-rap party band Wallpaper..."

"Houston is hard to figure out, but we're starting to really like coming here," said Reed from backstage at his gig. "We were just in San Francisco and that's how Houston feels. There's this odd but cool vibe about things. Houston is also sort of like Portland. Just laid back, loose, and cool. And ready to party."

"We like Austin a lot, too, but that's kind of obvious, you know," he added. "Houston is the big Texas surprise for us. And the food here is fucking excellent."

As I watched the sun go down into the hazy evening sky over Primus that night, I couldn't help beam like an idiot at my crazy, loud, messy city and the beautiful party we'd just thrown -- thinking that this is the Houston I want people to know and see, especially people coming in from out of town.

I've been to a lot of concerts and festivals, and I don't know one that has as beautiful a setting -- and let's talk about irony here: ugly-ass Houston having a more beautiful festival setting than, say, Austin -- as we did, with the skyline glowing over a resplendently green bayou and the multicolored hordes crowding each stage with unrepressed fervor and glee.

And -- like I said before -- no other festival will ever top the food and drinks seen at Summer Fest. If that's not Houston, I don't know what is.

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Katharine Shilcutt