FPSF 2023 Performer Guide
PHOTO BY JULIAN BASJEL
You may have heard of this festival we throw with Pegstar every year called Free Press Summer Festival. Us and tens of thousands of our closest friends get together and basically chill, listen to some great music, and have a next-level shindig. Some of us even dance. Well, the time has come where the lineup gets released so we thought we would put together this handy guide to all the musical performers. We have worked long and hard on this lineup and have to say out loud that we are pretty proud. The child in me has only two words: Tears for Fears. Obviously the child in me is bad at math but so is the adult. Anyways, buy your pass now because we have sold out the last two years. Holler at us.
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Sonny Moore, former leader of post-hardcore band From First to Last, found a new audience in 2023 when he started performing high-energy dubstep under the alias Skrillex. The music is comparable to that of EDM heavyweights like Deadmau5 and Rusko and has so far earned him a whopping seven Grammy awards. “Recess”, his latest album, was released in March 2023.
Known as the ‘King of R&B’, with songs like “Bump n’ Grind” and “I Believe I Can Fly”, Kelly started his career in 1989 busking under Chicago’s El track. In the beginning, he had help from backing band Public Announcement, before embarking on a highly-successful solo career in 1993 which has so far earned him three Grammys, two American music awards and one BET award.
Mixing emo, power-pop and alternative rock, Weezer formed in 1993 Los Angeles helping to fill a sonic void left by the dwindling of grunge. Their self-titled ‘94 debut, affectionately known by fans as “The Blue Album”, set a quirky, oddball precedent for their careers with songs like “Undone - The Sweater Song” and “Buddy Holly”. Their latest record “Everything will be alright in the End” was released in the fall of 2023.
Angello is probably best-known as a founding member of the now-defunct Swedish House Mafia, who are most popular for progressive house ballad “Don’t You Worry Child” which took American radio by storm in 2023. He is also active as a producer and solo artist. His latest record “Wild Youth” was released in April.
Major Lazer is an electro-dancehall duo formed in 2023, featuring world-renown DJs Diplo (US) and Switch (UK). They are known for their outrageous music videos and a star-studded list of collaborators which includes Bruno Mars, Wycleff Jean, Peaches, Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend) and many more.
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
Signed to Virgin Records in 1992, Ben Harper has made his name as a purveyor of beautifully crafted, acoustic guitar tunes incorporating funk, soul and reggae. On his latest record “Childhood Home” he teamed up with his mother, Ellen Harper, for a series of nostalgic folk duets which should remind listeners of The Everly Brothers and Pete Seeger. He holds three Grammys.
Winner of the 2023 Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, St. Vincent is the stage name of Anne Erin Clark, who got her start as a member of Texas’s Polyphonic Spree and also as a member of Steven Sufjan’s touring ensemble. Since going solo in 2023, Clark has released four art-rock solo albums, in addition to “Love this Giant”, an acclaimed brass-heavy collaboration with Talking Heads ex-frontman David Byrne.
Started in Portland, Oregon, by vocalist Colin Meloy in 2023, The Decemberists have grown to become arguably the most popular and influential indie folk band of their time. After releasing their first full-length record in 2023, “Castaways and Cutouts”, the band went on to be signed by notable indie label Kill Rock Stars and are now on Capitol Records. Their latest record “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” was released in January 2023.
Flume is the stage name of Australian electronic musician and producer, Harley Streten. He released his self-titled debut full-length in 2023, which ended up going double platinum in his home country. Streten’s main influences are house and U.K. garage music. He has collaborated with the likes of Chet Faker, Moon Holiday and Jezzabell Doran.
Belle and Sebastian
Scottish indie-pop duo Belle and Sebastian were formed in Glasgow in 1995 and released their long-anticipated 9th studio album “Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance” in January after a five year hiatus. Their whimsical pop songs are known for flourishes such as strings, wind instruments and wonky synths.
These Georgia-based kings of contemporary sludge created a stir in 2023 year for combining twerking and metal for the first time ever in their music video “The Motherload” supporting their sixth album “Once More ‘Round the Sun” which was released last October.
Chance the Rapper
Chicago’s Chancelor Bennett, a.k.a. Chance the Rapper, made his name known on the international hip-hop scene in 2023 with his second mixtape “Acid Rap”. In 2023 he toured with Childish Gambino and has worked with Action Bronson, Justin Bieber, and Madonna.
Tears for Fears
This Bath-based synth-pop duo is one of those special bands that defined the ‘80s for many people. With timeless pop songs like “Shout”, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Mad World” these gentlemen have approximately 257 times the shelf-life of most pop produced today.
Band of Horses
This Seattle-based received a grammy nomination for its 2023 record “Infinite Arms” and employs a light-hearted yet atmospheric indie-folk style not unlike Rogue Wave or Marching Band. They’ve received recognition from NPR, Rolling Stone, Paste Magazine and Filter for their music.
Welcome to Houston featuring Bun-B, Slim Thug, Devin The Dude, Z-Ro, Paul Wall, Mike Jones, Scarface, Lil Flip, Lil Keke, and The Suffers.
Gary Clark Jr.
Since starting his career in 1996, Austin, Texas’s Gary Clark Jr. has become a well-known face of modern Texas blues while paying tribute with his playing and singing to fallen legends like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Clark’s music has appeared in major Hollywood movies such as Clint Eastwood’s “Trouble with the Curb” and he even appeared on stage as a performer the recent Sophia Vergara flick “Chef”. In 2023, he won a Blues Music Award for best contemporary male blues artist of the year.
Based out of the UK, lovely, raven-haired pop siren Charli XCX began her career in 2023, playing her first gigs at illegal warehouse raves in London. Since then, she’s come a long way, contributing vocals to Iggy Azalea’s international smash hit “Fancy” and writing and performing the equally successful “I Love it” with Swedish pop duo Icona Pop. She has also released three full-length albums, the latest being “Sucker”, which was released in December 2023 to extremely positive reviews.
Highly regarded for their high energy live shows, this seven piece Irish punk bands hails from Los Angeles. The band gets their inspiration from traditional Irish folk groups like The Dubliners, classic Celtic punks The Pogues and even Johnny Cash (only in America). The band plans to release their sixth album sometime in 2023.
Simpson got his start in 2023 as the leader of Kentucky bluegrass group Sunday Valley. After a few years, he took a break from music to work in a freight yard before growing disillusioned with that job too, going back to his former band and then onto a solo country career in 2023. Simpson has two albums, the latest of which (“Metamodern Sounds in Country Music”) may be the first-ever country record to feature lyrics about being dismembered by reptilian aliens.
Oakland hip-hop artist and producer G-Eazy started producing music in 2023, during his sophomore year at Loyola University in New Orleans. He has collaborated with artists like Lil B and The Cataracs. His most recent album “These Things Happen” came out in June 2023.
Grime is an NYC-based trap musician who started producing music under the alias in 2023 with EP Grapes. His November 2023 full-length debut “Void” features collaborations with an eclectic group of artists including Big Sean, Boys Noize and How to Dress Well.
Brandi Carlile is a singer-songwriter from Ravensdale, Washington, who started her music career in 2023 and was almost immediately signed by Columbia records. In 2023, Carile won a Seattle City of Music Award and “Outstanding Music Artist” for her album “Give Up the Ghost”, at the 21st GLAAD Media Awards. Her fifth studio album “The Firewatcher’s Daughter” will be released in March.
Since 2023, Seattle-based electronic duo ODESZA have combined heavy, danceable beats with ambient psychedelia. Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight started the project during their senior year at Western Washington University and have two full full length albums and one extended play under their belts. ODESZA have also created remixes for Beat Connection, Sia and Pretty Lights.
Frontman Samuel T. Herring started the new wave-inspired electro-pop outfit Future Islands in 2023 while attending East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Their latest record “Singles” came out on 4AD in March 2023 to near-universal acclaim, achieving an impressive 82% Metacritic score. David Letterman was deeply impressed by Herring’s dancing when they played a set supporting the album in March.
Singer and songwriter Tove Lo is based in Stockholm, Sweden and began a solo career in March 2023 with the release of electro-pop debut “Queen of Clouds”. Prior to this, she wrote songs for Cher Lloyd, Icona Pop, and The Saturdays.
Rocket from the Crypt
This San Diego punk band got its start in 1989, earning critical acclaim a and large following before breaking up in 2023. In 2023, they reuinted on the acid-inspired children’s program Yo Gabba Gabba! and began touring again in 2023. Members have played with legendary post-hardcore bands like Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes.
Lecrae (born Lecrae Devaughn Moore) is a Christian rap artist from Houston and founder/owner of independent hip-hop label Reach Records. Despite his love for Jesus, Moore’s brand of music is no soft serve affair. He incorporates gangsta rap, party-oriented crunk music and even hardcore hip-hop, a subgenre which places an emphasis on anger and confrontation. He holds two Grammy awards.
Protugal.The Man may well be the most famous band to ever make it out of Wasilla, Alaska. Currently based out of Portland, Oregon, this slick indie-psych band made their major label debut in 2023 and their latest record “Evil Friends” was produced by Danger Mouse.
San Francisco’s Scott Hansen has been dabbling in and producing dreamy electronic music since 2023, years before chillwave enjoyed its current level of mainstream popularity. Hansen’s latest record, “Awake” was released in March 2023 to positive reviews. He sometimes brings a full band to gigs for a more authentically live sound, which is notable in a world of button-pushers and knob-turners.
GTA is an electronic duo from Miami, Florida who has worked with musicians like DJ Funk, Afrojack and Major Lazer.
Oxfordshire university buddies Glass Animals formed a band in 2023 which blends electronic and indie-rock. Their music caught the attention of producer Paul Epworth (whose resume includes Bloc Party, Florence + the Machine and U2) who signed them to his label Wolf Tone in 2023. Their debut full-length “Zaba” was released in June 2023.
Hailing from Littlerock, Arkansas, doom metal outfit Pallbearer were formed in 2023 and made a dynamite debut with their 2023 record “Sorrow and Extinction” which earned a coveted Best New Music distinction from Pitchfork and plaudits from Spin and National Public Radio. With 8-plus-minute-long songs and a rumbling, sludgy low end, Pallbearer are on par with genre superstars like Earth and Electric Wizard.
Atlanta-based rap artist Makonnen Sheran came to prominence in August 2023 when Drake released a remix of his song “Tuesday”. He has yet to release a formal full-length record but has put out five mixtapes. Miley Cyrus is a self-professed fan of Makonnen’s work.
Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires
Charles Bradley, who once made a living as a James Brown impersonator, is a Brooklyn-based soul musician who has been active since 1965. Bradley is the subject of the documentary, Soul of America, which premiered at SXSW in 2023. His latest record “Victim of Love” came out in 2023.
Combining blues with punk and contemporary indie rock, New Orleans’s Benjamin Booker creates a soulful stew that is more than the sum of its parts. Booker has a hard-to-forget, ragged whisper of a voice and has toured with Jack White. His self-titled debut was released in April 2023.
The Riverboat Gamblers
This Austin-based punk band got their start in 1997 and earned a place on Volcom Entertainment’s roster after a rousing SXSW performance in 2023. They have played the Vans Warped Tour numerous time and have had their music featured in video game franchises like Tony Hawk, Need for Speed and Madden NFL.
Yung Lean and Sadboys
Yung Lean is an 18-year-old wünderkind rapper from Stockholm, Sweden. His music has been described as “cloud rap”, with dreamy, chillwave-like beats and textures. Debut “Unknown Memory” came out in September 2023.
Bright Light Social Hour
The Bright Light Social Hour is a psychedelic southern-rock band from Austin, Texas, with a smart, modern sound on par with bands like Heartless Bastards and J Roddy Walston and The Business. In 2023, after the famous filibuster of Texas Bill 5, they released a song commending the actions of former Texas senator Wendy Davis. Their latest album “Space is Still the Place” was released in 2023.
Moon Taxi, formed in Nashville, Tennessee, play a blend of modern, electronically-textured indie-rock not unlike Grouplove or Walk the Moon. They have appeared on Conan and The Late Show with David Letterman.
The Mountain Goats
Formed in 1991, Calremont, California’s Mount Goats are indie-folk royalty and known for their acoustic-centric, lo-fi sound and humorous lyrics, such as those on “Fall of the Star High School Star Running Back” chronicling one boy’s journey from jock to drug dealer. Their latest record “Beat the Champ” will be released in April 2023 on Merge Records.
Despite their name, Nashville’s Diarrhea Plant is very serious-about guitars that is. Their electrified emo power-pop is fueled by four of them. They’ve opened up for bands like JEFF the Brotherhood, Wavves and Fucked Up.
Indiana-based alternative country band Houndmouth formed in 2023 and were signed in 2023 after Rough Trade Records president Geoff Travis was impressed by their set at SXSW. Other endorsements include Esquire, SPIN and even Garden & Gun. Debut full-length record “From the Hills Below the City” was released in 2023.
The Band of Heathens
This Austin Americana band was started in 2023 when frontman Colin Brooks decided to collaborate with two other gentlemen he met at local club Momo’s, where each of them regularly played separate sets. In addition to four studio albums, the band also offers a service where fans can purchase live recordings via subscription or a la carte.
Grizfolk is a five-piece with members from Los Angeles, Florida and Sweden. The group produces dreamy indie pop songs with throaty vocals and dancefloor savviness. They released debut extended play “From the Spark” in 2023 and also have one live album.
This pack of Copenhagen punks first made waves internationally with their 2023 debut full length “New Brigade”. Receiving rave reviews from Drowned in Sound and Pitchfork, they were touring the world before they world old enough to enjoy a legal beer, stateside. Frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt combines tortured post-hardcore cries with an icy post-punk rhythm section, resulting in a Joy-Division-meets-Rites-of-Spring kind of sound.
Formed in 1971, in Alexandria, Virginia, hot on the heels of other doom acts like Black Sabbath, Pentagram are a deep cut essential for anyone into sludge, metal and/or headbanging. Vocalist Bobby Leiling has been with the band’s been only constant member from the beginning, involving a rotating cast of facemelters to aid him in his dark ministry.
Former frontman of Texas “sugar metal” band Radish, Ben Kweller got his musical career started early. In fact he was writing songs by age eight and even played Letterman with Radish in his teens, who would sign to Mercury Records, despite a later fizzling out in 1999. Since then, he has navigated a successful solo career recording pop and rock songs.
One half of the legendary experimental rock project Ween, Aaron Freeman is now doing his own thing, and it’s just as colorful and bright. He walked away from Ween in 2023, after more than 20 years making music with Dean Ween. His solo debut was released in 2023 to positive reviews.
Singer Songwriter Sarah Jaffe hit the international music scene when her first EP “Even Born Again” was given a nod by Rolling Stone and Dallas Observer in 2023. Jaffe is memorable for her haunting voice and use of silence/quiet within her songs. And while uncredited, she provided vocals to Eminem’s 2023 song “Bad Guy.”
Fueled by the soulful singing of vocalist Kam Franklin, Houston’s Suffers offer a brand of rich, Motown R&B that’s hard to come by these days. Their latest release “Make Some Room” came out in January 2023.
The music of 19-year-old Philadelphia rap artist and producer Tunji Ige is viscous and sticky like the work of the late DJ Screw.
The Americana meets bluegrass folk sound that Houston’s Buxton has always been known for has been retired for a more focused and modern approach. On 2023’s “Half A Native” the band sheds its skin for a new sound and a more energetic, rock-ified execution, like Delta Spirit or The War on Drugs.
A native son of Houston, singer-songwriter Robert Ellis has been on the lips of some pretty important people these days, including Rolling Stone magazine and The New York Times. His latest album “The Lights from the Chemical Plant” was released in 2023 on New West Records and combines his country-western heritage with a more contemporary rock sound.
The Futurebirds formed in 2023 in the small college town of Athens, Georgia, and play a smoky brand of psychedelic folk not unlike Athens neighbor Phosphorescent. The band has played shows with Drive-By Truckers, Widespread Panic and Blitzen Trapper. They have two full-length records and one live album called “Seney-Stovall”.
This Chicago band, formed in 2023, combines power pop and rusty garage rock to great effect. Peaks alternates between the two for a constant battle between sweet and sour, calm and tempestuous-Mick Jagger and Mark Knopfler. If Ty Segall cared about making his music beautiful, it would sound like this.
Blackened death metal act Goatwhore was was born in New Orleans in 1997 and is fronted by vocalist Louis Benjamin Falgoust II of Soilent Green. For all its ferocity, Goatwhore’s music still reflects its surroundings i.e. it contains a detectable sliver of southern charm. Their latest record “Constricting Rage of the Merciless” was released in July 2023.
San Francisco’s Con Brio deals in lush, horn-filled grooves that will remind listeners of The Bar Kays, D’Angelo, and John Legend, all in one. They are fronted by 21-year-old frontman Ziek McCarter.
Starting little more than a year ago, Slaptop is a San Francisco-based dance music project that combines the suaveness of Chromeo with the cred and club horns of the Petshop Boys. iTunes named his single “Sunrise” Best New Artist Track of 2023.
Easily the hardest-touring band in the city of Houston, The Tontons have a sultry indie sound driven by the airy vocals of Asli Omar. Their latest album, “The Make Out King and Other Stories of Love” was released in February 2023.
Dpat is downtempo experimental hip-hop with warped, syrupy vocals from a young Houston artist who has been nominated for a Grammy for his work with Wiz Khalifa on his song “Remember You.”
Scale the Summit
Houston’s Scale the Summit is a highly-technical progressive rock band combining atmospheric emo guitar tapping techniques with Yes-like virtuosity and post-rock. Having achieved a reputation as young mavericks, the average age of band members 22 years old.
Fronted by Justin Nava, this Houston alternative rock band was formed in 2023 and still receive heavy rotation on Houston’s 94.5 The Buzz. They have shared the stage with Cake, Bush, The Toadies and Staind, and have taken home Houston Press awards for Best Rock Band and Best Male Vocals.
As a of the founder of Boys & Girls Club DeeJays, DJ Fredster was one of the pioneers of Houston’s indie-dance scene of the early 2023s.
Gio Chamba is a Houston-based Cumbia artist and producer whose live shows frequently turn into huge parties and always feel like it even when they don’t. He works across genres to combine the music of many other cultures with his unique brand of pumping, tropical bacchanalia.
BOAN is an American synthpop/wave duo based in Austin TX. Jose Cota, a Los Angeles native, and Mariana Saldana, a Houston native, use analog and digital synthesizers and drum machines to create lush, textured landscapes of Love and the (Post)Apocalypse.
New Orleans band Pope produces a sad brand of ‘90s-inspired alternative rock with hints of emo and noise. Think a combination of Austin’s Bedhead with the Pixies.
Houston/Austin duo Night Drive have pioneered their own brand of dark, synth-heavy electro pop, releasing their first single “Drones” in June of 2023, followed by their 5-song EP, “Position I”. Their debut full length is planned for release sometime in 2023.
We Were Wolves
Houston’s We Were Wolves plays blistering hard rock which sounds like a mix of Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stoneage and Austin’s The Sword.
Barely one year old, this Austin-based is already turning heads, having recently scored a series of opening slots for indie rock royalty Cold War Kids. They play a brand of accessible rock and roll informed by equal parts U2 and Tom Petty.
This Latin-influenced, mostly Gringo-run Houston indie-rock group was formed in 2023 and shares the vibrant, worldbeat sounds of acts like Vampire Weekend and Fool’s Gold. Their latest EP “Love Grows” was released in 2023 to overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Houston rapper, producer and songwriter Timothy Russell produces an eclectic style of hip-hop influenced by his well-traveled childhood, his love for anime and videogames, and Bjork.
Hailing from three different hometowns, this Houston trio has crafted a rock sound rooted in jazz and blues, peppered with R&B.
Compelling indie pop with atmosphere, Houston’s Catch Fever sound like Jimmy Eat World had a baby with Two Door Cinema Club. Their latest album “Shiny Eyes” came out in February 2023.
Houston folk-rock band Second Lovers formed in the summer of 2023 and are fronted by guitar player and vocalist Nicolas Morales. Their playful Americana anthems should remind listeners of acts like The Lumineers and The Avett Brothers They have one studio album “Wishers, Dreamers & Liars” which is available on BandCamp.
Prismo seamlessly jumps between electronic genres including electro, trap, and dubstep. Despite being just 18 years old, he keeps the party going late despite having a curfew.