Photos by Ashley Stanford

Blistering Texas heat packed with over 90,000 concert-goers makes for one exhausting weekend. In only its fourth year, FPSF has officially become one of the largest events in Houston … and that's a lot to take in.

I've seen this festival grow from four to eight stages and to the addition of legitimate sponsors in just two years. But one thing hasn't changed, the always-legendary headliners that most attendees flock to Houston for just to check out and purchase two-day passes. Even though music festivals seem to be a trendy industry event these days, they're at least creating buzz for emerging artists, turn out unexpected crowds and sold-out tickets every year.

Bursting with anticipation, I had my half hand-written schedule in hand as I frequently jumped back and forth to two of the biggest stages that were almost what it seemed like a mile apart.

First up, rushing to catch Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's set. The New York indie-rock vets played a string of upbeat, pop songs. Though their set was practically midday, devout fans braved the weather and the band sounded flawless as they made their Houston visit memorable. Apart from jotting down the big players at the fest, I of course had a little fun making sure I caught some local acts and some outrageous performers just for kicks. It was on to the dome-shaped stage three aka dance party central to witness intense booty-shaking at gender-bending Louisiana rapper, Big Freedia's show.


An eclectic crowd had already been cheering on Freedia, real-name Freddie Ross', back-up dancers' booty bounce dance-off. His so-called original genre of "bounce music" literally is just that. High energy, hilarious rhymes and tons of free debut EP's for the audience was worth catching the last two songs of his set.

Starfucker had already started their set on the main stage and I luckily viewed them from the front. Sound was a bit off and muffled, which retracted from my excitement and was a shame but the crowd still seemed to be enjoying themselves. I closed off their set dancing but kept my eye on the time to make sure I had calculated the distance between stage one and two to catch Best Coast's entire set. Unfortunately I was still getting over the fact that I had missed all of their SXSW performances, so I finally had the chance and had no excuse since they were actually in town -- surely something that I would hate myself even more for.


As I almost sprinted/speed-walked through the crowd I rushed to the front and got the OK! from security to thankfully get in the photo pit. The next 60 minutes was one of the best performances all weekend. The Only Place, the surprisingly impressive, step-up from genre-defining, Crazy For Yousophomore release from the Cali-loving duo was fitting for the kick-off of summer vacation. Bethany Cosentino's vocals were on-point throughout and even the slower, fuzzy romantic songs still made everybody groove to their pop tunes.

Back to the DJ both at stage three with Diplo showing off -- not necessarily, but you can't knock his perfected sound. He had the crowd expecting more from his seamless set down to the last 20 minutes. Spectators stopped by and couldn't help but join the party around the circular stage packed to the brim, overflowing with die hard Major Lazer fans or just some EDM-obsessed frat guys. Ether way, you can't help but let loose when the Philly-native samples a track. I then headed back to the main stage to catch one of my personal favorite acts to check out all weekend, Phantogram.



Lately I've been intrigued by girl-guy duos. It's just an impressive dynamic and they've been popping-up everywhere in the emerging music scene. Phantogram, the two best friends who make creating polarizing electro rock seem easy, have even garnered high praise from Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips who loitered on the sidelines during their performances, then later invited them during his set in the evening.

Even though the two have released very little in the last year, their songs encompass elements of psychedelic and hip hop beats that any music fan seemed to enjoy from the reaction of the audience. Mix that with lead vocalist, all-around gorgeous Sarah Barthel and you've got a phenomenal performance on top of an impressive track list. Their set was short but sweet but their sound was memorable to witness live especially just coming from two people.

I then did a bit of much needed winding down, sampled grub from the dozens of vendors and for once rest my feet on the hill. I witnessed a first, eccentric Ohio band Bad Veins lead singer Benjamin Davis used a telephone as a mic that somehow sounded exactly like a megaphone, Z-RO,'s performance was overrated, Major Lazer kept the energy up under the heat and should've closed the night instead of the unimpressive, but ever so popular, unsurprisingly, Dutch Afrojack -- seriously how many times do I already hear that "Take Over Control" on the radio? I don't even know what the chorus means and during his set it was remixed five whole times throughout.

Two Door Cinema Club, just like Phantogram played too short of a set even though they were composed and I'm sure thought Texas were some exotic destination that thought us Houstonians were crazy for living in such a hot place. A five-song set each, the crowds at both sets demanded more.



Though Best Coast stole my heart earlier in the day, Erykah Badu and the Cannabinoids was the one performance to see of the entire festival. The Dallas native and soulful crooner, has always developed a cult following, I never knew why until that day. I was hypnotized by her strong female presence as she commanded the stage and let go, exposed her free spirit and played throwback tunes, classics and die-hard fan favorites. Though those die-hard fans started to throw a fit when Badu started 20 minutes late, she was obviously worth the wait.

I ended day one feeling accomplished with a checked-off list of must-see artists. All I had in mind though for day two was to douse myself in sunscreen to prevent a second layer of sunburn, overexposed skin that resulted from the darkest tan to date and maybe for a more chill day to close out the weekend from the frenzy of FPSF virgins.

The Flaming Lips







Erykah Badu