Snapshot: Houston’s In Bloom Music Festival

Photographer David Brendan Hall heads to H-town in search of ... Austinites

How do you pick out a bunch of Austinites in a Houston crowd? Well, over the weekend at C3 Presents' inaugural In Bloom Music Festival – essentially a rebrand/reschedule of now-defunct Free Press Summer Fest, plagued in recent years by rain-related cancellations that became all too common in late May/early June – "Snapshot" did it by literally profiling people based on their ATX-centric shirts, hats, and backpacks ... with medium luck. 

  A few festgoers flagged down were legitimately from our mother city, though as usual, most were recent transplants and at least half lived in Austin previously, then resettled in H-town at some point over the past few years. And why should Austinites be so easy to spot? As "Snapshot" (re)discovered through conversations while photographing the fest, we're not so different – the kinship between the two cities' creative cultures runs deep, particularly among live music junkies willing to travel wherever they can get it.

"I'm a festival chaser, so if it's a couple hours away, I'm gonna go for it," says Devin Hennen, 26, of Austin. "I live in a city of music, so wherever it's happening nearby, I'll spend the money because ... FOMO."

Luke Vinson, 28, who moved to Austin a few weeks ago from Monterey, Calif., with girlfriend Julia Wolfson, 23, weighs in on In Bloom's worth: "There's something I noticed about Texas versus California. ... it doesn't have as many large music festivals year-round. There's always music in Austin, but no multi-day fests for a while after SXSW, so this was a good chance to catch a few artists we like and spend the weekend in a city we hadn't seen yet."

On why In Bloom might be ideal for those seeking a calmer alternative to ACL: "I feel like it's a lot less on steroids," says four-year Austinite Alyssa Cervantes. "ACL exploded – there are so many people, you can't get around easily, and here is the same kind of vibe because C3 also runs it, but you can get around easily and breathe and actually lay out a blanket without stepping on people."

Kristin Vrana, a six-year Austinite and avid concertgoer, insists she'll attend ACL every year regardless, but went to In Bloom for "a less-repeated lineup, lighter crowds, and good weather." (Pictured: Austin's Explosions in the Sky perform Sunday night to a relatively tame crowd in sublime 60-degree, low humidity weather.) "I decided to make the trip," she says, "out of hope that it would feel similarly to Fun Fun Fun Fest [and] it totally delivered."

Rising San Diego rock band the Frights (left) perform Saturday – the sort of "discovery act" that might inspire an intercity commute: "The drive is totally worth it to find more bands because, I think, a lot of them going to Austin are maybe ... a little too obvious for Austinites," suggests former (five-year) Austin resident Emmanuel Nunez.

"It's fun to compare what works here differently than would work in Austin," says In Bloom co-organizer/FPSF co-founder Jagi Katial. "Our friends used to do Fun Fun Fun Fest and I remember thinking, 'Man, I wish I could do a festival in Houston that had such-and-such headliner,' and, you know, it never would work, but I think that's also the same token here." Pictured: Sunday night's headlining set from Queens of the Stone Age, a band Katial mentions as in sync with H-town's naturally more rough – yet resilient – reputation.

Adds Katial: "If people from other parts of Texas come to Houston, one thing they're always going to leave with is how diverse of a city it is. So if you're asking why people from Austin might come, I think the bigger reason is that this is a great city to visit. Use the festival as an anchor, watch some shows, have a good time, but also eat some good food in Chinatown, go down to Montrose where there are some nice bars ... see the good culture down here that, I think, is unique to Houston."

See more photos from In Bloom on our photo galleries page. Want to pitch an event, happening, idea, or person for "Snapshot"? Email the author/photog:

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In Bloom Music Festival, In Bloom, Free Press Summer Fest, Devin Hennen, Luke Vinson, Julia Wolfson, the Frights, Emmanuel Nunez, Jagi Katial, Alyssa Cervantes, Kristin Vrana, Explosions in the Sky, Queens of the Stone Age, C3

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