Leon casino, Trill Sammy. Photo: Jacob Nicholie
Getting older isn’t fun in some regards, especially when you’re around those who seem to get younger every year. For many of us who have covered FPSF more than five times, the lineups are usually filled with some names we know and some we have no idea about. While this year was filled with plenty of names I wasn’t familiar with, the festival itself was far better than what we experienced last year. This year I was more than thrilled to catch no less than about half of the acts, but factors like Lil Uzi Vert cancelling and the weather conditions meant that I wouldn’t get to experience more than the sets that opened each day. But, that’s okay, too, as the festival itself has grown by leaps and bounds and in a more positive way. Overall, given the hand the organizers were dealt with the weather, I felt like this year was a great warm up for a festival that could easily be on the right path to something larger in years to come — as long as it happens on a drier weekend.
The best way to break down the two days is to break things down in categories, so let’s begin with the lineup. I’m 41, on the way to 42, and while I heard some rumblings about displeasure with the lineup, it was actually on scale for what you’d want if you were in your early twenties. I’m not the demographic for this festival, but my age group never was from the start. If you were in your forties when the 2013 festival rolled around, there’s a ninety percent chance that you had no clue how big of a deal it was to have Bassnectar, The Postal Service, and TV On The Radio on the lineup. Also, with the exception of 2013, the lineups for FPSF have never ever really been this mind blowing thing, even when this publication had involvement in it. Lorde is one of the most respected and talented newer artists going, and I think it’s tone deaf not to accept that she is an amazing headliner for a festival of this size. The same could be said about Tove Lo, Solange, Cage The Elephant, Lil Uzi Vert, Charli XCX and Aminé. The fact is that I was ready to catch the headliners, and I’m honestly a little sad that I missed them.
What I did see were locals, and that’s pretty much it minus a set from killer set from Trill Sammy. The locals I caught on day one were -Us., Rose Ette, and Khruangbin. -Us. was definitely there to put on a show and he did just that with a groove heavy set that made those who caught him get down like they were catching someone who had stopped in town on tour. Rose Ette brought their pop infused indie rock to a nice sized crowd that had no problem singing along with them, like ardent and hardened fans. While Khruangbin is a band that I’ve never found myself gravitating towards, their blend of funk jams were a noteworthy part of my first day. The set from Trill Sammy wasn’t what I was expecting, though his energy and involvement with the crowd proved that he knew a strong festival set would earn him plenty of fans.
On day two I got there early to catch the tail end of Miears, who played her synth heavy jams to a nice crowd that braved the muddy entrance to the Mercury stage just to see her. Miears has always been a crowd pleaser from her days in BLSHS to this new part of her career as a solo act, and her songs hit with precision that made me even want to get down as I watched from outside of the mud pit. I also caught a small glimpse of the Bang Bangz set that had been cut short, though the performance seemed to resonate with those who were in attendance. The Wheel Workers seemed to really relish the larger aspects of the Neptune stage, as they dropped new tracks and played like they were seasoned veterans of the festival circuit. After they performed, I caught dance bangers Night Drive as they made the best of the muddy landscape around Mercury and dropped a groove heavy set for everyone around the festival grounds. Then, as we regrouped catching a bit of The Bad Suns and Stick Figure, we made our way back to the media tents to see what was up with the weather.
When you cover festivals, you know the signs to look out for, as well as what apps will keep you up to date. As many of us in media realized quickly, something big and bad was headed towards Eleanor Tinsley Park, and it wasn’t going to just pass over quickly either. My weather app was saying to keep an eye out as was the ominous cloud that was getting closer and closer to the festival grounds. What would eventually happen, as on the day before, was that the festival grounds would get evacuated. I left, but it was because of the fact that there’s nowhere really near the park to go if this happens. While I wanted to catch the bigger acts of the day like Aminé, Charli XCX, Solange, and Lorde, the not-knowing makes the trek back to your car hard to navigate, so I just went home. What anyone who reads this should know is that the weather isn’t something festival groups can control, and I promise that they have no interest in evacuating a festival unless it’s in the best interests of those attending as far as safety goes. While last year we were treated a bit like cattle, this year the organizers from Pegstar and C3 were much more calm and collected and were pretty chill about letting us pack up and head off of the grounds.
As far as how things have grown for the better, I felt that things ran a lot smoother, from the media side of things to the overall feel of each day. The set times stayed on schedule minus the weather, the organization of the layout made a lot more sense, and the way they treated media and attendees felt like they had everything figured out and ready with solutions if problems arose. One of the best ideas I saw were the lockers. If you were in media, you were offered up a locker with a phone charger inside for your use, and if you were an attendee, you were offered one for $35. I honestly felt like this was one of the best ideas I’ve seen in all the years I’ve gone to festivals, and a feature I’d love to see more festivals employ. Another great feature was the food from The Pass & Provisions and the Houston Eats side of things, that offered up festival ready food and some hometown pride at the same time.
The truth is that with the weather as the one exception, it looks like this festival could grow into what we as Houstonians have always wanted to see it become. In fact, after having to cancel the remainder of the festival, it makes sense that this festival cannot proceed to occur on the current timeline that it’s currently held. The dates will have to be changed to avoid problems due to inclement weather as it did this year, and in many years past, if it is to move forward and grow. However, on the scale of how festivals go, FPSF could become something bigger than it’s been if they keep things on track like they were this year. With a more streamlined setup and larger names on the festival, the days of FPSF being a smaller festival could be coming to an end. And while I still feel like there’s a less rainy time of the summer to have this festival take place, the changes involved are just those of a festival on the up-and-up, while the rest of us have to be ready for change and all that comes with it.