Local Talent: Houston Whatever Fest
Leon casino, Photo: Mark C. Austin
It seems like the word festival gets tossed around nowadays to the point of confusion. So many times, a gathering of bands or talent for three or four hours can get called a festival. So, when they guys at Youngblood Booking and Rise Up Booking told me earlier this year that they were setting up a festival, I was curious to know what it would be. What it became was this weekend’s Houston Whatever Fest, where roughly seventy bands and comics will perform on the block encapsulating Warehouse Live, also known as EADO Party Park. For two days you’ll get the likes of Kreayshawn, MuteMath, Andrew WK, Blonde Redhead, and Dwarves on the music side of things. On the comedy end, you’ll be graced with TJ Miller, Iliza Shlesinger, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Jonah Ray. On either side of entertainment, these are just a small sample of what’s offered, but a large portion of the fest will be local performers. Some of the bands you’ve probably heard of as well as some of the comics. However many haven’t gained much traction in this town, so below I’ll highlight who to see and why.
Getting things started on Saturday is one of my favorite up and coming rappers from Houston, iLL LiaD. If you calculate the fact that iLL is getting on most the marquee hip hop shows in town, the fact that he’s inked his name to a label bigger than Houston, and he drops crazy mad skills on a mic; you have no reason not to see him get this party started. The standout opener for the Z-RO show, iLL has played FPSF, he’s guest MC for the Lil’ Jon DJ set, and he’s constantly getting bigger by the day. If you want to see the next big name in Houston hip hop, then you have to see iLL do his thing. His most recent drop, “The Odyssey” might be one of the most ambitious things you’ll hear in hip hop today. He’ll get things rolling over at the Space City Vodka stage at 12:30.
Going on at the same time, over at the Ballroom stage, is Houston’s Versecity. I’ve never seen Versecity perform, but that might have to do with the fact that they’ve been making it out of town and on bigger shows lately. These guys have played Warped Tour and they have a sound that’s reminiscent of Fall Out Boy meets Lifehouse.
At 1:30 Saturday, at the Bud Light stage, Houston’s dynamic duo Fox & Cats will be dropping their pop rock sounds. Fox & Cats have a mix that’s a little bit Say Anything mixed with The Front Bottoms. If you’ve never seen Fox & Cats, I’ll just mention that they have one of the hardest hitting drummers you’ll see in a long time. You’ll be blown away when you see her beats the kit like a fat kid in middle school while Josh screams vocals with intensity like very few can.
At 1:45 at the Sailor Jerry’s stage, the comedy will get started with many of the locals doing ten to fifteen minute sets. The comedy will be hosted by Gabe Bravo and Stephen Brandau, and it will get started with the hilarious Lena Silva. Lena hasn’t been doing comedy a year yet, but already she seems to have a good stage presence and a pretty solid set of jokes. She’ll have Zahid follow her at 1:55 with his many irreverent jokes and self effacing humor. Chris Oddo will soon follow at 2:05 with a host of jokes on everything from working crappy jobs to crazy food fusions. Micah Green will follow at 2:15 and hopefully we won’t have to see his heckler destroying skills put to action. He will be followed by a true African comic with Ku Egenti at 2:30. Ku can make almost anyone laugh with jokes about creepin’ in a Prius for starters. Houston’s hardest self promoting comic, Rich Williams will come on at 2:45, and will more than likely incite a sing-a-long before his set is done. From up in the Woodlands, Zach Dickson will bring his rap lyric based jokes to all at 3:00, and will leave most of the audience in stitches when he’s done. He will have Houston’s most respected up and comer, Jaffer Khan after him at 3:15. Jaffer has the ability to make you think while he makes you laugh, and his jokes a more long form but definitely worth the build up. The only guy who can follow Jaffer is Matt Han who’ll hit the stage at 3:30. Han has a style that’s almost self deprecating while he paralyzes the audience with laughter at his smarter than average routine. Dale Cheesman will be on at 3:45 to make us all question our beliefs on religion, as well as make everyone laugh till’ it hurts. The local portion of the comedy will end off with local comedy legend Andy Huggins at 4:00. Huggins has a rich history with Houston’s comedy scene. At sixty four years old, he’s seen most and done all the rooms. He was a close friend to the late and great Bill Hicks as well as one of the original Outlaw Comics. He’s easily the one local guy you’ll kick yourself for missing on Saturday, as he can make anyone laugh while he inspires everyone who will go up before him.
Getting back to music, the screamo of Houston’s Square and Compass will hit the Ballroom stage at 3:30. Square and Compass have a pretty intense live show that’s only heightened by their tight performance skills. If you’re a fan of bands like Braid and Hot Water Music, then you’ll love these guys as they sound like a mix of both.
At 4:00 at the Rise Up/Youngblood Booking stage, you can catch one of Houston’s most creative performers when LIMB takes the stage. Usually, when someone says something is electronic, that leaves one to think that it’ll be all sound and low on performance. However, James has the ability to mesmerize anyone who sees him perform. The sounds that emanate are infectious while LIMB’s performance is one of sheer will, as you watch man vs. machine alongside man with machine. This is definitely a must see act for all in attendance.
Inside the Ballroom stage, you can watch the energy fueled mayhem that is Houston’s Another Run. After watching these guys brave the heat during FPSF this year, I think most who saw them realized how solid they are, not only as performers but as musicians as well. High energy rock mixed with higher energy vocals is what they’re all about, and this is a great time to catch them before they blow up and leave our town for good.
Of course, if you like Energy, then you could also catch Knights of The Fire Kingdom on the Bud Light stage, also at 4:45. Knights are like a mix of Rocket From The Crypt with the melody of Foo Fighters. However, they always play with the energy and intensity of a large scale act, their matching outfits recall something rock hasn’t seen in a while; showmanship.
At 5:30 over on the Rise Up/Youngblood Booking stage, you can catch the infectious pop rock of Houston’s Catch Fever. It doesn’t seem like these guys are as new to our scene as they are, but in three short years Catch Fever has gotten on the tip of everyone’s tongues. A stellar and well crafted album, a strong lead single with a stronger video, and an energetic live show are what these guys have built in a very short time. When you add that their album was mastered by heavy hitting name Emily Lazar, you get a band who’s thinking outside the box. This is your chance to see them while you still can as good things are in these guys’ future.
At the Ballroom stage at 6:15, the dark synth of CeePlus Bad Knives will be dropping funkiness on all who attend. What can you say when someone mixes simple beats and simple synths to make something catchy, other than to call them great. Well CeePlus is great and entertaining as well. He doesn’t perform as much nowadays, so it’s a great way to see him wow everyone who make it out.
The local performances will be capped off with a performance at 7:15 by Wrestlers on the Rise Up/Youngblood Booking stage. Wrestlers is definitely climbing up the ladder of the music industry with recent performances at such spots like Lollapalooza. If you catch them live, you’ll realize quickly why they were asked to perform on the massive festival. These guys are the perfect cap of local talent for the evening, and someone everyone should check out. You’ll hate yourself if you miss them do their thing.
On Sunday, you can start the day off at 12:30 with Houston’s hip hop group, Mad Men Crew on the Space City Vodka stage. I’ve never seen Mad Men live, but they sound like they have a crazy energy. From what those who’ve seen them live tell me, they’re as talented as they are entertaining. They seem to have a silly side to their rhymes, but they also sound like they come correct.
At 1:30 on the Bud Light stage, the dark prog metal of Houston’s Oceans of Slumber will be growling through their set. These guys have a very prog sound that has almost neu metal vocals. From the sound of their recently released album, “Aetherial,”they should do well in whipping the crowd into a frenzy. When I asked around about their live show that I’ve never seen, I heard good things about their high energy and tight performance.
The comedy on Sunday will still be at the Sailor Jerry stage, and it will still be hosted by local comics Stephen Brandau and Gabe Bravo. Starting the day off at 1:45 will be Maggie Maye of Austin. Maye has a pretty quick whit that’s been honed to an almost science of comedy. Lisa Friedrich, also coming from Austin but originally from Houston will follow Maye at 1:55. Since leaving Houston, Friedrich has appeared in a movie and is quickly rising up Austin’s comedy ladder. At 2:05, Clay Christofferson will bring his quickly timed comedy to life. His video game jokes are more than enough reason to catch his set, and his humor is as smart as he is tall. He will be followed by the man of one thousand voices, Ty Mahany at 2:15. Mahany is pretty well versed on stage, and his jokes about his son alone are top notch. Austin’s Cody Hustak will follow at 2:30 and he should leave most with a pain in their side. Hustak has done SXSW, Fun Fun Fun Fest, and he has won the funniest person in Austin award. After Hustak at 2:50, Houston’s Dusti Rhodes will follow. You might know Rhodes from hosting the open mic every Monday night at Rudyard’s. One of Houston’s strongest comics, Theo Taylor will go on at 3:00. Taylor has more material than most comics around, and his off the cuff jokes are some of the best you’ll hear all day. After Taylor at 3:20, one of the hardest working comics in Houston, Ashton Womack will take the stage. Womack is on his way up the comedy ladder, and his relatable jokes make him a heavy contender for a guy so early in his career. At 3:40, Owen Dunn will take the stage and make the audience laugh pretty hard. Dunn has a very easy going stage presence that’s only matched by his irreverent humor. Brian Zeolla will follow at 3:50 with his self effacing brand of humor. Zeolla did the crazy and dropped an album earlier in 2014 in his second year doing comedy, but his relatable jokes will leave the crowd wanting more. At 4:05, Reed Becker will drop some smart humor on everyone watching. His opening joke alone is worth making it out for, and his style is more relaxed than many comics you’ll see. Recent winner of Laff Town’s Funniest contest John Nguyen will hit the stage at 4:15. John has the ability to joke about race in a funny and relatable manner that will leave everyone laughing until they feel bad about laughing. At 4:45, the hilarious and always touring comic Sam Demaris will go on. Watching Sam do his thing, you’ll quickly realize why Funny Or Die recently called him “one of 15 of the funniest stand-up comedians you SHOULD be following.” At 5:05, Houston’s Bob Biggerstaff will close the comedy off with his hilarious act. Bob has an act that covers everything from working crappy jobs to sports, and everything in between. His easy going demeanor and quick comedic timing make him the best guy in town to finish off the local side of comedy on the festival.
Back to music, Justin Nava of the Houston band TheLastPlaceYouLook, will be doing his solo show at 2:15 on the Ballroom stage. I recently caught Nava do a show and I have to say that if you liked his band, you’ll love his solo work. There has always been a soft passion to his full band, but his solo work really brings that out when you catch him live.
On the Space City Vodka stage at 3:00, you can catch the pop punk of Magnolia’s Carter. These guys remind me of a mix between Bad Religion and Pennywise, while still putting their own original stamp on their sound. When you realize how tight these guys are, you’ll be impressed. When you notice that they’re just a three piece, you should be blown away.
At 3:15 inside on the Ballroom stage, you can catch the trippy hip hop of Houston’s Guilla. When I saw Guilla live, it shocked me at how good of a rhyme flow his performance had, while his sheer energy was pretty unmatched. The synths and beats that Guilla uses are pretty different even for Houston’s hip hop landscape. Not that that’s a bad thing, as it just sets him apart.
In the world of Houston’s hip hop underground, there have been plenty of names to come along. However, in recent history, there haven’t been many as entertaining as Fat Tony. At 4:45 on the Ballroom stage, Fat Tony will drop mad beats and madder rhymes on everyone in the crowd. His latest drop, “Insecure” just proves further what most of Houston knows; that Fat Tony is here to stay and his game is better than ever.
Over on the Rise Up/Youngblood Booking stage at 5:30, you can catch the passionate rock of Houston’s Featherface. Anyone who’s caught these guys live will tell you that they’re a tough act to follow. Their live show is strong and tight, and they leave very little in their wake. If you like their albums, you’ll love catching them live, as their melodic sounds are even better in person.
At 5:35 on the Sailor Jerry stage, you can catch a special performance from Houston’s burlesque troupe Dem Damn Dames. The Dames will be performing a special show just for the festival with a very special guest in tow. If you’ve never seen these women in action you should definitely catch them at the festival as most of their shows sell out fast. Aerial acrobatics, well timed routines, and plenty of skin are all there and they’re a troupe you should see sooner than later.
The Ballroom stage will host one of Houston’s most interesting acts when Nick Greer & The G’s perform at 6:15. Nick has the ability to make you laugh, make you cry, and make you get down to his infectious songs and beautiful melodies. A piano based act hasn’t sounded this good since well all learned that Ben Folds Five was only a three piece, and since they’re leaving for tour soon; this will be one of your last chances to catch them live.
Closing out the live music on the local side of things will be Houston’s We Were Wolves at 7:15 on the Rise Up/Youngblood Booking stage. In less than a year I’ve watched these guys go from moving from Beaumont to Houston, releasing an amazing rock record, and on to opening for some heavy hitting acts. If you’ve never seen these guys live, then you’re in for a treat. Their live show lays many other acts to waste in a mix of tightness, high energy, and loud guitars. The high octane rock of We Were Wolves will give you a sore neck while you’ll more than likely leave a new fan. They’re a great way to close the local side of things, and definitely a not to be missed act.
As you can see there’s more than enough talent on the local side of things to make this an event to definitely make it out for. You can still grab tickets that range between $35.00 for single day passes, $55.00 for two day passes, and $150.00 for VIP passes. The gates open at noon so be sure to stay hydrated and wear plenty of sunscreen.