FPSF: Lightning Strikes Twice, Sparks Fly at Free Press

It was early afternoon on Day 2 of Free Press Music Fest, and the California-based Stick Figure was playing a reggae cover of Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. It was then that God exhibited his twisted sense of humor, so that as the final chorus was sung, festivalgoers were notified to evacuate the premise immediately. Wish You Were Here? Attendees forced to leave halfway through the day were left wishing they could stay.

But this day, the evacuation was different – different because they had to do the exact same song and dance the day before. Except this time, they were never allowed back in.

For every great performance, there’s a stormed-out story to overshadow it. For every great bite, there’s a soggy romper crumpled up in the back of the car. For everything Free Press Summer Fest had done right and gotten under control, it will be remembered for the weather that was out of their hands.

Free Press has been under fire for years, with criticisms pointed at weak lineups and poor days of the year. C3 Presents, the festival’s majority shareholder, has been feeling the pressure ever since, made evident by their lack of ticket upcharges and single-day ticket sales.

But while the critics stayed at home, a lively and captivated audience stepped foot on Eleanor Tinsley Park to find a masterfully produced event. From corporate sponsors like Brisk and the Taco Bell Food Truck giving away free items, to the Houston Eats row of local restaurants serving some of our cities finest meals, the first half of Day One was finely tuned and orchestrated seemingly with ease.

Free Press has always strived to provide the most inclusive entertainment for the nation’s most city, proven by their large variety of artists, genres, and amenities. You know that if a festival starts Day One off with Black Swan Yoga for fit and adventurous festivalgoers alike, you’re up for a fun ride.

The calm before the storm was anything but: local artist -Us had the audience vibing to his electronica symphonies, Hurray for the Riff Raff struck all kinds of chords with their anti-war melodies, The Struts rocked out with unparalleled audience engagement, and Jon Bellion captivated an audience with a vocal range wider than Buffalo Bayou’s flood gauge.

But it was during Bishop Briggs’ set, the artist most known for the rock hit “River,” that torrential downpour flooded Eleanor Tinsley Park quite literally like a river. The hill between the Budweiser and Mercury Stages turned from a relaxing viewing spot to a muddy slip-and-slide that claimed the outfits of many, leaving many retro basketball jerseys and floral rompers looking like something you could buy from Nordstrom’s for $425.

Beneath the heavy downpour were more than attendees sprawling for the exits, but rather an amazing showcase of human nature – not what you’d expect from a summer music festival with a predominately high school audience.

While attempting to escape the rain, it wouldn’t be odd to be helped up those muddy slopes by a human chain of people, linked arm-in-arm, pulling people through as if they were horses stuck in quicksand.

While looking for shade, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to find a bridge with over a hundred people covering underneath, still managing to squeeze closer together to make room for the occasional straggler. 

While venturing towards unpopulated areas of cover, it was commonplace to find an extended poncho or blown-down Taco Bell banner draped above a swingset for use as a makeshift tent.

As terrible conditions had been, there were still people refusing to leave, even when forced out by the security crew, because the thought of that night’s musical performance overshadowed the thoughts of staying dry. And when the festival reopened their doors hours after having been closed, the festival continued as if nothing ever happened, with avid festivalgoers rushing to see the artists they came there to see in the first place.

Post Malone was grateful in his welcoming on stage, understanding the shit each and every one of the audience members experienced just to see him play. And with that graciousness, he blew the crowd away with party anthems “Congratulations” and “Go Flex” showcasing his raspy rap style and graveled vocals. He may as well been the headliner for the evening, because if anybody were to remember one performance at all that night, it was going to be his.

But Day Two came and went. Cut short well before the halfway point of the day, some had not even been able to attend Day Two at all. Hundreds of ticket payers checked their phones for any updates while huddled in the nearby parking lots, only to receive word of its cancellation and 50% refund policy.

And like that, Free Press will be remembered for its downfalls and downpours, rather than the truly amazing event it had been prior to its setbacks.

And like that, the future of Free Press remains in the balance.

 

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