By Chuck Cox
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you are probably aware I am not a real big fan of the music festival.
While I acknowledge getting to see so many bands in one place has its merits, I generally hate the abbreviated sets, big crowds, hot weather and overlapping show times that seem to go along with most festivals.
But the one-day festival is a tad different. You still generally have all of those things, but to a much lesser degree. And I knew when local radio station KXT announced this year’s lineup for its annual Summer Cut: Happy Funtime Fest, I would have to be there.
And, man, did the station just absolutely knock it out of the park with the lineup on a blazing Friday night at Gexa Energy Pavilion.
The Main Stage, where I spent most of the show, included headliners Death Cab For Cutie, Iron and Wine, The Hold Steady and The Oh Hellos. The diversity of those four acts, in terms of approach, really added up to an amazing evening of music.
The only one of those four bands I had seen before was Death Cab For Cutie, which announced earlier in the week guitarist and producer Chris Walla would be leaving the group after 17 years. Walla was on hand for the show, which was an added bonus to get to see one of his final concerts with the band.
As usual, Death Cab played a fantastic show despite battling a few technical difficulties. Lead singer Ben Gibbard, however, was not dressed for the occasion, sporting a long-sleeved shirt and slacks, which meant he spent much of the show dripping in sweat.
But he certainly didn’t let it affect his performance. The band rolled through a nice variety of cuts from its strong catalog, including “Long Division,” “The New Year,” “Cath…,” “Marching Bands of Manhattan” and the crowd-pleasing “I Will Follow You Into the Dark.” For some reason, the show was about 15 minutes shorter than the scheduled 90 minutes.
I had been wanting to catch Iron and Wine for quite some time. The one-man act made up of singer-songwriter Samuel Beam did not disappoint. Armed with an acoustic guitar (after breaking a string a few seconds into playing a second acoustic guitar), Beam was self-deprecating, gracious and absolutely fantastic.
The only bummer about Iron and Wine’s 50-minute set was there was a very audible interruption from the nearby West Stage with the first 15 minutes of The Wild Feathers‘ set honing in on the show. Beam acknowledged the noise with by glancing in that direction, but he rolled with it like a pro. I did enjoy him saying, “It’s a lot to ask this many people to sit and listen to some dips*** with a guitar.”
Getting to hear him play “Waves of Galveston” was a nice surprise, too.
The Hold Steady, a hard-driving rock band from New York with some pretty damn spectacular lyrics, brought a little bit of attitude to the festivities. Lead singer Craig Finn played the rock star role well as he and his band mates treated the crowd to gems like “Spinners,” “The Weekenders” and “Chips Ahoy!” during a tight 50-minute set.
The Oh Hellos, a duo based in San Marcos, doesn’t mess around when it comes to playing live. With the help of a dozen other musicians, the band had a really tremendous, at times booming, sound that was infectiously fun. Even though the band was clearly jazzed to be playing to such a big crowd, it held its own with a 40-minute show that was very well-received by the fans who came out early.
The rest of the festival included Thao & the Get Down, The Unlikely Candidates, Fort Worth’s The Orbans and Valise on the smaller, uncovered stage that roasted in the Texas sun early on. I only caught Valise and Fort Worth’s The Orbans, but I really enjoyed both and marveled at how they battled the extreme heat.
This was the third Summer Cut, but it was the first one I was able to attend. I hope KXT is able to keep the tradition going — especially with bands like the ones on this year’s bill.
Make sure to check back early next week for my thought on the Nine Inch Nails/Soundgarden show at Gexa.