Houston Whatever Fest Hosts Locals With Depth
Waterparks, Photo: Heather Ann Photography
Houston has gotten to where it has plenty of weekly offerings in the “to do” category, and even more so on the side of festivals. If you’re doing the math, Houston has between six and twenty festivals each year, depending on what you count as a festival. The only one that mixes comedy and music is Houston Whatever Fest, happening this weekend in the Warehouse Live area of East downtown. In it’s second year, there’s a host of big names on both the music and comedy side of things. Acts like Metric, GWAR, GZA, The Front Bottoms, and Knox Hamilton will be there on the music side, while TJ Miller, Doug Benson, Ari Shaffir, and Brooks Wheelan will be there on the comedy side of things. But, like we’ve become accustomed to with other Houston festivals, there’s also two days full of local acts who you may or may not have heard of, which this is a guide to who’s worth checking out this weekend.
B L A C K I E, Photo: Courtesy of Artist
On the first day of the festival, the local music selection is full of known and virtual unknown names. Vockah Redu will be the first music act kicking things off over on the Remax Innerloop/Ivy Lofts stage outside at 1:10. Redu, who came from NOLA to Houston is one of the most amazing hip hop acts you’ll ever see. Mixing elements of bounce music alongside crazed lyrics, this act performs in costume, sometimes with face paint, and with more energy than a lightning bolt. Check out their single, “Hands On Ya Hips” to get an idea of their sound, and bring sunglasses for their intense live show. This is followed by a set in the Warehouse Live Studio from Satellite D’Homme, who mixes soul, electro pop, and indie rock in the most engaging way possible at 1:30. These guys have dual vocalists backed by members of varying Houston acts that craft a sound that’s it’s own thing. I’ve always liked to think that their sound is what would happen if a pop rock band made an album with Motown era musicians. Their single, “Never Know” should give you an idea of how diverse their sound is, and they’re an act you should definitely see for yourself. The hip hop collective of Def Perception will take the Bud Light Stage after that at 2:00, and bring one of the most underrated sounds in Houston hip hop. A live band, a DJ who scratches real records, and an MC that can drop rhymes like he’s doing it to save his life is what these guys have going on. They just dropped a new single this month with “Understand” that should give you an idea of their sound, while their live shows are energetic from start to finish. By this time I would hope that you’d already heard and seen the alt country of Second Lovers in the Ballroom at 2:10, the rock n roll mayhem of We Were Wolves on the Remax stage at 3:00, and the hip hop of Guilla in the Ballroom at 3:30. The B L A C K I E set will be a one off on the Bud Light stage at 3:50, where the underground artist will perform his 2023 album, “Spred Luv” in its entirety. This is the only time he’s doing this in the world in 2023, and the first time he’s performing the bulk of these songs in over five years. There’s also a hip hop set later in the day Saturday from Houston’s Fat Tony at 4:40 on the Remax stage, who’s been touring the festival circuit lately. I feel like if you’ve never seen him before, then you’ve never realized what the word performer means, as he can cover more stage than an act ten times his size. The same could be said about the high energy of Houston’s Gio Chamba. Now an ambassador for Cumbia music, Gio just dropped a debut album that’s almost as crazy as his live set. If you haven’t seen him, prepare to be impressed, as he performs on the Micro Wrestling stage at 8:10. Close to midnight inside the Ballroom, a set from Houston’s Ape Drums will take place. The producer has made quite the name for himself outside of Houston. He’s dropped remixes for Busta Rhymes and Major Lazer as well as getting props from the likes of Dillon Francis and being credited with modernizing dancehall music. He just performed on a boat with Diplo and ETC!ETC!, and his sets are definitely something everyone needs to witness at least once.
Matthew Broussard, Photo: Lindsey Byrnes
On the comedy side of things for Day One, you have your pick of Houston’s better comics. In the iHeart Radio Comedy Tent, things kick off around 1:00 with newcomer Zach Eaton, to be followed by the hilarious Warren Wright and recent Houston to LA transplant Nia De-Bose. The comedy in that tent runs until after 4:00, but be sure to check out Billy D Washington, and Matthew Broussard. Though both have had success outside of Houston, Washington getting time on Comedy Central and Broussard on MTV; neither perform in town much. Around 6:00 you should make sure to see Albert DeLeon who rarely performs much anymore, followed by Beta Bracket runner up, Zach Dickson. There’s also sets from booker/comic Andrew Youngblood, and one of Houston’s funniest newer comics Dale Cheesman.
black kite, Photo: Dinolion
Day two of the festival will have some engaging sets from plenty of bigger names, but the day starts off with two that deserve plenty of attention. At the Remax stage at 1:50, you can catch the indie pop rock of Houston’s Waterparks. I know you’d think with that name that they’d be electronic, but they’re definitely far from it. The three piece has made an appearance in a video from Good Charlotte, they’ve toured more than enough, they’ve been on MTV and they’re signed to Equal Vision Records. They just dropped a new single called “Crave” that should clue you in on their sound, and if you see them then you can tell everyone you saw them before they blew up. In the Studio at Warehouse Live, another straight rock band, Brand New Hearts will take the stage. These guys play straight ahead rock music that doesn’t fit any other genre. This year they dropped the full length album, “Brand New Hearts” and anyone who’s seen them can attest that they’re one of the city’s tightest live acts going. Over in the studio at 3:10, the progressive sounds of Seldom will be on stage. These guys have been selling a ton of tickets when they play live, they’ve dropped two releases in the last year, and they’re prepping a third already. Their latest, “Black Mirror” has notes of prog and alt rock that meld together pretty solidly. I would think that you’ve already heard plenty about the proggy sounds of Sunrise and Ammunition in the Ballroom at Warehouse Live at 2:30, the folky sounds of Say Girl Say on the Bud Light stage at 2:40, and the ska of The Suspects on the Remax stage at 3:30. The same goes for the alt rock of thelastplaceyoulook on the Ballroom stage at 3:50. A set from producer birdmagic will take place in the Warehouse Live Studio at 4:30. The Ohio born, NOLA transplant came to Houston just shy of a year ago, and has already remixed tracks for Guilla, android genius, and produced tracks for black kite and started two side projects, one of which, FLOODS has already been met with success. He’s performed at Bonnaroo and drops sets littered with surprises and footwork heavy beats. His latest single, “Just Call My Name” was released with five remixes, and he turns up when he performs. An act you may not know is Galveston’s To Whom It May, who takes the Ballroom stage at 5:10. These guys play a stream of hard rock that’s pretty intense, they were just added to the XM Octane playlist, and their “ ‘I’ III I II” EP from this year is pretty insane. The same could be said about dark electronica act, black kite, who takes the Studio at Warehouse Live stage at 5:50. I’ve seen a ton of music in the past twenty or so years, but I don’t think I’ve seen as many who are as engaging as these two. In the midst of recording a follow up to 2023’s “Bird,” the haunting vocals that Vicki belts out falling atop the thunderous beats that James Templeton creates are like nothing I’ve ever seen or heard before. Sometimes you’ll catch these two and Vicki will be on the floor pounding on it like she’s looking for answers, and honestly you don’t see that every day from an electronic act. If you’re a fan of Houston’s Catch Fever, then this appearance at the festival on the Ballroom stage at 6:30, will be one of the trio’s last with their founding drummer. You can follow that with a performance from the ever popular sounds of Houston’s Bang Bangz on the Ballroom stage at 7:50. This group has soul, swag, and plenty of hooks, and if you think they aren’t on to something, their debut song on Spotify has over 40,000 plays.
Chase Durousseau, Photo: Carlos Escobar
On the comedic side of things, you should definitely stick around for the headliners, but the local talent is just as top notch. From 1:30 to about 2:10, every comic that hits the iHeart Radio Comedy tent is on their A game. Ku Egenti is everyone’s “favorite African,” but in the past six months he’s been doing comedy all over the state aside from Houston. Nick Meriwether follows him, and might be one of the best character comics you’ll ever get the chance of seeing, while Greg Deal and Zahid Dewji are easily two of Houston’s funniest from the new class of comics. Barry Laminack will close out that round before the Air Sex people do their thing. Laminack is kind of like the most self deprecating comic who also does more adult themed jokes. He doesn’t perform as much as some of these other guys, but he also hosts a radio show and he’ll be doing shows out of state beginning next year. Later in the tent, Ashton Womack brings his award winning stand-up to the crowd, followed by crowd pleaser Rich Williams, and touring comic Brian Zeolla. After him, two of Houston’s funniest comics, Victor Tran and Reed Becker will go on. Victor has made me laugh so hard that I wept, and Reed, who now lives in California, has dropped jokes that erupted the room in laughter. At 4:50, I’d guess most of you would have heard the name Bob Biggerstaff of Last Comic Standing and Comedy Central, as well as the ever growing popularity of Gabe Bravo. At 6:10 make sure to catch the hilarious comedy of John Nguyen, and stick around for Chase Durousseau, two comics who should be blowing up anytime now.
That’s pretty much all I’d recommend from the category of acts that you may or may not know. Like any festival, we as attendees always want to catch the headliners. But with this lineup, you get to see a broad range of the local talent that Houston has as well. The box office opens for same day purchases at 10:30 am each day, while the gates are at noon. The all ages event has single day tickets for $45.00, two day general admission tickets for $65.00, and VIP options that run up to $450.00.