Inside Houston's music party
By a twist of fate, I am covering Free Press Summer Fest where new friends are made, I get denied my dream and I finally understand why some people love live music so much. Let's start out with the creepy stuff.
I begin walking away from my parked car to Eleanor Tinsley park when all of a sudden an Astro van pulls up besides me and the driver leans out to ask, "Do you need a cab?" I quickly reply, "No I am fine. I am broke too." The driver shoots back, "That's OK, theres no charge," and he stays in the middle of the street with his emergency lights blinking to see where I am walking.
Now at this moment, I don't need to be a rocket scientist to realize many things:
1) Astro vans are never cabs. Especially ones with no cab decal or call number on the side.
2) I have never received, nor will receive a free cab ride in my life.
3) The last time anyone has seen an Astro van was on the news when someone was abducted and murdered.
As I haul ass to the festival after realizing this was a definite "Stranger Danger" situation, I became parched. Luckily, I saw on the festival's Web site that there is free water. I hate to break it to the 10-plus people I saw pass out during day one, water is the hottest commodity next to portable bathrooms. So locating this free water — which is free if you spend your day looking for 10 recycled water bottles to trade for water — is a bit of a struggle if you are going through heat stroke.
After spending my first hour looking for water, I revert to my Mayan instincts of survival — I (technically) steal water.
Returning to the Main Stage around 3:30 pm, I saw Mix Master Mike spin some really cool Top 40 songs of the past and present that's a definite fantastic start to day one. This first set is also definitely the way to scope out some eye candy.
My goals for the day are to stay hydrated and dance on stage with Girl Talk. So far, I channeled Darwinism to achieve goal one. Eventually, even that doesn't work out because it's 97 degrees outside and sweat soaks through my shirt even when I'm not moving. I decided to take a nap back at my school (the University of Houston-Downtown) where there is free air conditioning, a water fountain, and a couch. While walking. I feel very inebriated, maybe too drunk to even make it to my school (from the festival).
Yet I have had no drugs or alcohol. I thought I could sleep for half an hour and simply wake up.
Into the night
I had a great nap. It is now 7 p.m. My alarm didn't go off. Shit. After waking up, I met a friend and we both go to the fest together. While catching up, she talks about meeting more friends of hers at the festival and mentions how they all want to say Hi.
One by two by three, I meet about eight new people who I nothing about. As the chit-chat commences, I tell them about oversleeping and how I have to make this article as interesting as possible. "I want to dance on stage with Girl Talk. It's the only way," I say.
(Sidebar: I have been a fan of Girl Talk, a.k.a. Greg Gillls, since watching RIP: A Remix Manifesto where Girl Talk and music mashups were a focal point. I have also seen the various YouTube videos of his concerts where fans are more than spectators, they are performers.)
As more new friends join, I hear the sounds of The Detroit Cobras, a rock group that covers old rock songs and makes them relevant again. Although the crowd doesn't seem to enjoy this band, I dig the spaghetti western feel of their songs that kind of mellows out the crowd a bit. That cool down is needed for the next and final act of the night, Girl Talk.
With my friend and my new friends alike, I venture out into the pit to try and set the pace for the performance — maybe even get on stage?
I didn't have a chance to go see Girl Talk in his earlier Houston appearance, so I prepare for my live mashup hymen to be broken by Girl Talk. His mashups are amazing. His most interesting one includes the Smashing Pumpkins. He manages to take Miley Cyrus' I Can't Be Tamed beat and melody it with rap (I believe Jay-Z), producing something that sounds way better — and less stupid — than the original.
As Girl Talk continually zips from Bon Jovi to Britney Spears, I continually search for an entrance to the stage. During the show my new friends teach me concert techniques for making space like moshing, and the ballerina — in which you extend and curve your arms in front of yourself for space.
I find an opening ... and there are guards. I approach and ask if I can go on stage. Apparently only "Fancy Pants" wristband holders, staff, and the stage crew can go up. I'm shot down. Goal two is unaccomplished, and there is no way I can take down the hulking guard in front of me.
I go back to my new circle of friends and tell them the news. Sad faces commence, but then joy as Girl Talk creates mashups and a wondrous dance party that feels like forever. After a mashup of the always crowd pleasing "Shout" by The Isley Brothers, Girl Talk plays Imagine by John Lennon.
In this moment, the entire Houston crowd is in sync, undamaged and unified to simply listen and then react to Lennon's closing line, "and the world will live as one."
As I continue to speak with my new friends, they tell me they love going to shows because it's their high. I think that's it: What a great way to look at life.
Despite the smell of marijuana inside the pit, there isn't any reason why someone can't just enjoy the highs of life. For Houston, that high seems to be music. An art instead of an industry. I used to think Houston would never be able to have nice things like a music festival, but Free Press Summer Fest and its stellar lineup has proven me wrong.
In the gigantically-small bubble that is Houston, we all seem to know each one another somehow. So when we unify, it seems like we have always been on the same wavelength.
So much so, we run into other people that were dancing next to us at our recovery dinner.
If only Houston held a mashup dance party every day of the week.
But, I wonder ... what the hell would have happened if I had gotten into that van?
Some Bands To Consider at Day Two of Summer Fest: