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ROCK 'N' ROAST

Houston's own Austin City Limits: Summer Fest becomes too hot to miss

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Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears Photo by Susan Darrow
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News_SXSW_Black Joe Lewis_March 2011

Some will blame hurricane season. Others might offer theories about El Nino, the greenhouse effect or Earth's withering ozone layer. But I am certain that the reason it is already so bloody, freakin' hot in Houston this early in the summer is the arrival of the city's most anticipated music festival: 2011 Free Press Summer Fest.

Sure, iFest is superb outlet for world music and the Houston International Jazz Festival is an outstanding effort to keep America's most original form of homegrown music alive, but for sure rock 'n' roll -in-the-summer-fun there are few local music gatherings that can rival the 100-plus mix of rock 'n' roll, hip-hop and electronic artists and DJs assembled by the Free Press.

After just a few years in existence, Summer Fest has become Houston's Austin City Limits Music Festival. A Bayou City Bonnaroo, if you will (No one steal that. I'm copywriting it the minute I finish writing this story).

In past years, the festival producers have done a good job putting together a diverse lineup of national and local acts and topping it off with at least one superstar group like Broken Social Scene, Of Montreal or The Flaming Lips that gives the entire event national credibility. This year, however, they have doubled the fun with two headliners — Ween on Saturday and Weezer on Sunday — that should turn Eleanor Tinsley Park into a mini-lollapalooza each night.

Those unfamiliar with Ween can attribute that to the inability to classify the band's music by any familiar or universally accepted definitions. For the last 27 years, pseudo brothers Gene and Dean Ween (not their real names) have been churning out some of the most interesting, diverse and often esoteric sounds ever concocted in a recording studio.

Sometimes Ween plays it straight and rock out with traditional choruses and verses like "Voodoo Lady" and "Bananas and Blow." Sometimes they like to play cowboy, as they did on the 1996 album 12 Golden Country Greats. And sometimes they just like to get weird and experiment with sounds and voices.

Ever see the video for arguably the duo's biggest hit, 1993's "Push th' Little Daisies"?  I wouldn't suggest taking the brown acid or huffin' any super glue before you do.

Weezer, of course, needs little introduction. In addition to past hit singles like "Buddy Holly" and "Beverly Hills" they have become the kings of nerd-chic power pop over the last 17 years.

In all, Summer Fest features eight stages with roughly 10-12 acts playing each stage, each day. That's a lot of artists to choose from including rappers Big Boi of Outkast, and Houston legend Bun B (formerly of UGK), cutting edge alternative group Cut Copy and a host of local and regional favorites like The Black Angels, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears and Wild Moccasins.

(Click here for a complete lineup including stages and set times.)

With so much music to choose from is it any wonder the mercury is rising?

Free Press Summer Fest (featuring Ween, Weezer, Big Boi, Cut Copy & more), 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.. Saturday & Sunday in Eleanor Tinsley Park

Tickets: $45 for a weekend pass

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