Are you still looking for a festival to spend your hard-earned dollars on for a unique experience? Nowadays, it’s getting tougher and tougher. The talent pool is getting shorter and the revolving lineups are more to akin to the tilt-o’-whirl at a kid’s amusement park. Not only do I look for a unique experience at a music festival, it may take me to other states to find this needle in a hay stack. I present to you the Free Press Summer Festival that was located in the heart of NRG Park in Houston, Texas. The setting definitely lived up to what you can picture. The weather was a balmy 95 degrees on average for the two-day festival, but honestly, fans were probably having too much fun to even realize (plus you had free water which was a plus). Want to play some Playstation games to get away from the heat? Got it. Quotes from the likes of Hunter S. Thompson and Houston’s own Slim Thug throughout the grounds? Got that too.
The festival was set up with six total stages named after six planets. The Jupiter stage was there to showcase local talent and that was great given the setting and exposure. The thing about the lineup is that it was booked very evenly. There was a good splatter of genres for each day to appease all ages and tastes. I was constantly doing sprints in between sets to catch a little bit of my favorite artists. For Saturday, you had Gary Clark Jr. highlighting his unreal guitar play. Right after that, you had the stylings of RL Grime who drew a huge crowd playing a 45-minute, trap-infused set. You see, it’s like the random playlist on your iPod. On the rock side of the day, you had St. Vincent and Mastodon performing back to back respectively. Fresh off of their recently released free album, Surf, Chance The Rapper had one of the sets of the day. I’m talking fans waiting all day at the Mars stage for him to go out. For those who wanted to jump back in the time machine a bit, Tears For Fears gave a pretty good performance. (I mean, who doesn’t know “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”?) Interestingly enough, they entered into their set to Lorde‘s version of the classic.
I know there was much controversy with selecting R. Kelly as an act for this year’s iteration, but you wouldn’t have known on that particular night. Performing with a choir to start out, Kelly ran through hits like “Ignition” and “I Believe I Can Fly”. The first part of the second day was a little bit on the calmer side to start out. Brandi Carlile (not to be confused with Belinda Carlile as she said) impressed me with her fun set of songs. Tove Lo drew a big ground as “Talkin Body” continues to make its rounds on radio and summer playlists everywhere. Talking to a few fans, they stated that they were going to stay at the Mars tent, particularly for the back to back sets of Flume and Major Lazer, both of which kept fans dancing for two hours.
Flogging Molly played one of the most entertaining sets of the festival as it seemed just like a fun night out at the pub. ILoveMakonnen and G-Eazy appeased more of the hip-hop crowd in the festival. To end the night and close out the festivities, you had Skrillex playing on one stage and Weezer playing on the other. I had seen Skrillex many times before, so I caught about ten minutes and headed over to Weezer often hitting the circle button to juke anybody standing around. Hearing “Buddy Holly” live in Houston as the night winded down was the perfect ending to my FPSF experience.
The lineup each year seemed to get better and better with more quality musicians. Would I go back? Absolutely. I’ll just keep a extra bottle of sunscreen on me this time.