Culture / Entertainment

The Ultimate Free Press Summer Fest Guide — 8 Acts Worthy of a Music Festival Comeback

BY // 06.02.17

It’s one of the biggest weekends on Houston’s concert-going calendar: Free Press Summer Fest, or more simply, FPSF. Every year the Free Press Summer Fest brand draws tons of national and local acts to Eleanor Tinsley Park.

Or at least it did. The past two years have seen poor weather force the event to move to NRG Stadium‘s parking lot. Obviously the weather is out of the hands of FPSF’s organizers, but with an eclectic lineup this year and not-terrible weather forecasted for the weekend, here’s hoping the 2017 installment of Summer Fest — that’s eight years and nine festivals! — brings back some of the fest’s old-school charm.

We’ve picked our top eight acts for the weekend and hope to guide you in the direction of artists worth seeing (which means staying away from G-Eazy).


Deep Cuts, 11:30 am @ the Neptune Stage
I caught Deep Cuts open for Whitney in April and was quietly blown away: indie-rock in 2017 is a tough sell for me, but there’s enough cool stuff going on with Deep Cuts to transcend the label. Think Smith Westerns at their glammiest, Girls at their catchiest, Ariel Pink at his poppiest.

They have a horn section too (not unlike Whitney themselves). Furthermore, Deep Cuts know their way around a melody, rather than just pay clumsy, obvious homage to a bunch of bands most people are familiar with. I’m excited to hear what these talented locals cook up next.

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Trill Sammy, 3:40 pm @ the Neptune Stage
Trill Sammy still feels relatively obscure, despite the fact that his videos rack up millions of views. While he’s from Houston, local support feels a bit tempered, despite his collabs with locals like frequent partner Dice Soho, alongside established acts like Slim Thug, Ugly God, and Maxo Kream — the optics of Sammy skew toward his work with guys like Rich the Kid, Famous Dex, and PnB Rock.

He’s young and rough around the edges for sure, but his best songs will stick in your head even if you didn’t want them to at first.

Lil Uzi Vert, 5:50 pm @ the Budweiser Stage
Out of all the current wave of “mumble-rap” guys, Lil Uzi Vert is my favorite: he is supremely gifted at hooks and his scratchy voice is a prime conduit for his brand of emo, teen-angst pop-rap. “XO Tour Life,” which is probably his best song in a short but rewarding career, is steadily climbing up the charts and never fails to unite a dance floor.

Uzi made a song with the chorus “push me to the edge, all my friends are dead,” the best song of 2017 so far. He’s known for his raucous, rowdy live shows too, so don’t miss this one.


MIEARS, 11:10 am @ the Mercury Stage
MIEARS has quickly become one of my favorite local acts – she’s a natural composer whose dense, synth-workout tracks build on top of each other, awash in a wall of sound, not unlike, say Laurel Halo, Fatima Al-Qadiri, Actress, Holly Herndon, even the various works of Dean Blunt. There’s nothing reductive or merely “ethereal” about her music; it’s gut-level affecting, and her shows are intense.

Big K.R.I.T., 3 pm @ the Budweiser Stage
has established a lane for himself as a disciple of the South’s best lyricists. His voice recalls Pimp C. His storytelling is akin to Scarface. His way with words is like Boosie. He releases low-stakes but essential music at a steady clip like Curren$y. 

While he’s only tasted mainstream crossover status, he’s a successful artist’s artist, constantly touring and selling thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of records with every new release to a devoted fan base.

Aminé, 3:50 pm @ the Neptune Stage
Portland’s Aminé was one of the breakout artists of 2016 off the strength of his irresistible single “Caroline,” a bouncy ode to teenage lust. He’s kept a low-profile since, but his recent works – the short film Becoming (with musical supervision by Tyler, the Creator) and his jerk-like “Redmercedes” have cast him as an idiosyncratic budding young rap star.

Solange, 6:30 pm @ the Budweiser Stage
She was just in town for a memorable headlining performance during Super Bowl week (which you can read about here), and an intimate, invite-only appearance at The Menil Collection as a preview to her show at The Guggenheim (the show was open to anyone on her mailing list who RSVP’ed in time, but a friend that went told me the show was clearly not at capacity — be jealous, non-Houstonians!).

The Solange stage show is a traveling art installation, and all eyes will undoubtedly be on her as she brings one of the best records of 2016, A Seat at the Table, to vivid life.

Lorde, 8:30 pm @ the Saturn Stage
I didn’t like “Royals” — I thought it was too precocious, and a little condescending. (I love songs about gold teeth and popping bottles!) But there was no denying the then-16-years old Lorde‘s talent and unique perspective. Beginning with this spring’s “Green Light,” the first single from her imminent sophomore record Melodrama, I’ve liked every new song she’s debuted ahead of its release.

They’re patient, intriguing, and even fun, if your idea of fun is dancing alone with the lights off, which all the songs are suited for.


French acrobatic troupe Compagnie XY brings their show It’s Not Yet Midnight… to the George R. Brown Convention Center, Friday, June 2, featuring 22 flying acrobats, circus stunts (including a human tower), and more. The free performance starts at 8 pm.

Los Angeles-based soul singer QUIÑ opens for JMSN Saturday, June 3, at White Oak Music Hall‘s upstairs room. She’s graced the stage of Fader Fort at SXSW and her fantastic single for “Math” off her 2016 EP GALACTICA, was directed by fellow Californians Calmatic, who’ve directed videos for Kendrick Lamar, The Internet, and Anderson .Paak. Her dreamy music will be a perfect antidote to the harried masses at FPSF. Doors open at 8 pm.

Monday, June 5 sees the second installment of The Houston Jazz Spotlight Live series hosted by artist, DJ, historian, and renaissance man Tierney Malone. The show will be recorded live for a future podcast, and features Horace Grigsby, Israel McCloud, Peter Lucas, Chris Becker, the Beauty Box featuring Robert Hodge, and more. The mix of live music, art, and poetry is dubbed the Juneteenth Jazz Jubilee.

Doors open at 7 pm at Mongoose Vs. Cobra, with the show starting at 7:30. As always, the night is free.

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