Yesterday we brought you coverage from some outstanding bands performing at Free Press Summer Fest. Today, we continue that coverage and kick it off by writing about a band that hails from Houston’s neighbor to the west—Austin. Zorch is a duo that relies on keys, synths, and live drums. Zac Traeger handles drum responsibilities, also wearing a headset to provide vocals as Sam Chown mans an elaborate set up of numerous electronic keyboards. The two-person group manages to deliver an atmospheric and bone-crushing live set that inspired a small mosh pit. Moreover, it was awesome to see something so different from the standard fare, which can be incredible, but is still a traditional approach to music.
We were only able to catch a couple of songs by Morris Day and the Time, but really, what is there to say? It’s classic, soulful music by a great performer. Day possesses some cred as being a bit edgier than some of his contemporaries, and his on-stage dance moves were killer. Once a collaborator with Prince, Day holds a legendary spot in the realm of soul pop singers.
The curators of FPSF did right by including Z-Ro in their lineup. There simply isn’t a Houston rapper that gets talked about with more respect or appreciation. Bun B joined Z-Ro on stage as the rapper performed to one of the most well attended shows of the afternoon. In many ways, Z-Ro acts as the antithesis to commercial rappers like Lil Wayne or Drake. He does his own thing, represents his city, and gives the impression that the stories in his lines come from a much realer place than that of some rappers.
Irish rockers Two Door Cinema Club at times veer a little too close to the realm of shiny pop punk for my personal tastes, but boy do the kids love it. The front of the crowd was packed with a large group of high school students who knew every word, singing along faithfully. The crowd pumped their fists and let out screams when the band announced some of their fan favorites such as “This Is the Life.” Lead singer Alex Trimble looks about fifteen with his rosy cheeks and youthful countenance, but he performs with convincing sincerity and energy. The wholesome brand of accessible pop tunes was a stark contrast to Major Lazer who was just getting started on an adjacent stage.
Major Lazer is essentially another outlet for Diplo, especially since early collaborator DJ switch abandoned the project last year. For the performance at FPSF Jillionaire assisted Diplo with DJing responsibilities as Walshy Fire acted as a hype man, throwing water on the crowd and even popping a bottle of champagne, which spewed all over the first two rows. Much like his solo set, the performance was one of the most notable of the evening, as backup dancers pulled fans onto the stage and made them disrobe before dancing all up on them in “Pon de Floor” fashion. Members of the band also wore retro Houston sports teams (an Astros shirt and a Clyde Drexler jersey) to the great enjoyment of the crowd.
Back on stage 2, Erykah Badu was taking an incredible amount of time to make her way onstage. Her band, the Cannabinoids stood on stage for an eternity even after sound check was completed. During that time, Wayne Coyne again appeared stage side to check things out. A random fan approached him from backstage and gifted him with a bouquet of flowers to which he responded with a hearty laugh. Just then, Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast wandered by and Coyne handed one of the flowers to her, as she proceeded to get involved in a conversation with Coyne and the fan. As if it couldn’t get any stranger, one of the keyboardists from Badu’s band walked up and joined the group by engaging Coyne in an overhand hand clasp handshake.
When Badu finally walked on stage, the crowd went nuts. The veteran performer proceeded to perform a phenomenal set. She talked at length with the crowd about a documentary she saw about the “fifth world war,” encouraging them to rebel against occupation. Badu was entrancing on stage as she danced and sang, donned in gold feathery armbands. The set was simply amazing. The only down side was that it was cut slightly short due to its late start.
From there, the Flaming Lips began their elaborate sound check, but not before Snoop Dogg performed on the festival’s main stage. For his set, no press was admitted to the pit areas, and Snoop Dogg had extra tight security provided by himself rather than the general festival crew. He strolled onto stage nonchalantly and launched straight into the first song. Several guests, including an aging man, Snoop’s uncle Junebug, joined him on stage to dance and hype. Snoop played all the classics—“P.I.M.P,” “Nothin’ But a G Thang,” “Jump Around,” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Snoop’s mascot of sorts Nasty Dog was onstage with a huge fake blunt to excite the weed smokers in the crowd.
With Badu’s delay, Snoop finished in time to allow everyone on festival grounds to show up for the one show that would be going on soon—The Flaming Lips. The band puts on a set that warrants a novel of description, but it can really be boiled down to a sentence: The Flaming Lips have the hands down best live show in music today, and if you’ve never seen it, you’re not doing yourself justice as a music fan. The set included everything it usually does: costumed dancers on both sides of the stage, confetti cannons, giant balloons, and Wayne Coyne inside of his enormous hamster ball. However, this set afforded even more spectacle than usual, with the band performing Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. Perhaps as a nod to the mythological synchronicity of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz, the side stage dancers were Dorothy-costume-clad nymphets who euphorically hugged and sang and bounced to the music. The mostly girl group were flanked by a few guys dressed as the Tin Man and Scarecrow.
The Lips performed four of their own classic songs (“Race for the Prize,” “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” and “Do You Realize??”) before beginning their rendition of Dark Side of the Moon. At that point, the members of Phantogram joined the Lips on stage as did several other guests, including someone Coyne called a “witch from mars” who was clad in a shiny, gold body suit with a translucent, wing-like cape and a green wig. We later learned that this was Lizzy Allen a.k.a. Miss Miniver Rose, who is the creative force behind Denver’s The Vitamins. Her soprano voice was utilized thoroughly throughout the set, especially so on “Great Gig in the Sky.” During “Money,” Coyne tossed huge balloons containing actual cash to the crowd, first warning them, “There’s real money in here. I want you to have it, but I don’t want you to kill each other to get it… unless you desperately need it.” Several times, Coyne came to the front of the stage to fire his handheld confetti tube cannons into the crowd. Erykah Badu made a brief appearance on stage to ruffle Coyne’s hair and promptly exit. A photo of that is below in the gallery.
The Lips rendition of the classic album was experimental, sprawling, epic, and entrancing. Hearing them perform it live solidifies the bridge between the instrumental, psychedelic, and deeply conceptual and philosophical aspects of Pink Floyd’s work and that of the Lips. The performance is always one-of-a-kind and if you have even the slightest opportunity to make a trip to see it, I highly recommend that you do so.
Tomorrow we will be back with our day two, part one coverage of FPSF including writing about and photos of Grandfather Child, Papermoons, Wild Moccasins, Portugal. The Man, and Ponderosa. Come check it out! Click on any photo below to view the gallery as a sideshow. All photos by Holly Griffin and Bryan Parker.