Austin may steal all of the headlines with SxSW, Austin City Limits Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest, and now Austin Psych Fest, but there’s another Texas city that has been quietly building one the most amazing festivals—one that can proudly stand toe-to-toe with its Music Capitol sister city. Now in its sixth year, Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest plays host to some of the biggest names in music this weekend.
The festival debuted in 2009, put together by Houston Free Press, a local independent newspaper, and Pegstar.net, a local concert promotion company. That year and every year since the event has taken place in Eleanor Tinsley Park, in downtown Houston. Back then most of the acts were either local or Texans, with festival headliner Of Montreal.
As someone who was there to witness that inaugural year, you could tell from the crowd’s energy and how smoothly the whole thing went for being year one of a festival that something special was being born. Each year it has grown bigger, with an initial attendance rate of around 30,000 to last year’s over 90,000 attendees. It has progressively attracted bigger names, such The Flaming Lips, Snoop Dogg, and a briefly reunited Postal Service, while still having plenty of locals such as rapper Bun B and alt country artist Robert Ellis on the lineup.
This year’s lineup is bigger than ever, boasting huge acts from all genres of music. For a complete list of the lineup, click here. The following are some of the biggest and most hotly anticipated acts each day:
Saturday: CVRCHES, Dwight Yoakam, Childish Gambino, Welcome to Houston, Flosstradamus, Deftones, Vampire Weekend
Sunday: DMX, Lauryn Hill, Tune-Yards, Wu Tang Clan, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Drive By Truckers, The Kills, and Jack White
One thing that must be acknowledged is how Summer Fest (and other Texas festivals) aren’t afraid to throw in some country artists in the mix, truly offering something for everyone. Also, lineup listing of Welcome to Houston must be explained. In an event that could only happen in Houston, home of screwed & chopped rap (RIP DJ Screw), this is one of the southern rap capitols. This collaboration is between the biggest rappers Houston has to offer: Bun B, Slim Thug, Devin The Dude, Z-RO, Paul Wall, and Mike Jones. This is sure to be a can’t-miss performance as these giants come together to form an amazing Voltron of rhyming.
There’s more to this festival than music though. Sure there may be plenty of corporate sponsors to make things possible, but in the food and drink department, the festival has assembled over 30 local restaurants and food trucks to provide a wide variety of food, from standards like pizza and tacos to a waffle bus and a wild game grill. Also, scattered around the festival area will be unique art installations. Click here for more details. In previous years these installations have been an incredible feast for the eyes with local artists going all out with pieces so fantastic that there has been foot traffic jams in the area from people stopping to admire them or to take photos next to them.
Not content with just two days of amazing music, there are also several official after parties, including performances from legendary DJ Dan The Automator and Mariachi El Bronx. Click here for more information on those after parties. There’s even a preview breakfast. While this sounds strange for a festival, the details make it sound very enticing.
According to the website, “This unique breakfast service will be choreographed to original music by Dan the Automator …Bun B serves up spoken word,..Chef Speer of Uchi will head the 5 course service with Hell’s Kitchen champion Chef Ja’Nel infusing her signature style in each dish. Guests will be treated to novel cocktails by Justin Burrow whose new drinkery is nationally-recognized local favorite Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar, who will create the cocktails, especially for this event, using a limited-edition vodka, Absolut Texas.” Tell me if that doesn’t sound incredible.
Like any 21st Century festival, Summer Fest also has it’s own app, available for iOS and Android. In this app you can create your own festival schedule with reminders, access interactive festival maps, and even Spotify playlists of artists performing at the festival to get you geared up for the big event.
The only drawback to this music lover’s paradise in the past has been incredible heat. Being the Texas coast in summer, it’s typically been around 100 degrees and incredibly humid, with risk of heat stroke if exposed to it all day. This year that may not be a problem though—the forecast says there’s 90% chance of rain with possibility of thunderstorms. According to a local news source, the festival will go on, despite the threatening weather forecast.
Even if the environment is a little soggier and muddier than one could hope for, it still promises to be the best weekend of music this year in Houston, if not all of Texas.
To purchase tickets to this festival, click here.
Written By Jarad Matula
OurVinyl | Associate Editor