A Rainy Free Press: Thoughts About Houston's Flooded Music Festival
Last year, Free Press Summer Fest was evacuated for a few hours due to storm warnings in the area. This year, the weather outdid itself, and Free Press was evacuated both Saturday and Sunday, eventually being cancelled Sunday night around 6:30 p.m. due to flooding and extreme storm warnings around the city. Although this seems like an unfortunate coincidence, Houstonians around the city have been shaking their heads . . . everyone knows that the first weekend of June in Houston is prone to rain! So why hasn't Free Press been moved?
The top acts this weekend were G-Eazy, Flume, Lorde, Cage the Elephant, Solange and Tove Lo. Although on Saturday only a few acts had to be cancelled, G-Eazy and Cage the Elephant were still able to perform their sets at night. The big disappointment of the weekend came Sunday afternoon, when huge acts Lorde, Flume and Tove Lo were all cancelled due to bad weather.
According to Meg Brigman, a Lamar High School graduate and current rising senior at Rice University who attended the festival, "It was quite unfortunate because Sunday they started evacuating the park before most people had even showed up. While great for the smaller bands who did manage to play their sets, I know it was an upset for bigger names like Lorde, Flume, Tove Lo and Charli XCX, and others who didn't get to play at all."
The festival was evacuated on Sunday before the rain even rolled in to downtown, which caused a lot of confusion for festivalgoers, but in the end was probably the best choice considering that within the next hour after evacuation, downtown started flooding. "I'm not sure what a good solution would have been so I suppose the festival management made the right call," Brigman said.
What many Free Press attendees complained the most about was the lack of updates. Festivalgoers checked the FPSF app and emails regarding updates, but few messages were sent out, leaving lots of people stumbling around downtown looking for a building to sit in while the rain passed. Gayla Kusin, a rising freshman at the University of Texas and a recent graduate of Memorial High School, noted, "Free Press had a lot of potential this year but I don't really think they handled the rain situation that well. There weren't many updates so people were left waiting around." The layout of Free Press provides lots of space between stages and food booths, but since it was located at Eleanor Tinsley park, the rain made the space very muddy.
"The size was nice because I was able to enjoy the space to move in the crowd even at the front of the G-Eazy concert," Brigman said, but she also described "rowdy and generally stupid" younger concert-goers who pushed people in the mud as the rain started.
Overall, Free Press had a decent lineup, great food stands (including Peli Peli, Kono Pizza Cones and food trucks like the Dough Cone and Oh My Gogi), well-spaced venues, hydration stations and a fun atmosphere, the festival was ruined by the lack of planning pertaining to location and weather. If Free Press is to continue next year, it needs to be moved to a weekend that isn't so notorious for having bad weather, or it should be moved inside.
It's great to see Houstonians come out to celebrate music, especially when a lot of the morning acts at Free Press celebrate local Houston musicians. It's also great to support local Houston restaurants and food trucks, but it was difficult for me to enjoy my delicious mac and cheese bites from Peli Peli when I was trying not to get water on them. In addition, the musicians who performed put on great shows and definitely played to their crowd. In my opinion, one of the best performances came from Jon Bellion, whose show was very interactive with the crowd. Bishop Briggs also put on a great act despite having to perform in the midst of the rain on Saturday. I wish I would've been able to see Lorde, who tweeted that she, Charli XCX and Tove Lo were planning to perform Rihanna's "Umbrella" for festivalgoers before the event was cancelled.
If you're upset about having to miss huge chunks of the festival, Free Press is offering a 50 percent refund to festival goers. Those who used a credit card will be refunded within the next 7-10 business days. If you purchased tickets with cash at the front gate, go to support.frontgatetickets.com and use your wristband print ID to get your refund within the next 30 days. Those who bought tickets Sunday will receive a full refund.
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