FPSF Day 2 Recap Featuring Sylvan Esso, Tune-Yards, and Lauryn Hill

FPSF_2014_Day_2-8The second day of FPSF 2014 dawned with less chance of rain but warmer temperatures. Often, I find the most rewarding festival experiences happen early in the day. The crowds are thinner, the performers often fresher and more exciting. I had been looking forward to electronic pop duo Sylvan Esso’s set for weeks after enjoying their beat-centric debut album, which came out recently. Live, the duo’s beats sounded even punchier than on record, and Amelia Randall’s dance skills injected the needed energy to make an early afternoon performance exciting and convincing. Perhaps most significantly, the group’s minimal pop succeeds live because Randall’s voice has room to breathe and be heard, whereas many bands’ vocals are lost among the blare of instruments.

FPSF_2014_Day_2-14Following Sylvan Esso, Washed Out took the Neptune stage in the glaring 2:00 PM sun. The dream pop outfit continues to sound more and more polished as they grow in popularity. This could be an asset or a detriment, depending on who you ask, but what’s certain is that fans of bands such as Foster the People and Empire of the Sun have found more to like as Washed Out has incorporated more pop formulas with their electronica.

FPSF_2014_Day_2-22To underscore FPSF’s diverse lineup, after a few Washed Out songs, I walked just a few hundred feet to the Mercury stage, where a legion of rap fans were amassed to witness a set by DMX. Although most of DMX’s hits are relegated to the early oughts, plenty of barking dog sounds welcomed the rapper to the stage. Those fans lost their minds, went all out, acted like fools, and lost their cools as the rapper launched into his arguably most notable song “Up In Here.” For some, DMX may have been a novelty, but it was clear that many fans were genuinely pumped to see the artist, who was once among those at the top of the game.

FPSF_2014_Day_2-36All the way across the festival grounds, Naked and Famous had already started as I approached the Mars stage. Although the group stood atop the stage clad in as much if not more apparel than anyone else at FPSF, the latter descriptor of their moniker has certainly begun to apply. The Australian synth pop band recently opened several dates for Imagine Dragons and are cropping up as a middle tier band on many festival lineups. With shimmering, upbeat pop anthems, the band’s sound fit the spirit of FPSF perfectly and inspired many young ladies atop hulky dudes’ shoulders to pump their fists and sing along in delight.

FPSF_2014_Day_2-43Seeing Tune-Yards ranked high on my list of must-sees for this year’s FPSF. With Merrill Garbus at the helm, the group boasts bombastic percussion along with a barrage of frenetic vocals. As if their aural dynamics weren’t enough, the band wears vibrant colors not only in the clothes on their bodies but also painted on their faces. On the road in support of their just released third LP Nikki Nack, the group was awesome. They’re still up-and-comers at this stage, but they’re certainly coming up fast.

FPSF_2014_Day_2-49Sunday’s late afternoon featured the fest’s strongest performances, and I headed to Lauryn Hill just after watching Tune-Yards. Lauryn Hill has one album. She’s done a few songs or parts on songs here and there since the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in 1998. Still, she has only one LP. Which is amazing, considering how strong it remains today and what weight Hill possesses in the hip-hop community. What gives her that credibility is her penchant for both soul and lyrical prowess. Hill can croon and harmonize with the best of them, but still has the ability to spit some hefty, hard-hitting bars. Her effortless transition between the two styles impresses even more so live than recorded, as her stage presence and intensity lends gravity to the songs. Bucket list, folks.

FPSF_2014_Day_2-62I don’t next to nothing about Cage the Elephant. I know from headlines and skimming some previous festival coverage here and there that the group is madly popular at the moment. After Sunday, I know that they deliver one hell of a live show. Rarely have I seen a frontman brave the photo pit full of photographers to cross out into the crowd. (Usually they’ll do so after the first three songs—when we all leave the pit.) Matthew Shultz climbed out into a sea of fans, crowdsurfing and singing during the second song. On stage, he whips his hair around, stomping and shouting with abandon. I still have yet to hear a recorded track. Live, I’m sold.

FPSF_2014_Day_2-75I do not like Die Antwoord. Normally, I just decline to comment if I don’t like an artist; I just say nothing. However, if I said nothing, it wouldn’t make much sense to have this inline photograph embedded of Die Antwoord. Because, while I do not like them, what I do like is these photos. I guess, photographically speaking, I like Die Antwoord a lot. I especially like their weirdo tattoos.

FPSF_2014_Day_2-78Since I’ve opened this pandora’s box, here’s my issue: there’s nothing new about this brand of shock theater. I’m fine with obscene lyrics, but the songs would carry more weight with a little more literary merit. Balance the obscenity by proving you’re smarter than everyone listening. Die Antwoord likes being edgy, which I like and support. And they’re vegetarians. So, I know there’s something going on here. Something deeper and thoughtful. There have got to be political undertones to this act, but they seem too couched to do much good. Maybe I just haven’t been able to completely figure it out yet, and some day soon, I’ll like them a lot more than I do now. Until then, they are a hell of a lot of fun to photograph.

FPSF_2014_Day_2-84I ended my FPSF with Wu-Tang clan. What better way, right? Hip-hop royalty before us all. I was pleased that Ghostface, RZA, and Raekwon took center stage for much of the performance. Ghostface remains my favorite member of Wu-Tang; so much so that I would’ve loved to hear some of his solo tracks, and I know how lame that is. The collective was missing Method Man, but were joined on stage at one point by Houston Hip-Hop royalty Bushwick Bill of Geto Boys.

FPSF_2014_Day_2-86Wu-Tang sounded sharp. I always want to love hip-hop live, but it’s sometimes tough to stomach all the hype men and posturing. The Clan avoided these classic hip-hop pitfalls and just plowed through heavy rhymes. They weren’t quite as tight as Jurassic 5 at last year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, but they still rank among the best hip-hop sets I’ve seen—an outstanding end to this year’s fest.

Despite the rain and the heat, FPSF remains one of my favorite festivals. It’s young. It’s exciting. It’s a party, and it’s a hell of a way to kick off the summer. It has become for me a valued ritual, and I know the city of Houston’s music fans emphatically agree. I had a great time, and I can’t wait to see what the festival cooks up next year.

See more photos from day two below. All images © Bryan Parker & Pop Press International; all rights reserved. Click any image to open in slideshow viewer.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

Pop Press International © 2018 All Rights Reserved

All photos licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress