Free Press Summer Fest has officially become the Houston Texans of music festivals. Each year begins with promise that the event will become a top-tier festival, but any expectations one might cling too quickly devolves into an avalanche of disappointment by the first Saturday in June. FPSF might have finally hit rock bottom as the event fell victim to an unfortunate mix of severe weather, poor planning, and a lackluster lineup. Here are ten reasons why FPSF 2016 was the worst one yet:
1. Parking Lot Paradise
While the organizers at Austin’s Levitation Fest probably wish they had a stadium parking lot available as a contingency plan, the switch to have FPSF in the NRG stadium parking lot didn’t mean the new situation was a bed of roses. Sweating in an asphalt desert devoid of natural shade from the sun or shelter from the rain unveiled the harsh reality that, while festival would go on, Dante himself couldn’t have created a more inhospitable and annoying environment to watch live music.
2. Hygiene Heaven
Since the weather oscillated between biblical downpours and the scorching Texas summer heat, the masses of attendees became grimy and disgusting fairly quick. Umbrellas were banned from the festival for some brilliant reason, which left everyone drenched and miserable when it rained. The shade and airflow around the stages was almost nonexistent, leading the humidity to reach heat stroke levels. The putrid stench from the port-a-pottys wafted across the entire festival, curling noses and setting an appropriate mood.
3. Respect Thy Elders
While I still consider myself to be ‘young,’ there is no other event throughout the year that makes me feel more elderly and out of place than walking amongst the hoards of hormonal high school kids at FPSF. It’s as if they went to all of the local middle schools and passed festival passes out in the lunch line. These young’uns move in large packs, are experts at taking selfies, and ignore every band that doesn’t have a ‘sick drop’ that they can pretend dance to.
4. Jerseys For Days
By walking through the gates of the festival, you were automatically entered into the unofficial ‘obscure NBA jersey’ contest. This is a contest where jersey-wearing frat bros dig deep into the internet to find forgotten-about NBA players and their limited edition jerseys to see who’s the bigger fan/cooler bro. A Greg Ostertag jersey, a high school Kobe Bryant jersey, or a John Stockton Dream Team jersey will solicit bro acknowledgements like “Dope Jersey”, “Your Jersey is on Fleak” and “Ahhhhhh Bro.” If you don’t have an obscure jersey, don’t worry, they sell them at the festival for just under $100, so you can play too!
5. Playing It Safe
Most music festivals strive to differentiate themselves from the run-of-the-mill music fest by injecting other entertainment dynamics or taking risks on how they book their lineup. By undertaking these character-building ploys, the festival hopes to establish an identity and eventually build a following, however FPSF has failed to do any of these things. This year’s lineup was mired in mediocrity, with its schedule looking very safe and egalitarian; adequately pleasing the hip hop-heads with Lil’ Wayne, 2 Chainz, and Big Gramz; pleasing aging hipsters with The National, Modest Mouse, and Violent Femmes; and making sure EDM kids show up for Chainsmokers, Zed’s Dead, and DeadMau5. I guess Houston can leave the creativity and adventure up to Day For Night Fest and FPSF can continue on as an ACL rip-off.
6. Boys Club
There was a heavy dose of controversy around the lack of female performers that were booked for FPSF 2016, so much so, that the fest earned the moniker ‘Free Press Sausage Fest.’ Of the 14 headliner acts, only two, Big Grams and Matt & Kim, had females fronting the group. Festival founder Omar Afra explained it as a pure coincidence and pointed to other lower female billings like Against Me!, Lolawolf, San Fermin, The Coathangers, Aubrie Sellers. It seems like Afra didn’t pay close enough to hometown goddess Beyonce’s lyrics “ Who runs the world?… Girls!!”
7. Screwston Snubs
Third coast rap or ‘Chopped and Screwed’ is undoubtedly Houston’s most recognizable contribution to the greater music conscience. FPSF has committed heresy by nearly snubbing all of Screwston rap artists save a few. Trae the Truth brought out Houston native and NBA star Deandre Jordan during a memorable set, and Beatking broke out some fierce bars, and that’s where it ended. While hometown legends like Bun B, Z-Ro, Slim Thug, Devin the Dude, Paul Wall, Mike Jones and Chamillionaire have played in the past. FPSF has effectively shot itself in the foot and lost credibility by not touting its greatest asset.
8. Headliner Syndrome
Since EDM acts drew the majority of festival-goers, aka teenage Kylie Jenner wannabes and fluorescent EDM bros, it was not all that surprising to see popular artists like Gogol Bordello and Zola Jesus play for sparsely attended audiences. Since Zed’s Dead and Deadmau5 did not play until later times, a large portion of the attendees would miss out on the earlier up and coming bands. Talented local acts like Walker Lukens, Children of Pop, and Los Coast went largely unnoticed because the schedule gave no incentive to get mainstream listeners to get to the fest early, for shame FPSF!
Soundchecked and ready to play, Big Grams was literally a minute away from starting their set when a voice crackled on the festival PA “The Harris County department of safety has issued an evacuation order for this event. Please exit the premises immediately in an orderly fashion.” On cue, the torrential downpour commenced and 40,000 people rushed to the exits. Pandemonium ensued and while shelter was offered at an NRG activity center to wait out the rain, the majority of people took the evacuation as a sign from God to get the hell out of the cesspool that the festival had become.
10. No Sympathy
Telling friends you went to FPSF usually gets met with quizzical or amused looks. Complaining about the series of unfortunate events that occurred at the festival gets absolutely no sympathy from those who chose to abstain. You mean you didn’t have fun at an impromptu festival held in a parking lot in the middle of the Houston Summer when severe weather is forecasted? You mean you didn’t vibe with the giant cliques of high school kids whose main goal was to get as wasted and wild in the shortest amount of time?