Find a gorgeous urban park, invite hundreds of craft breweries, a few bands, sell tickets….instant success! I know it’s not that dang simple, but the folks who put on Untapped Festival make it look that easy. Untapped Fest is a one day celebration of craft beer and indie music that, for the past few years has brought a crazy good mix of music to Houston, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Outdoor events in Texas are always a little risky. Texas weather changes its mind more than a college student changes their major. The last two years it’s rained a bit, but this year Fall decided to poke out its head and say, “Hey bud, remember me?” Excellent weather meant larger crowds including lots of dogs on leashes and babies who maybe should have been.
What I like about this festival is that organizers put bands on the stages that may be new to some in attendance. That’s not to say people don’t attend this event for the music. However, I saw many more 8th Wonder Brewery “Brewston” t-shirts than Cold War Kids tour shirts. Exceptional locals like Gio Chamba and New York City Queens making beer nerd heads bob while they wait in line for a sample of their favorite IPA. Or the soulful synths and light show of Twin Shadow’s set helping hips shake in the thickly perfect Houston humidity. Bottom line is that the music lineups are just as good as the beer lineups. The day was packed with great music and so I decided to just focus on my three favorite sets.
I’ve been a fan of Tony’s since seeing him in 2009 at the first year of Free Press Summer Fest. At that time he was closing out his set with a song which was meant to entice people to visit his merch table. The song was entitled “Buy My Shit” and I thought it was hilarious and brilliant. His stage presence is just a terrific, positive force and he’s not afraid to let his personality and humor shine through. The Untapped set was a flag waving, climb into the crowd, raucous hip hop fun time. Tony and his partner in crime Jose Gorbea (Ill Faded) tour extensively and I’m sure they’ll be making a stop in your town soon. You should check them out even if you aren’t the biggest hip hop fan. Super great.
Is Deer Tick one of the best bands on the planet? Don’t ask dumb questions. Any band that can take the stage dressed as clowns and proceed to lay down serious, serious great stuff is OK in my book. The music is just pure rock and roll complete with monsterous drums, saxophone, and the road-worn voice of John McCauley. I really love the way drummer Dennis Ryman squints his eyes and grins from ear to ear while pounding the absolute HECK out of the kit. Their blazing set included appearances from Houston kid Robert Ellis and Nashville rabble-rouser Jonny Fritz. Fritz is in town recording his next album at Sugar Hill Studios with Ellis producing and so what a treat to see all that talent on one stage.
I can remember hearing Jaffe’s song “Clementine” long ago on our listener-sponsored station KPFT here in Houston and just being pulled in immediately. Her second album Suburban Nature, which features “Clementine” puts her amazing voice and lyrical prowess in the spotlight supported by acoustic guitars and strings. Fast forward several albums and she’s developed a much more pop-leaning sound that’s beautifully wrapped up in a warm glow of electronics. This was the second time seeing her this year and I’ve really never seen her more carefree and happy. The large stage allowed her space to step back and rip on guitar or dance, this was maybe my favorite Sarah Jaffe set OF ALL TIME (echo echo echo)!
The Untapped Fest will continue it’s Texas tour in Dallas in November with The Flaming Lips headlining and one of my all-time favorite bands Dr. Dog bringing the boogie to Fair Park. As of now there are tickets available, but I know that Austin and Houston were sell-outs and for good reason. Get on it.
You can find Untapped Fest all over the Internet
You can find Fat Tony all over the Internet
You can find Deer Tick all over the Internet
You can find Sarah Jaffe all over the Internet