The most hardcore of festival-goers queue up at Eleanor Tinsley Park well before 11 a.m. — wearing as few clothing items as possible and crowding under tree shadows like a herd of cattle as respite from the midday sun — and stay until after the last band closes its set.
I was one such Free Press Summer Festival attendee on Saturday, the first day of the fifth annual festival's sold-out weekend.
Though there was much to be imbibed, ingested and experienced in the intervening hours, the real highlight was the music. Here were my personal favorites:
It seemed simultaneously fitting and inappropriate for Paul Wall, a Jersey Village High School graduate and former University of Houston student, be relegated to the Mercury Stage, a small one tucked beneath an I-45 underpass. A young crowd poured in throughout his 40-minute set, which evoked high school rebelliousness in the best of ways.
Quad City DJs
What I'm foreseeing as one of the more overlooked acts of the weekend, the Quad City DJs played an energized set for a crowd of ravers, bros and generally nostalgic twentysomethings in the mid-afternoon. From the first song ("Space Jam," the title track of the Michael Jordan cartoon movie) to one of the last (the ever-popular line dance song, "C'mon N' Ride It (The Train)"), the audience was predictably pumped — but what wasn't so expected was the "Tootsee Roll" and "Daisy Dukes" and more in between.
Who knew that Quad City DJs and the 69 Boyz were cut from the same cloth?
Like any artist more known for cameos than personal tracks, rapper 2 Chainz was a definite wild card for Free Press Summer Fest. But his set, which took over the Neptune Stage late on Saturday afternoon, was a series of high-energy snippets that had the sweaty crowd singing along to everyone from Kanye West's "Mercy" to Juicy J's "Bands A Make Her Dance."
Another highlight? "Duffle Bag Boy," a track from 2 Chainz' Playaz Circle days, when the Georgia-born rapper went by "Tity Boi."
Iggy and The Stooges
The 66-year-old Iggy Pop has seen better days, but his appearance at Free Press Summer Fest certainly seemed a sort of vindication. An unworthy audience was taken back in time with "Gimme Danger," "Raw Power," "Fun House" and "Search and Destroy." As one friend put it, Iggy looked like a "ragged piece of leather," his ramshackle band attacking their instruments "with anger and nihilism."
An unforgettable act, to be sure.
The Postal Service
An embarrassingly formative band in my teenage experience, the Postal Service has come to mean much more to me than the sum of its parts — but still, when I recognized that it was Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley fame) playing on stage with 36-year-old indie heartthrob singer-songwriter Ben Gibbard and his project producer and collaborator, Jimmy Tamborello, I had a near nervous breakdown. The ensuing set was similarly striking, featuring favorites from their 2003 album, "Give Up," in addition to newly-released singles.
Honorable mentions: Buxton, a locally-based Americana-rock band that prompted a group of shirtless men to dance with silk scarves in the middle part of their set; and Passion Pit, an undeniably positive and energetic Boston-based group that left me feeling ready to conquer the world . . . or at least walk to the next stage.
For a wrap-up of Sunday's activities at the Free Press Summer Festival, check out Reid Schroder's story on CultureMap.