Love Street Music Fest 2019

Love Street Music festival is very much like your favorite neighbor’s annual block party. It’s a perfect, laid-back summer afternoon; puffy white clouds dot the endless blue skies. It’s just warm enough that you remember to slather on some sunscreen. You head down the block for the party; picnic blanket and snack cooler in one hand, pup’s leash in the other. Your favorite neighbor also happens to be your cool friend that knows all the cool people. They’ve invited some of your favorite bands to their block party. You show up to discover a nice little stage setup and get excited for the music. They greet you enthusiastically – it’s a warm welcome as you walk into their backyard picnic area. They’ve even thought to invite some tasty food trucks. And their artsy friends are there, too. They’ve set up little tables and tents to show off their talents and a few brought their new puppies, just in case you needed any more reason to go and chat with them (Spoiler: you don’t – their art is amazing). This block party friend also happens to be that cherished buddy who’s known for legendary batches of seasonal craft beer. They make sure you grab one from the cooler as soon as you walk in the door.

A tribute to Allen’s Landings’ Love Street of the 60’s; “Love Street was not only a place, but a state of mind. A place to unwind and let the music refresh your soul.” This year marks the third annual homage to Love Street with a weekend celebration of great music and even greater beer. It’s the pinnacle of several music-related events, concerts and showcases held every year at the Karbach brewery in Houston. Their invite aptly announces; “It’s going to be a great day for a little music to your beer!”

We settle at a picnic table in the sun as new friends arrive. A Karbach staffer across the yard hands out Love Street logo-emblazoned straw hats to anyone who might like a little extra shade. I grab one, since remembering to bring a hat is never my forte. The block party gets started.​ Kicking off the early afternoon is a set by Texican, the Tejano DJ sporting a Hella Chella michelada and a newbie-nervous air. It vanishes as he launches enthusiastically into his upbeat DJ set. He’s made friends with a bartender in each corner, who obliges his enthusiasm by ensuring his cup never runeth empty. A nice little crowd fills in. Moving to the main stage for set two, we catch Lovelytheband’s unforgettable flavor of indie pop. It’s an impressively large and energetic crowd for so early in the day. Scheduling genius, Team Karbach! I tear myself away to spend a few minutes perusing art tents, clothing and vendors. My absolute favorite is the pop art that took front and center in the main courtyard. I very nearly almost buy myself some nerd-tastic pop art Star Wars swag, because everyone needs more Star Wars pop art in their life. 

The block party is in full swing by the time we slip back over to Stage B. A quick detour to try the newest summer beer, Tasty Waves (holy sh*t, it’s good), and then sample the charming indie rock of Houston locals, VODI. By now the lawn is full; picnic blankets spread out with neighborhood friends enjoying burgers, tacos and shaved ice from the food trucks and a rainbow of incredible beer options. As VODI’s last song rings out, we join the pack of fans heading for the big stage. It’s time for the irrefutable kings of Texan grunge rock, The Toadies. A brief introduction and the joyous proclamation; “We’ve been trying to book these guys for five years. Finally, beers up, folks – here they are!”

A rowdy cheer rings out. Our boys hit the stage, welcomed by thousands of beers in the air. ​A predictably perfect set of their best hits. It’s no surprise to see everyone packed in front of the stage, grooving along with The Toadies. The rest of the grounds are devoid of attendees. We all love every minute of the set. Karbach did well to incorporate them on this lineup, very well indeed.

I take another quick break to sample the Cherry Limeade radler. An interesting one; sweet, but not overwhelming. Next up, Slenderbodies give us an alt/indie respite from the heat of Stage A as the sun begins to sink lower in the sky. It’s the perfect time to bask in the late afternoon sun on the lawn, making friends with fellow festival-goers and their many friendly canine friends. There are folks from all walks of life here; all ages, and even a number of people who came from out of town. But it’s the doggos that make the biggest impact, if I can be completely honest. I am absolutely that person that meets the dogs and forgets the owners’ names in minutes. By the end of the Slenderbodies set, I was comfortably set with a sweet Heeler friend resting his chin on my feet, a cool Hopadillo (not for you, doggo), and sharing the occasional bite of my Frito Pie with my new friend. He wasn’t complaining, and neither was I.

It was heartbreak to get up, but it was time for Bishop Briggs on the main stage. And what sensible person would be late for Miss Briggs? We’d seen her just two months prior at SXSW in Austin and it was an incredible show. I’m still pinching myself over the chance to attend her private acoustic set. On the bigger stage at Karbach, Bishop’s energy is somehow impossibly magnified. She danced, sprinted, jumped from stage right to stage left. And she didn’t miss a beat, managing, on top of it, impressively and powerfully perfect vocals. The audience is both mesmerized and energized as she charges through a set with perfect pitch and her characteristic humbly-bubbly, larger-than-life charisma. She is an incredible artist. Once again; well done, Karbach!

The band Wrestlers provided us with one final small-stage evening break before our big headliners, during which many folk headed for the busy food truck area. It got crazy back there and I heard of long waits for food. But we were lucky, since we’d ravaged the food truck offerings early in the day (admittedly, my inner fat kid was impatient to check out the cuisine). By sunset, we are all back in the main stage area. I’m armed with a tasty Love Street brew in hand, waiting enthusiastically for our colorful headliners.

Arguably a bigger band than this stage had ever seen before, the crowd loses their minds with the arrival of Walk the Moon. Striped white face paint in place and signature dance moves aplenty, they hit us with hit after hit. The crowd cannot stand still. The dancing is copious – from seniors to teens. Walk the Moon’s only crime is to pump out the catchiest, most ridiculously upbeat rock. They mercilessly inflicted it upon us, without respite, for a gleefully perfect hour-and-a-half evening set. With a perfectly setting sun behind the main stage, the stage lights take over to illuminate the last few songs of an incredible set. 

Karbach has outdone themselves in 2019. For anyone who’d attended the previous year, you’d eagerly attest to a vastly improved weather situation. Hurricane-strength thunderstorms, sheltering under stages ankle-deep in water will make you appreciate nice festival weather when you see it. The afternoon gifted us with puffy clouds, scenic sunsets, and a slight breeze just when it started to warm a little too much.

I heard a few complain about the heat and a humidity… to which my only possible reply is: “Really? Did you not notice we’re in Houston?” It was truly flawless. The staff and bartenders were friendly and chatty. It was an even bigger surprise to be handed a bottle of water by a passing staffer, manning a wagon full of complimentary ice cold waters. A nice touch that certainly didn’t go unnoticed. What an incredible day.

Karbach is clearly the craft-beer cool kid on the block; their annual Love Street blowout has become Houston’s new can’t-miss block party. 2019’s event proves their prowess in the summer festival realm. It’s a laid-back afternoon in the sun with a few thousand awesome friends, great music and your favorite cold beer to wash it down. 

Des Rocs: modern rock's unassuming revolutionary

Story & Photography by Kail Rose

We recently sat down with Des Rocs at the House of Blues in Dallas during his supporting leg of The Struts’ Young and Dangerous tour. In an endearingly perfect New York accent, he shares with us his passion for unbridled rock music. “My goal is to ignite an unapologetic rock revolution in the world. I want to spread rock n roll that’s worth listening to.”

I first caught wind of his act coming highly recommended by a respected fellow music photographer. Soon after, I was delighted to discover Des Rocs would be opening for Grandson on his No Apologies tour, which I was scheduled to cover in April. The set was everything I’d hoped for and more. It was joyfully wild, eccentric and sweaty, something akin to a young Elvis Presley performing an electrifying Arctic Monkeys set. I couldn’t wait to share. Of the tour, he recounts; “It was an electric tour, very politically charged and darkly emotional. For six weeks we were on a tour bus going to sold out show after sold out show – all 22 of them.” I came away with similar sentiments, and yet his set managed to set the Des Rocs name upon a towering new precipice; getting more notice than I think even ​he realized. I emailed him the very same night, asking when we could interview. I lucked out, learning of his Dallas set the very next month.

He’s been recently and repeatedly named as one of the rock genre’s young revolutionaries. Ones To Watch attributed a genre overhaul and a rock music renaissance to a select few artists, with Des Rocs at the top of that short list. It’s my most pressing question. “It’s definitely time for it. Rock is the worst genre of music, and for a reason.” He asserts, “All of the innovation and experimentation is being done in pop and urban – artists taking chances, which is paying off. People are moved by that experiment. But your regular run-of-the-mill alt rock band today sounds the same as they did in 2007.” He goes on to describe your average four white dudes in front of a cinder block wall, clad in skinny jeans and a white tee… and I can’t help but agree. It’s become a pretty predictable genre. Blandness is not befitting to any genre – but the solution, a-la Des Rocs – is greater experimental culture in modern rock. “​I’m going to push rock into a weird twenty-first century place, drag it kicking and screaming if I have to,” he says.

Since no artist can find their place without the influence of those before them, I ask about his own musical upbringing. He talks of Elvis, Talking Heads, Queen, Roy Orbison, “a lot of blues, pop and rock.” Influences which do, indeed, come through in an average Des Rocs track. None of which are even close to average at all, really. It’s a delicious blend. Big rock with massive energy, it pull so many delightful tidbits from others; a bit of fuzzy guitar here, a confident coo, followed by a soul-shattering riff and a high-flying leap from the kickdrum. It’s wrapped with his own signature brand of energetic confidence and one hell of a howl. Quoting so many varied influences, I have ask about genre authenticity. Is it important to find a sound and stay true to it? “Culturally, (authenticity) is relevant… tradition is important.” He replies. But we get the feeling that Des Rocs isn’t really about staying true to a single tradition, rather the opposite.

It’s a recurring theme in this conversation. To what degree is the image as a trailblazer, revolutionary, unapologetic artist important to Des Rocs? He pauses. “I… I don’t really care.” Emphatically, another pause. “I just put out the music; if you like it, you like it, and if not… then great. I’ll just make these records in my bedroom.” He grins, his passionate New Yorker accent so potent. It’s clear I’m speaking with an artist who so clearly loves his craft and just won’t apologize for creating a sound that speaks to him.

I ask what his songwriting process is like. “It’s everything and anything. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a full song written in my head… I voice note it out, piece by piece. Somewhere in my phone is Let Me Live Let Me Die the first time it came to me.” A pause, and he continues after hesitating; “It’s really sporadic. Basically, my process is me trying to figure out my process.” 

Which really, very honestly, is an excellent answer. Those artists who’ve found a prescribed sound and stick to a narrow vision really don’t help themselves, least of not in their live performance. And failing to stick to the prescribed is an area in which Des Rocs excels spectacularly. “You have to musically convey the energy without the fine-tuning and precision of a produced sound. The “so-and-so-bands” (name removed) of the world are lacking a sense of drama and tragedy.” He pauses, almost to catch up to his thoughts; “you have to be a fucked up individual to put on a live show that really moves people. There has to be a dark spot in your soul. Stuff today tends to be very sterile.” 

He goes on to suppose, with another slight pause; “I think some of the best live stuff comes from twisted souls sitting in a basement in Ohio, who maybe don’t have a great recording but their performance is magic. We need to give those people a chance. Where else are we going to get the next Elvis or the next Prince?” From here, I point out that perhaps we’re looking at him. A notion met with a hopeful shrug and a smile.

Check out Des Rocs’ music on Spotify, and his tour schedule here. He’ll play live at KAABOO Del Mar on September 13-15 and Lollapalooza August 1-4 (specific schedules TBD).​

KAABOO Texas 2019

2019’s inaugural festival held at AT&T Stadium May 10-12 brings the KAABOO brand to a new market.

This past weekend, KAABOO hosted their inaugural Texas festival at AT&T stadium in Arlington. True to form, they brought incredible music, beautiful art, great food, hilarious comedy and an upscale luxury festival experience with some definite highlights to write home about. It was a great weekend. But the gargantuan venue and expansive footprint presented challenges, along with less-than-ideal weather and a definite ‘new kid on the block’ feel. But KAABOO held their own.

Sticking to their vibrant, highly-amenitized brand, KAABOO transformed AT&T stadium into festival central with outdoor Maverick and Pegasus stages set in the parking lots on opposite ends and the towering Metroplex stage inside the stadium. The stadium venue itself was as expected; known for astronomical capacity and a “no expense spared” design, it was huge but it was comfortable. Strategically placed throughout indoor and outdoor areas were food and beverage vendors, comfortable seating and bar tables, art galleries and art installations, the Humor Me comedy stage, the Palate stage, a number of unique Sponsor booths bordering on experiential (Ford indoor arcade? Don’t mind if I do…) and Bask, a central walled-off Vegas-esque dayclub pool area with guest DJs, requiring a separate wristband to enter.

It was clear that this festival footprint was designed with great numbers in mind – numbers that the inaugural event just didn’t quite pull. The expansive footprint may have been a double-edged sword, as it proved quite a hike between the Pegasus and Maverick stages. With tight scheduling between stacked sets, many people just didn’t make it to the far reaches of the festival grounds. The Maverick stage was grossly under-attended all weekend regardless of hosting huge acts such as Joan Jett, The Avett Brothers and the B-52s.

Some commented that Bask was disconnected from the rest of the venue; people didn’t really understand that separate passes were required, and perhaps didn’t see the value. Throughout the weekend, it remained mostly empty and few attended the sets on the Rowdy stage. The attempt to bring upscale Vegas-esque pool clubbing to AT&T stadium seemed lost on a Dallas crowd, or perhaps there were too many other things to see and do.

Humor Me, the comedy tent, was a little more central but with a line for entry attendees expressed frustration at the need to forego seeing their favorite bands in order to wait in line. It was a nice addition, though; featuring comedians such as Garfunkel and Oates, Nate Bargatze, Whitney Cummings, Demetri Martin and a surprise appearance by Bob Saget. It was well-attended and was the only facet of the many offerings at KAABOO that reached capacity during the three days.

This setup might have worked well for an attendance of 80,000, but for the inaugural event it felt a little empty. Images on social media made the festival look like a ghost town. In light of the 100,000-person capacity of the stadium alone, I’d like to think it was more about an excess of available space. Which, in all honesty, I’m not terribly upset about. It was amazing to have some breathing room away from crushing crowds and comfortable places to sit and relax. A blessing in disguise, perhaps?

As a whole, KAABOO is designed for an older demographic. The thirties-to-sixties crowd were predominant. To a veteran of the festival scene (and in light of the challenges of your average rowdy young festival demographic), this was perfectly refreshing and in many ways humorously appealing. Dallas Observer’s Jeff Strowe put it best: “You couldn’t turn around without running into a middle-aged man waxing poetically to his nonplussed about his knowledge and love of a particular band.” Fellow festival-goers were jolly, laid-back and convivial; appreciative of the scene, partaking heartily in the ‘luxury’ aspects of KAABOO’s offerings. No jostling, crushing crowd moments and rarely a rowdy drunk (they were all more of the cheerfully mellow, swaying-in-the-back variety), nay a crowd surfer in sight. Besides, any attempt at inebriation would really only be possible if you’d stashed several hundred dollars in the booze fund. The cheapest of cheap beers rang in at $11 a piece and I found myself paying an astonishing $28 for an end-of-night-three celebratory double vodka tonic.

Where KAABOO succeeded astronomically?   The music.

Drawing a pleasant variety of old and new rock, hip hop, alternative, indie, R&B, country, blues, folk and pop names, the lineup strategically targeted key demographics in the greater Dallas area. Headliners Sting and Kid Rock, along with throwback stars like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rick Springfield, Lionel Richie, and B-52’s drew crowds of a less youthful and more affluent generation. It was a smart move on KAABOO’s behalf. Instead of competing in the existing hyper-saturated Travis Scott- or Post Malone-headlined festival market (attended by every college kid and their bestie), they set themselves aside with something specifically targeted elsewhere. A wise choice. Granted, I was surprised at how many 30-somethings we found thoroughly immersed in Lionel Richie and Joan Jett’s respective sets, myself included. Truth be told, Rick Springfield’s showmanship, swagger and ridiculous rose-shredding guitar moves won out over the performances of some of the younger groups. I may be prematurely aging myself in that statement.

Friday pulled an impressive crowd, given the weather. Early sets included the sultry, bluesy, grungy southern rock of Larkin Poe and upbeat, enamoring and steadfast rockers Blue October. Both attracted a sizable crowd for a cool and slightly drizzly Friday afternoon. Crowds grew for the hit-laden sets of Ludacris and the grungy indulgence of Bush on the Metroplex stage. Ms Lauryn Hill stepped foot on to the Pegasus stage after her customary 30+ minute delay, while rain held off for the most part; and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts took over the Maverick stage at the far end of KAABOO grounds. Everyone uttered comments of adoration, admiration and surprise as a heavily pregnant Alanis Morisette staged a gritty and powerful grandiose indoor set. This might have been my personal favorite of the weekend. Even early in the weekend, it was a spectacular lineup, consistently featuring big names. An impressive crowd had convened by the time Lionel Richie stepped his seasoned self upon the Pegasus stage to entertain us with a classic selection of hits. With a minor slip and fall in the drizzle, the crowd gasped, until Lionel bounced right back up with an affable grin announcing; “well I was just telling my crew backstage that I’ve never fallen on stage before.” (Hope you’re okay, Lionel). We wrapped the evening with a predictably spectacular set courtesy of The Killers, who even took a Dave Grohl moment to invite a lucky audience member up on stage to play drums. Admirably well, I might add. It was impossible to be unhappy with Friday’s music.

Saturday’s lineup pulled just as many big names and again, a sizable crowd given the cool overcast weather. We spent some time early on meandering through food and beverage offerings; banana pudding ice cream chocolate-dipped waffle cones, texan tacos and fried green tomato BLTs. I enjoyed a half glass of wine from one of the many upscale offerings, which was a refreshing change from the regular dismal festival wine offerings. We took a sneak peek of the comedy before returning to the Pegasus stage for a set by legendary rockers Garbage. KAABOO kept the ball rolling with superstar Rick Springfield shredding roses on his guitar, followed by Flo Rida showering the Pegasus stage crowd with champagne during Right Round. Again, almost too much to take in; Lukas Nelson, Violent Femmes, and Black Eyed Peas performed before Lynyrd Skynryd set the stage with the latest iteration of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Farewell Tour performance. While I’m not a huge fan, Kid Rock put on an energetic headlining set and certainly made an impact. Drawing his own posse of fans and appealing to a unique demographic that evening, he was a wise addition to the lineup. It became a sport to spot many a Kid Rock devotee decked out in MAGA-nificently profane Kid Rock tour swag, a beer in both hands and an overwhelm of rowdy enthusiasm, people scattering to get out of the line of fire. 

Sunday saw warm sunny weather, the stadium rooftop open, and an enthusiastic crowd expanding into the sunny festival grounds. We started our day with a flawless and hearty warmup set by Texan native Israel Nash, followed by the charm and lovable kitsch of The English Beat. Superstar Andy Grammer hit his stride on the sunny outdoor Pegasus stage to a surprisingly significant and energetic crowd for so early in the day. We dashed inside to catch the soulfully outrageous psychedelic gospel of St Paul and the Broken Bones before a moment of chart-topping hit after hit with Pitbull. Counting Crows drew a crowd with a slew of 90’s hits indoors, but we didn’t stay because we wanted to catch B-52’s outside on the far Maverick stage. Who played exuberantly, colorfully and slightly out of tune; but still enormously entertaining with their cult-classic party tunes. Little Big Town stole the evening in flawless harmony on the oversized Pegasus stage to a packed crowd. And finally, it was time for our headliner Sting to woo everybody and their mother with hit after hit from his own catalog and that of The Police. 

I’m the first to admit I may be biased after previous incredible KAABOO experiences. February’s Cayman Island festival was probably one of the best I’ve attended. Despite some mixed sentiments from others, the inaugural KAABOO Texas was a resounding success – particularly given the challenges of establishing a unique festival concept in a previously under-served region. Crummy weather on day one and two didn’t help. There’s definitely something to be said for a setup with space, comfortable amenities and luxury beyond your typical cheap wine, lukewarm pizza and a picnic blanket in the grass.

Where they advertised “KAABOO is everything a typical music festival is not,” they were not wrong. I’ve not seen anything like it. When they claim to host an “entertainment and arts experience designed around comfort, hospitality and good times,” they certainly delivered. With a promise of “every detail designed for your enjoyment and clean, comfortable amenities (that) inspire you to break from your busy life, let loose and enjoy the experience”??  They did an excellent job: Mission Accomplished. Team dRiFFt looks forward to the 2020 iteration of KAABOO Texas, and in the meantime we have KAABOO Del Mar to look forward to on September 13-15, featuring Kings of Leon, Dave Matthews, Mumford & Sons and Duran Duran.