June 12th, 2012

Loopster Live: Free Press Summer Fest Recap

It’s never to late to relive the moments of this year’s Free Press Summer Fest. Alexander experienced it all. There was The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Break it down for us, Alex.

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The Good
The relatively cool front came in 24 hours early to forecast, yet one could not have hoped for much more from the weather gods when scheduling a music festival in Houston in June. In fact, the Friday tease of northerly winds served as a good advertisement, inducing many to venture out to Eleanor Tinsley for Free Press Summer Fest.

The lineup was as diverse as Houston, with options for a broad range of age and taste. Remarkably, with few exceptions, that lineup adhered to the published schedule – a remarkable feat with the many moving pieces and temperaments that fest and heat bring out.

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Concession lines were noticeably efficient. Anvil, taking over Fancy Pants tent duties and loosing a fleet of ice cream carts repurposed as Mint Julep Jalopies, tweeted on Saturday that they had tripled the previous year’s sales and had, thus, been caught short-stocked. They nonetheless regrouped and deployed again on Sunday with cocktails on tap and smiling mint-muddlers. Impressive.

When the final attendance numbers of 92,000 were posted, an increase of 50%+, Wayne Coyne’s pronouncement that Summer Fest was just a few years away from being a national force seemed very attainable.

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The Bad
General Admission lines. On Saturday, the GA line reportedly stretched from east of Taft to Montrose, a wait approaching/exceeding an hour. As I never witnessed significant lines at the walk-up ticket sales, it’s hard to understand how organizers could have been taken unaware of by a surge in attendance. While over-zealous security was cited as the culprit, it’s hard to understand why there weren’t more lanes, more personnel, a better process. Live and learn.

Port-a-Potties: equally overwhelmed were the facilities. Perhaps a set designated for Fancy Pants? I presume there is a challenge in placing port-a-john’s anywhere beside the Allen Parkway roadway level. There are alternatives that need to be explored.

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Trash cans were in short supply and rarely serviced, leading to piles of trash and then a general resignation that finding a trash can was folly.

Layout: Jeep’s test drive field encroached onto Allen Parkway creating a choke point that created an a frustrating, foreseeable, bottle-neck of bodies. To organizer’s credit, the area was cleared for Sunday. Negotiating that alteration was undoubtedly a bit tricky given Jeep’s title sponsorship. Kudos to organizers and Jeep for doing the right thing.
Beyond the test drive area, Fest currently suffers from a lack of thought out supply path. Way too many carts were attempting to deliver ice & beer throughout both days while barking at attendees. Appreciate the drivers’ urgency but safety and fest atmosphere were sorely lacking in their demeanor. Time to rethink staging/supply routes.

There was some grumbling that there was no brewery representation outside of Silver Eagle’s distribution portfolio. I can appreciate brand loyalty, but this seems a minor, though potentially TABC-sensitive, issue.

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The Ugly
Us. The attendees.

Trash: as mentioned above, there was an insufficient number of trash can/box receptacles. That having been acknowledged, the trash cans one to two hundred yards away from the major stages were raely filled. A little civic pride, personal responsibility would go a long way. Get your shit/trash together, Houston.

Mood: for the most part, attendees seemed in good spirits, considerate. There was a sizeable percentage that seemed confused about festival behavior. Throwing a 6’x4’ blanket/tarp down and thinking that it magically provides a castle-like buffer when surrounded by 30-50,000 of your drunkest friends? Wake up and smell the patchouli. Someone trying to pass by? Let them through. What do you serve by posting up? You’re not Ron Artest (who is no World B. Free). Quit being a childish, jackhole.

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Eleanor Tinsley Park: FPSF seemed to have found the natural limits of the Army Corps of Engineers flood control marvel that Houston characteristically has misnomered a park. The incline that makes for a speedy paint-laden slip & slide is a bit treacherous for drunks less sure-footed than a mountain goat and a less than comfortable seating option. Suggestions that the hill could be re-shaped are financially and practically delusional. The primary purpose of the hillside is water containment. A less severe slope would mean less volume for flooding water. NOT going to happen. A new vision for the festival site map is in order and should provide a bigger challenge than repeating and exceeding this year’s attendance.

Passing out: tents were more congested than they would have been if not for those sprawled out and passed out. I know it was hot, but it was notably cooler than last year, and unless you were schlepping 35 lbs of camera gear, I don’t have much sympathy. Know your limits. Drink water. Or next year, I’m bringing markers to write on your face.

In short, organizers deserve to be proud. Houston needs to retire the chip on its shoulder. And I look forward to seeing all of you, plus another 30,000, at Free Press Summer Fest 2013.

— Alexander

Comments

JB — Tuesday, June 12, 2012 10:27 am

Good event coverage, but no music reviews??

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