LIVE REPORT: Free Press Summer Fest 2013

Passion Pit at Mars Stage on Saturday, 1 June (photo by Anthony Rathbun)
Passion Pit at Mars Stage on Saturday, 1 June (photo by Anthony Rathbun)

WHO 2 Chainz, Alabama Shakes, Arctic Monkeys, Cat Power, Dawes, Geto Boys, Japandroids, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Matt & Kim, Mavis Staples, Passion Pit, The Postal Service, TV On The Radio

WHAT Free Press Summer Fest 2013

WHEN 1.6.2013 + 2.6.2013

WHERE Houston, TX

FPSF 2013 happened this past weekend, on the 1st and 2nd of June, with the festival selling out for the first time in its five year history. For the first timers like myself, it was a worthwhile music featuring some of the biggest names in music. The two-day festival had its fair share of highlights, as well as some head-scratching moments. Overall, it was a weekend that won’t soon be forgotten.

SATURDAY

Day 1 featured an all-star lineup beginning with the likes of Alabama Shakes and 2 Chainz, and ending with Passion Pit and the reunited The Postal Service. As Alabama Shakes took the stage, Brittany Howard looked like a woman with something to prove, and she unleashed an incredible vocal performance, going all out on fan favorites “Hold On” and “I Found You.” The band proved themselves to be competent musicians, if somewhat lacking in the spontaneity that catapults some shows from decent to must-see spectacles. The performance itself could best be summed up with an exchange Howard had with a festival goer, as she gave a shout-out to a couple of people perched in a tree off in the distance. The tree-dwellers didn’t notice Howard’s affectionate greeting, noting, “They don’t even know I’m talking to them.”

Everyone knew where 2 Chainz was, and he began his set by diving straight towards his biggest guest appearances, taking on “Mercy” and “Beez In The Trap” right out the gate. For the 2 Chainz fanatics in attendance, there couldn’t have been more to ask for from the artist former known as Tity Boy. Arctic Monkeys played a wonderful show, far exceeding my expectations, but the real highlight of the night came in the form of Passion Pit. Michael Angelekos apparently didn’t get the memo that it was hot as Hades in Houston this past weekend, hitting the stage in a button down shirt and tie. The heat didn’t seem to get to the enthusiastic frontman, as the band ripped through a set that featured everything from “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy” to “Little Secrets.” The crowd hanged on to every note, and the band provided the most euphoric moment of the first day.

The Postal Service followed on the Saturn Stage, and whether it was the blistering heat throughout the day or the comedown from Passion Pit, the crowd seemed exhausted by the time Ben Gibbard and company hit the stage. The set started with “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” and included the band’s new track “Turn Around,” as well as stellar renditions of “Such Great Heights” and “Natural Anthem.”

SUNDAY

Perhaps the best show of the entire weekend, Mavis Staples afternoon set was disappointingly seen by far less people than Macklemore & Ryan Lewis or Matt & Kim. But for those in attendance at the Mars Stage, their presence was rewarded by a thrilling set that saw Staples perform the seminal “The Weight” by The Band, culminating in a thrilling ad-lip by the soul legend and an acknowledgment of the legacy of Levon Helm. Her performance of “I’ll Take You There” had everyone dancing, and her proclamation of her and The Staples Singers intentions to bring “joy, happiness, inspiration, and good vibrations” to the audience did not disappoint. After the set, I turned to my friend and said, “they should just shut the festival down now.” For Cat Power, that wouldn’t have been such a bad idea.

Chan Marshall hit the stage drinking tea and walking around gingerly, as if the stage were littered with used needles. While she sounding fine all things considered, her demeanor was rather uncomfortable to watch. During breaks between songs, she would speak quietly into the microphone, to the point where her words were indecipherable, but apparently she isn’t that big of a fan of plastic bottles.

Also performing was Matt & Kim and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis over at the Saturn Stage. Both had the crowd whipped into a frenzy, and as Macklemore had an audience member crowd surf his fur coat to the front of the stage, everyone knew what was going to happen next. As Lewis dropped the beat of “Thrift Shop” the crowd when nuts. Later, Macklemore paid a lovely tribute to Houston mayor Annise Parker, the nation’s first openly gay mayor before performing his next #1 single, “Same Love.”

The night ended (for me, at least) with TV On The Radio bringing down the house over at the Mars Stage. Performing new song “Mercy,” along with such classics as “Golden Age,” “Staring at the Sun” and “Wolf Like Me,” the band’s live sound carried an urgency that somehow exceeds their studio recordings. On “Repetition,” off of 2011s Nine Types of Light, the band turned the song into one of the best moments of their set. They closed with “DLZ,” and had everyone singing along during the chorus. But even lead singer Tunde Adebimpe acknowledged the day’s highlight, eloquently stating, “You guys are lucky. You get to live in a future where Mavis Staples is amazing. Everyone else gets to live in the past where Mavis Staples is amazing.”

The future has never looked brighter.

Below, check out photos from the festival, including pics of Mavis Staples, Cat Power, Dawes, and a lovely mid afternoon rainbow circling the sun.

 

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