Free Press Summer Fest ‘putting Houston on the map’

May. 31, 2014Memorial Examiner

The Free Press Summer Fest comes to Houston this weekend, and with it, an estimated 100,000 live music lovers to invade Houston’s Eleanor Tinsley Park for a couple days of sun-kissed amusement.

The annual festivity began with only 30,000 attendees in 2009, but has found an identity among the eclectic series of national live music events — showcasing hometown flavor, along with a mix of popular folk, hip hop, rock and electronic music.

Free Press Houston Publisher Omar Afra said the festival is “putting Houston on the map” for the young and tech-savvy creative class. He cited a study completed by the University of Houston in 2013, indicating that the event brought in $14 million to Houston during 2012.

“It’s important economically and culturally to the city—just a fun way for younger folks to take off and have fun over the summer,” Afra said. He said Free Press is a “homegrown” event, put on by local producers, and service providers.

“Every step we take, we are keeping our love for the city in mind,”

In 2014, Afra said that recent changes to the park — including tree removal and landscaping improvements around main stages — would make for “bigger and better staging areas.”

“Every year, this thing reinvents itself,” Afra said. The renovations to Eleanor Tinsley were part of the $58 million project to revitalize Buffalo Bayou Park.

The festival, which was sold out in 2014, offers six stages and over 70 musical acts — with headliners Jack White, Vampire Weekend, Lauryn Hill and Zedd.

A few other popular artists to perform are folk group Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, country singer Dwight Yoakam, and legendary rap group the Wu-Tang Clan. Speaking of rap, Free Press will also showcase a “Welcome to Houston” set, with a collaboration between Houston rappers Bun B, Slim Thug, Devin the Dude, Z-Ro, Paul Wall and Mike Jones.

Afra described the Welcome to Houston conglomeration as a “once in a lifetime event.”

“I don’t know if we’ll ever see that again,” he said.

Notably, South African rap-rave band Die Antwoord is to release their newest album on June 2, the day after Free Press concludes. However, Afra said a fun way to experience the festival is to venture out and discover new bands, “not only ones you know.”

Due to Houston’s sweltering summer heat, Afra said its paramount that all guests drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. He said parents should make sure their teens going it alone have a fully charged cell phone in case they lose their buddies, and know who they are finding rides with at day’s end — when Eleanor Tinsley can become most hectic.

“Make sure they’re armed with the same rules they have everywhere else they go — being alert and mindful—whether it’s here, the movie theater or the mall,” Afra said.