This past weekend was the second annual FreshDark Fest put on by T. Piper Media and DJ Elevated at Last Concert Cafe. When describing it to people I usually characterize it as Houston’s answer to Afropunk. In a few words: local, bohemian, grassroots, Black. I missed year one of this festival so I made sure to be around this year. About half were artists I’d seen before, but the rest were completely new! Seeing kids around throughout was unusual but a pleasant distraction while hearing the sounds of Houston from people who love and live Black music. If you can’t tell already my pictures are terrible (I’m cheating with gifs) so you should look at Jay Tovar’s slideshow in the Houston Press for quality.
I started the festival with an excellent set from DJ Stephhh. From the day I met her she has continuously put me on to all kinds of new music and I follow her Soundcloud heavily. Her regular Good Vibes Only gatherings have become favorites of mine for both the people and the music.
Local songstress Michele Thibeaux is a veteran in the Houston music scene who I first became acquainted with through The Renaissance Suite, a guerilla collective that used to hold monthly gatherings where musicians would come and just perform one nonstop session. It’s been a while since then but Michele is steadily on the scene and has released a strong new album with The Quiet Picture Show earlier this year.
Finally after a decade of fandom I was able to see Los Angelenos J*Davey! You know how you see someone and you think they’re beautiful but you don’t realize just how beautiful until they’re right in front of you? Jack Davey was that. Their set of roughly 45 minutes included songs that spanned their 16-year career although they didn’t do my beloved Queen of Wonderland 😦
The name Philippe Edison has been passed around to me as an example of the new progressive sound of Houston. He didn’t disappoint, showing versatility with great beats, some saxophone, and Casey Benjamin-inspired vocoder work.
I see Lee-Lonn around the city on occasion but I formally met him backstage at Day for Night in December. I was distracted by Kendrick Lamar at the time but came across his music later and I’ve been wanting to see him perform after hearing his voice. This man is no joke. And that falsetto? Sheesh.
Mind Shrine was new to me. I thought it was funny to see another Houston group with an afro-wearing black woman in the lead but I’ll definitely be looking out for them.
Soul Control consists of DJ Anarchy and DJ Elevated. They’re regulars around the city and I’ve enjoyed their music in the most unlikely of places, from the E-dub-a-licious Treats store at Project Row Houses to a recent east-side warehouse party that had me out until 5 a.m. I’ll be stopping in for Elevated’s weekly happy hour at Foundation Room before I go to the Anderson .Paak show at the House of Blues.
Les Lockhart is another local I had never even heard of but really enjoyed. We seem to have many artists around the city keeping their heads low and making quality music. They all seem to know each other but I’m hoping us non-musicians will have more chances to hear their work in the future.
I’m a bit of a music head and occasionally I do a deep dive into Soundcloud to discover new artists. Sometime last year while wading through the works of indie label HW&W in search of more Kaytranada music I came across Canadian producer Elaquent. He had me wondering about his tech and I don’t think I sat down throughout his set.
A solid DJ from Atlanta. I wasn’t familiar with DJ Jamad’s work but he brought more hip hop and rap into the show than any other act. I will say it got slightly awkward when I heard profanity while the kids were still milling about but they seemed mostly oblivious so I got over it. An unusual Sunday closer as I’d expect everyone to want to head to The Flat or Alley Kat after his set rather than go home.
All in all this was an excellent show and certainly worth the price. I hope to see even more people come out next year and I’ve been promised an even stronger line-up. I got in early with the blind pre-sale for only $20 but still would’ve happily paid the full $50 for the quality of the performances. I forgot some acts (even ones that I liked) and missed others I’ve wanted to see again like Third World TV, DJ Keva, and Live Out Loud Band, so look for me at FreshDark’s new concert series Sonic Flight that kicks off August 19 at Warehouse Live!