This marks the sixth year Free Press Summer Festival has graced Houston with its presence. Although the music festival is now a far cry from that humble first-ever Summer Fest, one thing remains the same — this event's always full of surprises.
The first day of this year's fest included an evacuation, legendary Houston rappers and a whole lot of muddy people.
Let's start with the most glaringly obvious incident of the day — the evacuation. Around 2 p.m., festival goers — including myself waiting to see The Tontons — were told they needed to vacate the grounds due to impending weather conditions. The music was cut on all six stages as tens of thousands looked around in dismay.
While many chose to hang around on Allen Parkway while it rained and lightning flashed in the sky, even more just simply left.
"I thought the ticket said 'Rain or shine,' " someone muttered as I exited the grounds with a hoard of confused, angry and disappointed people. While many chose to hang around on Allen Parkway while it rained and lightning flashed in the sky, even more just simply left. After a few hours of waiting to find out if Summer Fest would resume, it was confirmed that the gates would reopen at 4 p.m.
Unfortunately the rain made the main Mars Stage area rather messy, but otherwise, the festival managed to get back on its feet and get back to what it's really about — music.
Stunning Uchi Food
Free Press Summer Fest kicked off with one of the most anticipated events on its entire schedule — a collaborative breakfast that brought together top restaurant Uchi, Houston hip hop legend Bun B and super producer Dan the Automator for a one of a kind collaborative performance in which Bun and Dan created original music and lyrics to pair with the dishes being served. Highlights of the menu included a Thai-flavored pancake created by Hell’s Kitchen winner Ja’Nel Witt and Korean chicken dumplings that Bun introduced by declaring, “This dish is the bomb.”
Everything was rolling along for the lucky 200 people invited until the power in the tent went out before Bun had the chance to perform the fourth song. After waiting around a bit for a repair that never came, Bun embraced the “master of ceremonies” version of an MC by working the room. He greeted people individually, posed for pictures and made sure everyone left with a good memory.
That’s why he’s the Trill OG.
Rap Legends Galore
As a Houstonian who loves hip hop, there was no way I could miss the "Welcome to Houston" showcase. Honestly, it seemed like everyone who was on the festival grounds at the time was watching the Neptune Stage. To have six local rap legends — Bun B, Devin the Dude, Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Mike Jones and Z-Ro — all performing on one stage in front of an endless sea of screaming fans made for an experience few will ever forget
This will likely go down in history as the ultimate Houston hip hop performance.
Seeing Mike Jones, Paul Wall and Slim Thug perform "Still Tippin'" was a throwback to my youth and to hear UGK's "International Players Anthem" performed live (without Pimp C, of course) was an added treat. With so much celebrated talent coming together for one performance, and with such an incredibly loving welcome from the hometown crowd, this will likely go down in history as the ultimate Houston hip hop performance.
Although my friends couldn't help but reminding me that Childish Gambino's Donald Glover is none other than Troy Barnes from the sitcom Community, he is really so much more than that. Giving an incredibly raw performance to the crowd of thousands packed in front of the Mars Stage, Childish Gambino proved that he's got range.
Whether performing smooth jams like "Heartbeat" or bass-heavy stunners like "Crawl," he wowed fans with a frenetic stage presence, not to mention his spitfire delivery and poignant lyrics. In spite of some rather serious mud in the field in front of the Mars Stage, fans were gyrating, cheering and loving every second of the impressive heartfelt performance.
By the time Zedd hit the Saturn Stage, you never would have thought the festival had been evacuated earlier in the day. Zedd's infectious electro house beats had everyone (I mean everyone) dancing like there was no tomorrow and the vibrant light show was just the cherry on top. With lasers and lights shooting from every angle, flashing in sync with Zedd's thumping bass, the crowd was frenzied and the feeling of excitement was palpable.
Although people were packed like sardines, everyone was celebrating the performance (and the fact that the hot sun had gone down). With a penchant for mixing dancey electro tracks, Zedd's tunes were hard not to get excited about and Houston music fans sure let him know how excited they were.
CultureMap reporter Eric Sandler contributed to this story.