September 26th, 2011
Loopster Live: Houston Press’ BestFest 2011
What if you put on a great event and the music just sort of showed up?
In a year that’s seen several inaugural events, many over-sold, with insane lines, insufficient supplies and questionable charities, Houston Press put on a well-managed event in BestFest 2011 that had clearly been thought out and appeared to run as smoothly as well-established, successful events in the region.
Short or non-existent lines hopefully meant efficient service and not that anyone took a financial bath, because it would be great if this event was given a second chance to become established and anchor Houston’s Fall.
To the negative, despite ACL’s good fortune, Houston managed to welcome the first weekend of the season with temperatures that remind us why Chicago should be our Summer home. If a complaint could be made about the location, it would be lack of trees — most of which would have been killed by the drought anyway.
BestFest stayed humble in its marketing, pointedly keeping its distance from comparisons with ACL, FUNFUNFUN, or even SummerFest. While a personal believer in under-selling and over-delivering, I hope the positives from this year help overcome modesty in the future and that attendees help spread the word.
But what about the music? First, a confession: personal injury prevented me from attending Saturday. I saw The Toadies several months ago, and was impressed by their energy live. Multiple friends attending Saturday were equally enthusiastic and reports from Saturday were generally favorable. And HP deserves commendation for giving a significant number of local artist their opportunity on stage.
From what I witnessed, Sunday’s stages seemed to lack some energy, or the positive vibe one would have expected/hoped for. I became a Hayes Carll fan at 2009’s Old Settler’s festival. Back catalog, new stuff, I like it. Missed the Mucky Duck shows a week back, but saw his sit in withSideshow Tramps and considered his ACL performance one of my highlights of the weekend.
Bias aside, his recent tour schedule has apparently been hectic. Sunday’s set started strong, but Hayes was clearly showing some fatigue. Selfishly, I would have preferred some older, slower songs, but I understand keeping true to a practiced set list. The upside, Hayes provided a good deal of banter, Ray Wylie would have been proud as usual.
Cake – I wanted to give these guys a chance. The setting sun made for a pleasant evening, there was a sense that the weekend had gone off without a hitch, and yet singer John McCrea wasn’t feeling it. After McCrea had an extended on-stage bitch about a single tech issue, Stoney McDougal was part of a chorus in shouting “You’re a one-hit wonder from the 90’s, just play a fucking song.” Now, before you bombard (ha) with me letters, emails, and comments, I realize they had three, maybe four hits that extended deep, deep into 2001. The point being, you’re getting paid to do what you love – have fun, quit bitching, maybe make a few new fans with your aptly-named, recent successful track “Sick of You”?
Or maybe I’m supposed to applaud that the cynical, grumpy motif of their lyrics is not merely an act, that McCrea really is channeling the inner-rock star of the old guy down the street who won’t return your ball when it lands in his backyard. BestFest attendees and promoters deserved more from their headliner, you crank.