Live: Free Press Summer Fest, Houston (Day One)

Snoop Dogg, chillin’ at the muthaf***in’ Summer Fest in Houston.

At one point during the sunny Free Press Summer Fest in Houston, one concertgoer turned to his buddy and said, “You would never see anything like this in Austin.”

Well, yes and no. While the boys down the road certainly know how to throw a festival, they probably wouldn’t assemble a package of entertainment as diverse as the lineup featured here in H-Town this weekend. Running the gamut from hip hop to metal to indie rock to country, the Summer Fest has certainly hit its stride in its fourth year.

The only thing “safe” about the lineup – which included Snoop Dogg, Morris Day and the Time, the Flaming Lips and indie darlings Best Coast on Saturday – is the choice of weekends. This first weekend of June is typically a sure bet to deliver sunny, not-too-hot weather. Suntan lotion and lots of water are necessary, but the heat is not yet as oppressive as it’s gonna get later in the summer.

Morris Day, with the “fake” Jerome.

So. We walked right up to Morris Day and the Time, wondering what’s happened to our boys since the days of Minneapolis and Purple Rain. The answer? An awful lot. The band’s not the same one you remember from 1984: no Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the guitarist is Tori Ruffin, and there’s even a “fake” Jerome Benton! I ran into Tori’s mom and aunt down front, and they explained this is Morris’ touring band, not the band called The Original 7ven which apparently has all the original guys. Okaaaay. Well, they still did “What Time Is It?” and “Jungle Love” and “The Walk” and “The Bird.”

This festival is laid out along a park that fronts one of Houston’s bayous and the configuration is kind of like the back nine of a weird golf course. Except the hazards are a paved roadway, a big-ass Jeep obstacle course that serves no purpose except to bottleneck foot traffic (and sell Jeeps, I suppose) and a shitload of people. They said there were about 60,000 on the ground Saturday and I believe it.

Most of ’em were apparently on hand when rapper Snoop Dogg hit the stage (early!), and quickly the pungent aromas wafted everywhere. Wafted? It pretty much replaced the oxygen where I was standing but … no complaints! In fact, at one point Snoop said “A shoutout to all the weed smokers out there!” which was answered by a mighty roar.

Snoop brought along his bodyguards, his dancers, his band and a costumed mascot (a big dog with pigtails) and he drew the biggest crowd of the day with his smooth West Coast rap. Now, his buddy Willie Nelson plays on the fest’s second day and I am hoping we get a Snoop appearance onstage to sing his cameo on the new Willie song “Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me).”

There was a lot of other music too: Houston’s underground punkers the Fatal Flying Guilloteens reunited, Best Coast played some of their sunny pop rock, the Flaming Lips performed Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon along with some of their own tunes. And everyone drank a lot of water and other things.

Fatal Flying Guilloteens’ set was a head-scratcher for some.

Morris Day is pretty photogenic.

Easter Bunny on a pole (and a light saber) gettin’ ready for Snoop Dogg.

Bodyguard, mascot, Snoop Dogg.

You can’t beat this band’s name: Venomous Maximus.

I don’t even want to know what the hell this guy is doing.

Houston is indeed a Trill City.

That’s some bling.

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