Like a giant psychedelic piñata, Maverick Music Festival exploded in the heart of downtown San Antonio this weekend. Last installment or not, The Flaming Lips, Public Enemy and 3 stages of bands, DJs, rappers & singers dropped the mic on La Villita with energetic and memorable performances. One would be hard pressed to find a major music festival in the US held in a space anything like our historic plaza. The public component and relaxed atmosphere of Maverick Fest is nothing like the human wreckage of massive, grueling fests we've all been to or read about. The Sobre squad made it out both days and we've collected our thoughts and observations.
Elizabeth Aguilar: Let me start off by saying God bless Alyson Alonzo. This born-to-be prodigy had everybody that was passing by stopping and starring. People on passing boats twisted their heads around as Alonzo, with nothing but a sampler and a mic, single handedly tore through the hearts of everyone watching. Within her set, she gave her own unique, soulful rendition of the 80’s classic “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics.
Her voice, which many have compared to those of Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday, seems to me to be unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. She closed out her Maverick Fest set performing her newest released single “Love Memory,” off of her soon-to-come EP The Romantic. The song is an upbeat ode to love, and provides us with insight on what to expect from the rest of her EP.
Whether the secret to her sound is the passion behind her voice or some sort of voodoo magic, one thing is for sure: Alyson Alonzo does an untouchable job when on stage. Although I would’ve loved to see Alonzo kick ass on the main stage, the Arneson Theatre looked so good on her and provided a perfect fit for her intimate performance.
Edmond Ortiz: Joe "King" Carrasco brought back some puro Tex-Mex new wave and rock flavor that, for the most part, still is fun to listen to after 30 years. Arguably his biggest hit, "Party Weekend" -- which gave us a South Texan on MTV when they played music videos 24/7 -- still has some pep to it. Speaking of pep, Carrasco engaged the crowd at the Arneson River Theatre stage by crossing the Riverwalk bridge and engaging the crowd while singing.
Alyssa Bunting: Right after the amazing set of Bright Light Social Hour, dusk had started to set in when a giant banner unfurled to reveal THE DRUMS in huge letters. There where whistles from the audience and those in the crowd turned their attention. Lead singer Jonny Pierce is no diva and sound checked his own microphone, the bassist Jacob Graham appeared in a Selena shirt in homage to the city he's in and the crowd starts to get excited. The synth started and created that drone that identified the beginning of a set. Though mostly an upbeat surfy band, the Drums live have a low fi quality to them, almost a casualness.
They began with a slow dancey song to get the crowd moving. As Pierce sways back and forth in the zone, Lana Del Rey-ing better than Lana Del Rey before the tempo of the set picked up and he began dancing like no one was watching. They start playing crowd favorites like "Money," "Best Friend," "What You Were," "Book of Revolution" and my favorite song I saw them perform, "Days." His DJ set at the Bang Bang Bar was nothing like the sound of The Drums at all, it was pure electronic music from the underground in New York or something. Those who went to go see his DJ set didn't seem disappointed as the dance floor was packed.
Ortiz: It was nearly 30 years ago when Public Enemy were the true mavericks, bucking both the music industry and socio-politics with its infectious beats and calls for a revolution. Those calls for revolution- of the mind more than the literal- have not abated, but with the passage of time comes a maturer, wiser, gentler call for love and unity.
There are two things that still make Public Enemy relevant in 2016, even if they aren't as strident with their socio-political philosophies like in decades past. One is the live instruments: the guitars, bass and drums that complement DJ Lord's turntablist skills. The other: as shown with in-between songs statements such as digs at Donald Trump and racism, is that Public Enemy successfully and easily mixed socially/politically conscious messages with music and raised that talent to an art form.
Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, DJ Lord and the S1W (Security of the First World) dancers brought the noise, with "Bring Tha Noise," "Don't Believe the Hype," "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," "Shut 'Em Down," "Rebel Without a Pause," among other long-established hits that date back the group's origins, when they were given the moniker the most dangerous band in the world.
Not enough? Public Enemy provided more fury with "Welcome to the Terrordome," "He Got Game," "Can't Truss It," "Fight the Power," "Do You Wanna Go My Way" "911 is a Joke" and "Show Em What You Got." It was almost an entire catalog of the band's greatest hits.
Miles Terracina: Texas’ answer to Broken Social Scene, Mother Falcon had an unflinching, moving performance. The Austin band comprised of several multi-instrumentalists, violins, cello, guitars, bass and drums surprised much of the daytime audience. The string and horn arrangements, the dynamics of the vocals, the suspense of unpredictability all carefully crafted in unison made for a unique and riveting performance.
Terracina: Should have been no surprise that the group who recently toured with Massive Attack, Young Fathers’, was going to be incredible. Young Fathers, the indie-R&B, electro trio from Scotland, brought a fourth musician to perform much of the accompanying music. They had a rig with electronic gear and a floor tom and dude in the back was pounding away on electronic drum pads. At one point, G Hastings' use of repetition really helped drive home the point that everyone around the world is an immigrant, "We are all immigrants," he said over and over pointing at himself and bandmates finally ending with “Fuck Donald Trump!” a sentiment echoed a few times throughout the weekend.
The crowd steadily grew but the dissolving transitions between songs may have kept the applauseon hold. During “Get Up” and “Shame,” which, live, are WAY better than the recordings. The studio version of “Shame” doesn’t pack the punch of how intense the three were on stage. After each song the cheers grew louder and louder and when their final song ended, the unsuspecting audience erupted into cheers. A concert goer nearby said, she had never heard of them before or their music and was completely blown away. I had been listening to their music for a while and was thoroughly impressed.
Aguilar: What was listed on the official Maverick Fest schedule to be SPZRKT (SpazzyRocket), a contemporary R&B artist, turned out to be a no-show and in his replacement, they gave the slot to Fat Tony, a rising hip-hop artist from Houston. As a religious listener and fan of SPZRKT, my disappointment for the last minute change-up dwindled as I realized Fat Tony served a perfect equivalent.
His not-your-typical-hip-hop sound was like water to my thirsty ears, as he performed his latest released set of songs from his Look EP. Fat Tony won me over as a fan with the performance of his song “Confessions,” one of the three songs off of his newest EP that is catchy as hell and mixed brilliantly with Usher’s “Confessions.” After winning the Houston Press Best Underground Hip-Hop Award three times already, this is one artist who honestly deserved to be a part of the official line-up rather than an artist’s replacement. Listen to “Confessions” and all the songs off Fat Tony’s Look EP plus more by checking out his Soundcloud.
Bunting: "It takes a Villita to throw a party" hung right above the Shiner main stage against the beautiful backdrop of the Tower of Americas this past weekend at Maverick Music Festival. The look of rain loomed over the event Saturday but that didn't dampen the spirits of thousands of people who showed up. The Hawks of Holy Rosary broke their year hiatus as they had people dancing and laughing like crazy during their set at the Arneson Stage. Though one could barely see the Octopus Project with the way the lighting was set up on stage, they sounded amazing. But I don't think anything could ever top the Flaming Lips closing out the night. If anyone know how's to party it's Wayne Coyne with his outrageous amounts of confetti, creatures dreamed up out of acid trips, giant FUCK YEAH SAN ANTONIO balloon and of course, the most moving tribute to David Bowie by performing "Space Oddity" in a giant bubble while walking on a crowd.
Ortiz: Let's face it: The Flaming Lips, performing live, is a show not to be missed. It's more of an odyssey. Frontman Wayne Coyne did his best to rouse the crowd frequently, both with verbal cues and of course his antics and visuals, complete with colorful streaking lights, large balloons, showers of confetti, giant inflatable caterpillars, and dancers clad as giant mushrooms, the sun and a rainbow.
It's all par for the course. The band's music, though, can be appreciated in privacy as well as live. Coyne and his crew belted out many of their hits, such as "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," 'Fight Test," "The W.A.N.D." and "Do You Realize."
Perhaps most memorably, Coyne slipped into a giant inflatable ball and traversed atop the crowd while giving tribute to David Bowie with a stirring cover of "Space Oddity." The Oklahoma psych rock band has been around since the early 1990s and it is their fun-loving zaniness - and the inability to pigeon-hole their music - that helps to maintain the Flaming Lips' edge.
Terracina: I was sitting in the Shiner Biergarten listening to Chulita Vinyl Club spinning classics and standards when I noticed the atmosphere at La Villita felt like the carefree BBQs of growing up in San Antonio. Diego Bernal, Ernest Gonzales were hanging out meeting and talking with people after their duo DJ-set. The pit smoke, the tunes, tourists navigating the houses, groups of friends, little kids dancing and people playing bag toss- it was the authentic, real side of a city whose most prominent event is "Fiesta". We were working yes, but I had a great time seeing friends and working with my teammates, it was an incredible couple of days for me personally. Way to go San Antonio, you're all right.