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The lines were shorter for the entrance e since the majority of the people in attendance had already acquired their tickets the day before. Still, having fancy pants made the five minute wait become one that had no wait.
Robert Ellis (Stage 1) 1:40
The stage was set for Robert Ellis as I arrived to Stage 1 at around 2:00 PM. This Country Folk singer and lead guitarist as well as lead vocalist visits Houston regular and has a great following in Texas. There was charisma and enthusiasm as he and his band swayed the audience during one of their tracks and then turned the energy to a driving force that moved bodies even more. His voice sounds perfectly in tune with his acoustic guitar that he plays with such ease that allows him to move around on stage.
Fitz and the Tantrums (Stage 2) 2:10
Though we all knew the sound that this band had, there was more an expectation from this band during a live performance than on their record. Having last time played at House of Blues, Fitz and the Tantrum took the stage at 2:10 with nothing less than a great display and portrayal from their music. Everyone enjoyed the soulful vibe they presented with the male and female vocals working in unison to create that older vibe that funk is all about.
Young the Giant (Stage 1) 3:00
This band has blown up since the last time they stopped by the city and had a great display of their album. Live music can be a hard thing to master, which was the case for this band. Not all of the tracks where horrid or bad live, but the live versions of a few tracks were mere shadows of the greatness of their record counterparts. Songs like, “Cough Syrup,” were great and moved some of the audience which was in the middle of the base of the hill and caused some movement elsewhere on the hill. There was not the same enthusiasm as was expected due to the lack of true immersion from the crowd and the superiority of the recorded versions. The set ended with their single, “My Body,” which caused the swaying bodies in the crowd to move back and forth and shout the lyrics to the stage.
Portugal, the Man (Stage 2) 3:55
With the festival covering all genres of music, this rock group from Alaska was one of the only true big rock groups booked for Free Press. They have stopped by Houston before and also played an after show that Saturday night, after Day 1 at Fitzgerald’s. Though some people knew the band, the audience was made up of different people experiencing this rock group for the first time. Their guitars and drums shredded when their songs demanded it but also swayed the crowd when their more tranquil songs took the air. They played all fan favorites like, “People Say,” and “The Devil.” The audience screamed as the band said thanked Texas for their support from the start. They ended their set list with a cover of “Hey Jude.”
Descendants (Stage 2) 6:00
This group has been dormant for a number of years but decided to return to the stage to reclaim their title as one of the most influential groups to punk rock in the 80’s. Descendants got back on stage and performed a number of their hits saying that every few years they needed to get back on stage to stay young. The band that emerged during the punk scene from the west coast off of Manhattan Beach did not have its original members due to various occurrences, but the band still holds its intensity and energy from back then. They played songs like, “I Don’t Want to Grow Up,” and “Everything Sucks.” The sun was not as intense as before as the crowd in the middle of the base of the hill made a small mosh pit to honor the punk group. Stage 2 was not as full as it was previously in the day unfortunately so there was less celebration of this band.
The Avett Brothers (Stage 1) 7:00
One of the headliners promised this year played Stage 1 as the sun was beginning to set and one of the growing bands appeared on stage. Over the last few years, The Avett Brothers have grown an immense amount of fans, having one of their videos on YouTube claim over one million views. Though they are now growing into mainstream popularity, it did not stop the band from playing older tracks that avid fans and followers of the group have admired for years. At first there was not much interaction for the band when they started off their set with older tracks but once they played more of their established songs, the crowd joined shouting to the stage. During one of the tracks the band played the crowd clapped along to the chorus giving more energy to the band and making them give a better performance than the one they previously established. During “I and Love and You,” the band had the crowd scream the lyrics back to them creating a surreal experience. “I Killed Sally’s Lover,” was also an amazing site to witness with the banjo strumming at full speed and the audience clapping and stomping. It was an overall amazing set pleasing fans as well as first time listeners to the band.
Pretty Lights (Stage 1) 9:00
After the Avett Brothers the majority of the people left to Stage 2 to catch Primus, but due to the extreme love I have towards Pretty Lights I decided to stay to attain a good spot to view the show from. The lights dimmed as a counter on the large LCD screen displayed “Pretty Lights” and a counter at the bottom. As it struck ten seconds till the crowd began shouting the countdown. Once again, the lights dimmed and Pretty Lights took the stage thanking us for being there and began to play what was the best fusion of techno and hip-hop based sounds which are known worldwide. The crowd jumped and danced all as if possessed with the sounds coming from the amplifiers which shook the hill all the way to the booths in the back. Even though the set was similar to that of Bonarroo, it was one that could not be mimicked by anyone else. The intensity and power that the music contains is one with no equal only to be topped off by one of the biggest surprises of the event. Bun B took the stage and amazed the already screaming crowd for a few minutes. The hip-hop roots of Pretty Lights made it the perfect tone and scene for this collaboration to be possible. Even though it is hip-hop based, the techno beats and build were intense and attained the ears and minds of the crowd. As the set came to an end, the fireworks from behind the stage began to erupt and explode behind the screen as well as over the stage closing the festival in a glorious light show from the screens on stage as well as the cascade of fireworks.
The festival was an amazing one which keeps growing and bringing bigger names each year. With the diversity that we have of people in the city, and the music at this festival, there is much to expect from next years Free Press Summer Fest. Also, if you saw the following backpacks at the festival, that was me.