There are 2 things Texans can look forward to without fail in summer: nearly unbreathable hot, humid air that completely encapsulates you within 2.5 seconds of being outside and Free Press Summer Fest! Thankfully, Summer Fest usually precedes the dog days of Houston’s summer by a month or so. With over 100 musical acts performing in the 2-day festival (June 4-5, 2011), FPSF has something for everyone…from Big Boi, Fat Tony, B L A C K I E and Bun B to Weezer, The Manichean, Sideshow Tramps and Tyagaraja, they’ve got you covered.
When I wasn’t melting in the 100 degree + weather at this year’s festival, I walked around and caught a few shows at some of the stages while I waited for Peekaboo Theory’s set to begin. I hadn’t been able to catch any of their recent shows, so I was super excited when they were announced as a last minute addition to FPSF.
The crowd was in place around the Night Owl stage early, sipping on bottled water or any liquid we could get our hands on to beat the heat and anticipating the magic Peekaboo was about to lay on us. Finally, with sweat beads dripping, everyone cheered as the Bruce Springsteen style white-tshirt clad 6 piece began their set. The set was a mix of old favorites from the Science and Programs EP, peppered with some new tracks that show off their ability to keep things fresh and retain the sound fans have come to love.
As much as I enjoyed FPSF, I must admit it left me with a hunger for more events of the sort (multi-genre + lots of love shown to local artists) in my city. Houston is so big and has so many bands to be so devoid of opportunities to have a great time watching great shows. Any lifetime Houstonian with half a finger to the pulse of fun times here remembers the Westheimer Street Festival. It was a weekend-long block party every summer and winter complete with plenty of stages and nearly a 100% local lineup that gave many bands their first big local break.
Then one day, West Fest was no more and since then, the joints and bones of artists and music lovers alike have ached with desire for a revitalization of the local live scene. It was as if all the artist-friendly promoters, booking agents and venue owners were abducted by aliens. In their place, we were stuck with greedy, sell-out promoters, opportunistic booking agents and venue owners who cater to hipsters and Jersey Shore dude-bro types and could care less if the pop-sounding, radio-friendly bands they favor are local or have underground credibility that preceded widespread recognition. The devil’s advocate asks, “can they be blamed?” True, they have to make money, but at what cost? Doesn’t anyone get into the business simply because they love good rock music and want to provide opportunities and resources for artists to do what they love?
In my opinion, the cure to this conundrum is a simple dose of reality: divided, we fail. To overcome this frustrating downward spiral, artists need to come together more and begin to view their contemporaries as such, instead of as enemies. All music makers share a joint responsibility to keep the music alive above all else. If the middle men aren’t helping get things done, make things happen without the middle men. This undertaking isn’t for the artists only, but rather it’s a collective revolution that requires the support and participation of other persons and groups in a position to aid the fight. Music journalists and media outlets need to stand up for the music that is the very lifeblood of the work we do and realize the responsibility we have in ensuring its continued existence and purity.
I have a dream that one day Houston’s annual Pan-Afrikan festival will feature a rock stage, inspiring a spin-off international tour and culminating with a Black Rock show in Africa. While that may not be on the agenda (for now), I will continue to use my chosen medium to develop potential into production. When I began documenting the Black Rock movement, there were few other places on the web doing the same. Sites like Boldaslove.us provide an all too rare service by shining light on an often overlooked group of talented musicians. As long as I am able to press my fingers to the keys, I pledge to do my best to observe, report on and promote Black Rock wherever I find it in Houston or around the state. The way I see it, artists do the hard part…I just add commas and periods. Welcome to Texas, Boldaslove.us family, we do a lot more than ride horses down here.