Houston’s Buzzfest returned to The Woodlands Pavilion this past weekend with a lineup mixed with a modest combination of newcomers and old Buzz favorites Korn, Evanescence, and Houston’s own Blue October. Despite initial complaints of the new direction the Buzz chose to go for Buzzfest 28 the sold out crowd proved to love every minute of it. Following past years of blistering heat and torrential rain this spring’s festival finally returned on a beautifully warm sunny day.
Upcoming rockers Aranda opened the side stage early on in the day, greeted by loyal fans and listeners that were able to force themselves out of bed early for the set. They made the most of their short twenty minute slot, powering through an energetic performance of hits from their debut album, Stop the World. The pavilion began to fill up just in time for The Features to open the main stage at their first ever Buzzfest. The small crowd did nothing to discourage them on their only festival stop on their cross country headlining tour.
Just before 2pm, the side stage woke up as HURT took the stage, opening with 10 Ton Brick before treating fans with tracks off of their upcoming May 1st release, The Crux. Front man J. Loren gave it his all, jumping into the crowd to warm them up for the long day ahead of them, occasionally taking breaks to rock out on his violin, a unique and impressive addition to Hurt’s live show. This round of festivals is the bands first tour since leaving major label Capitol Records. They showed everyone that they don’t need the majors to make it big. Their talent and dedication is going to take them far, and they are definitely a band to look out for.
Within seconds of Hurt’s set coming to a close the main stage lit up for Foxy Shazam as fans sprinted around the pavilion. They entertained the crowd with crazy antics, bouncing around the stage constantly for the entire thirty minutes. Putting their performance into words cannot do these guys justice. Between various band members climbing every surface in sight and impressive tosses of trumpets and mic. stands, their live show is extremely entertaining.
Dead Sara were next up on the side stage, another Buzzfest newcomer. Lead singer Emily Armstrong’s powerful vocals were incredible, and the energy finally began to pick up. Crowd surfers began sailing across the crowd every so often, lifting the concert spirit. Continuing the long day of music on the main stage was New Orleans’ Mutemath. Their musical hometown had a clear influence on their music, accompanied by trumpet and a vast percussion section. Front man took every chance he could away from his piano to get closer to the audience. They played through a spotless 40 minute set, closing with their newest single, Allies.
English alternative group Band of Skulls were next on the side stage. The crowd surfers came steadily throughout the set, an awkward sight along with the mellow music. They had little stage presence, proving why very few trios have been able to survive in the rock world. Despite the lack of energy they sounded great, and provided everyone with a much needed break from the insanity. Things began to pick up when Cage the Elephant took the stage early in the evening. They bounced around the stage, eventually taking their energy to the crowd when singer Matthew Shultz jumped into the pit for a sing-along. They closed up their time with hit Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked, a great ending to a great set.
Next up on the side stage were Neon Trees, returning to The Woodlands for their third Buzzfest. Everyone sang along to singles Everybody Talks and Animal, drowning out the band at times. Dozens of crowd surfers made their way up to the barrier, receiving high gives from the band before getting sent away. A note to those that may be fooled by their pop radio sound: Neon Trees put on an incredible show. Their music is an entirely different entity live–loud, heavy, and exciting.
The main stage was finally packed full when locals Blue October were ready to start. They played through a mix of songs from their latest release as well as old favorites Hate Me and Into the Ocean. Vocalist Justin Ferstenfeld thanked his hometown fans, grateful to be back at his favorite venue. Fans sang long to each and every word, clearly disappointed when their fairly short time was done.
The Dirty Heads came to the side stage next, an unusual addition to the usually rock and metal lineup. Despite the change in style everyone jumped along with the music, shaking the ground with a crowd that stretched back as far as the main pavilion.
The sun began to set as eager fans raced to catch Evanescence, obvious favorites of the lineup. Amy Lee ran on stage in a colorful rainbow of feathers serving as a skirt to a roar from the crowd. Her powerful voice belted out tracks What You Want, Call Me When Your Sober, and finally Bring Me to Life. Their performance was flawless, setting a high standard for the two remaining bands that followed.
After years of opening both the main and second stag Evans Blue finally received a well deserved headlining spot on the second stage. The true rock of Buzzfest was back for the hour, much to fans enjoyment as they moshed along to their thundering set. No strangers to the Buzzfest stage, they had everyone moving and getting into the music, leaving everyone buzzing and bruised when they closed with Cold.
Questions of what to expect from headliners Korn this year dominated the Buzzfest talk this year. With their most recent release they went in an entirely new direction, collaborating with Skrillex and Datsik. They pleased old and new fans by splitting their set into their old nu-metal sound, finishing off with the unique dubstep and metal combination from the new album. They put on an amazing show, proving wrong anyone that doubted them. After last years disappointing headliners Limp Bizkit it was refreshing to see a band stick to their roots and grow at the same time. The pavilion remained full, a rare occurrence after a long day spent in the sun.
Overall Buzzfest was anything but a disappointment. The Buzz have hopefully taken note of requests for more rock and less alternative, although every band put on a great show.