I survived a Houston music festival

June 24, 2010

by Kelly Belton

Despite temperatures in the upper 90s, a torrential downpour on a muddy hill and hours of driving around the fourth largest city in the country, I was safely in Ruston by 5:30 a.m. Monday, June 7.

Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest was a force to be reckoned with as local, national and international bands literally took the city by storm.

As the gates to Eleanor Tinsley Park opened at 2 p.m. Saturday, flocks of folks gathered at the park on the bayou to hear a variety of bands, from underground Ra Ra Riot to psychedelic legend The Flaming Lips.

In addition to Ra Ra Riot, Saturday’s lineup included Houston-based Wild Moccasins, Kid Sister and Girl Talk.

As a fan of Ra Ra Riot, I was looking forward to their show at 6:15 p.m. To my dismay, they played a few of their hits and had nothing new to offer the audience. Fortunately, Kid Sister brought the crowd to their feet with upbeat hip-hop tracks such as “Right Hand Hi” and “Get Fresh.”

It was Girl Talk that stole the show at 8:45 as DJ Gregg Gillis played mashups of pop songs while VIP festival guests danced wildly onstage as ribbons and confetti bounced around with them.

The performance, which lasted more than an hour, left most in the audience, dripping with sweat as festival-goers grooved next to each other. The night ended with fireworks exploding against the city skyline.

Day two of the festival started with more humidity and even more of that Houston heat, but festival-goers dealt with it – we wouldn’t miss Sunday’s bands for anything.

The party got started with Uh Huh Her and Lymbic System’s upbeat jams in the early afternoon and cooled down with the melodious acoustics of Stars, which performed hits “Elevator Love Letter” and “Set Yourself on Fire.”

Shortly after Stars, music-lovers at the festival faced the ultimate test: would they survive the hour-long downpour that muddied the hill that served as the seating for the natural amphitheater?

By the time Slim Thug and Bun B left the stage around 7:30 p.m., it was clear the crowd was not going anywhere. In fact, many had embraced the mud as they slid down Mother Nature’s very own slip ‘n’ slide.

The Houston skyline glowed to the right of the free-standing stage while Flaming Lips roadies prepared for the last performance.

Actually, I’m not sure it’s fair to call what followed a performance. The Lips don’t just put on shows; they host flamboyant events.

Vocalist Wayne Coyne made his appearance in a clear plastic bubble and floated, rather eloquently, into the sea of people.
The legendary band performed hits like “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and “Do You Realize?” all while Coyne promoted his message of peace and love.

Coyne also brought out his famous over-sized Styrofoam laser hands and directed green laser lines across the crowd and into the city. If you are unfamiliar with said practice, no description can do it justice; it’s hard to explain the awesomeness the Flaming Lips brought to the city of Houston.

Those who didn’t leave Eleanor Tinsley Park in awe missed something.

This year’s Free Press Summer Fest is the first memorable festival to call Houston home, and hopefully, they’ll keep up the good work.