November 4-6 2011
Auditorium Shores, Austin TX
In its sixth installment, Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest moved from Waterloo Park to the much larger Auditorium Shores. In the middle of jogging trails and downtown traffic, four stages found a home for the weekend.
The independent fest is known for blurring genre lines, and bringing together a collection of underground, and progressive music artists, along with comedy acts. Generally, the Orange stage offers more mainstream, indie and alternative artists. The blue stage offers hip hop. The black stage is for metal, hardcore and punk. Yellow, meanwhile, is a dedicated comedy stage. Things were mixed up a bit more this year with the most anticipated headliner, Slayer, performing on the Orange stage. This was understandable, however, as that stage was the biggest.
Dust clinging to your eyeballs and finding its way up your nose isn’t normally something bared with ease. When the reward of the burden is a day full of continuous aural bliss, it becomes only a background annoyance. The Fun Fun Fun Fest’s Mad-Maxish leather & bandanas-murder-moto-mob fashion statement was strongest on Friday as the crush of local and visiting Austinites fought the elements in good spirits to catch their favorites. Crowd, artists, and actor Ryan Gosling alike braved all the gusts of choking wind for an all around fantastic opening night.
What better way to see a homegrown band than against the backdrop of the Austin skyline? Their set felt as small and intimate as watching them play a venue like the original Emo’s, despite the reality of the Orange Stage. Their brand of soulful indie folk sounded near perfect with frontman Will Sheff ending up in every corner of the stage, bursting with energy, aided by furious violin, and guitar.
Murder City Devils
This Seattle Garage Punk band really must be responsible for at least one of the Funs in ‘Fun Fun Fun.’ It’s hard to decide whether to throw back a cold one and mosh your heart out, or dance until you black out when experiencing their cathartically brutal style of rock n’ roll. Frontman Spencer Moody’s vocals are in a realm of their own. He can also fit an entire microphone head in his mouth, and keep singing like it’s no extraordinary thing at all. Talent.
The blue stage belonged to Naeem Juwan–aka Spank Rock–on Friday night. An outdoor stage didn’t stop the set from transporting everyone present to a tiny club with the bass turned way up. It’s a toss up between who had better moves: the crowd or the guys on stage. Big Freedia made a quick appearance and added some vocals to track “You Nasty.”
A frustrating set from Glenn Danzig and crew created a hinderence to what could have been a perfect end to Friday’s black stage lineup. Luckily, his antics also ended up being the best source of comic relief for the rest of the weekend. All someone had to do to get a laugh was mention french onion soup, his now most infamous request.
According to an official statement, Glenn had tried to pull out of performing all day, citing a cold as the problem. The crowd, unaware of Glenn’s antics, watched as tarp and heaters were set up on stage moments before showtime exclusively for Glenn. After more empty time, songs began to be crossed off the setlist before a single cup of tea was brought out on stage. After a 45 minute delay, Glenn and his band finally graced the stage with their presence. In regards to the performance itself, what was given can be considered lukewarm at best, and was more remiscent of seeing a Danzig cover band than the man himself. Regardless, the kids loved it, moshing and fistpumping along with their idol.
After finishing the Danzig portion of the set, Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein joined Glenn on stage to a roar of cheers and a recharged pit for the Misfits portion. This is what everyone had come out for. The bliss was short lived, as the power gets cut two songs in to adhere to the curfew. A furious Glenn then asked the crowd to riot in his honor despite his awareness of said curfew. Yes, that is really what he did. He said “apparantly, they’ve never heard of a riot before!” after pacing around stage and demanding that he be allowed to continue playing. There was no riot. Just a few tossed bottles and beers. One unfortunate roadie was the only recipient of a full cup of brew to the head. The crowd with dispersed in disappointment, and the show was over. On the plus side, it was blast watching The Damned, Slayer, Ted Leo & The Pharmicists, Black Lips, and countless others poke fun at him for the rest of the fest.
The Joy Formidable
Joy Formidable’s mix of indie, and anthemic, work well in a large stage setting. They drew a good sized crowd, and put on an energetic show. Quite a few people knew their lyrics, and singed along with Ritzy Bryan. The UK band paused a moment to joke about the heat, and then continued to play a steady finish to their set.
From sound to look to crowd fashion, this was one of the more unique acts present at FFF. Even the soundcheck proved worthwhile to see Merrill Garbus in war paint and neon feathers, throwing out shrieks on her mic. Something incredible about this act is that Garbus creates drum loops on the spot while performing live, mixing them with the her own version of afro-beat inspired music and vocals.
Ra Ra Riot
The set played by the Syracuse band mostly consisted of upbeat samplings of their discography, and the feel was somewhere between youthful pop and old world noise. The sounds that really stood out came from cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller, whose instrument was bedazzled. Both ladies provided an energetic, and dramatic response to the pop melodies.
Casually passing by the blue stage during Dan’s set would probably result in confusion. Dan played his set from the crowd, and couldn’t really be seen except by those on stage or the very tall. Heavy audience/artist interraction is the norm at his shows, and he paused the hyper-electronica often to ask for people to move back to give each other elbow room, as well for everyone to focus on the ‘not fucked up’ things on their life during his set. Stages are overrated.
The indie french band of artist Anthony Gonzalez drew a large crowd to the Orange stage. The music created an air of ethereal floating balance, with it’s sounscape ranging from low lying reverb effects, to high crashing synth loops. Although not guitar heavy, the visceral sound mirrors that of shoegaze quite closely, and it’s ability to be appreciated is spanned across a few genres.
Hip-hop legend Kool Keith of Ultramagnetic MCs and Dr. Octagon took the place of Rakim on the Blue stage after he cancelled due to a broken foot. Keith was originally hanging around for a FFF Nites set. After a short DJ set, he came out in shades and a sequined scarf over his head. His set included a few known hits and some freestyling as well. There was a modest turnout along with a few confused faces who hadn’t heard the news about the artist switch, but those present were into what they heard.
Lykke Li took the stage after Girls, and nipped in the bud the resounding theme for the Orange stage that day of indie pop with her dark, dreamy sound. Dressed in a flowing black dress with long draped sleeves, she had the smoke machines set to high and performed songs mostly off new album Wounded Rhymes while pounding out echoing thuds on drums. With dramatic arm gestures, of course.
Another homegrown band appropriately closed the Orange stage for Saturday. Pre-performance, a “friend of the band” came out on stage to inform everyone that the secret Spoon show the night before had not been up to standards because “the crowd sucked.” He then asked everyone to be lively and make the band feel better about the pitfalls of their last show. Why he felt this was an important public service announcement is unclear, considering what a large crowd had found itself excitedly waiting for the band to play. Regardless, the crowd delivered. There were several sing-alongs and “OMG this is my song!” exclamations. They played a solid set, including songs “Written in Reverse,” “I Turn My Camera On,” and “Sister Jack.” All in all, the crowd didn’t “suck,” and neither did Spoon.
If only Danzig had stuck around to take notes while British Punk band The Damned showed them how true rock legends command a stage and address their audience. Frontman Dave Vanian was dressed to impress with slicked hair, shades, and leather gloves to go with his polished duds. The band sounded amazing, and even the young ones in the crowd were pulled in for the set. The music was great, and the commentary was too, with Dave and Captain Sensible poking ruthless fun at the previous night’s Black stage headliner and his soup.
A soft rain added itself to the mix mid-afternoon on the fest’s last day, taming the dust swirls, and casting heavy low clouds across the sky, turning the skyline backdrop into a monotone spectrum of grey. Sunday was the the loudest day, with most of the festival’s brute force saved for last. Not even the orange stage would be safe today, with Slayer slated as the headliner. There was even a wedding, officiated by no other than Henry Rollins.
The sprinkle of rain didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of Budos Band as they set up gear, including a full bottle of Jameson in front of the drums. They started their set with an enthusiastic “fuck yeah,”and also threw up a couple sets of devil horns, just to keep the feel extra rock n’ roll. Not your typical instrumental band. Sometimes they sound like a bad trip from the ’60s, sometimes a questionable movie sountrack from the ’70s, and all that vintage sound is then melded with jazz, and afro-soul. Another one of the cooler, unique sounds present at Fun Fun Fun Fest.
The Black stage Sunday was a non-stop overspill of tumultuous, intense energy. Sludge Rockers Eyehategod kept the shredding levels exactly where they needed to be to keep the vibe going. It’s strange to witness a metal crowd in the daytime, even on an overcast day. A sea of black t-shirts, and tattooed fists. The movement is the oddest part, the churning of the moshpits, the crush of bodies against the rail. There couldn’t be a more perfect soundtrack to this odd dance of the metalheads, usually hidden away from the light, than Eyehategod. They simply get it right: flawless metal with a flow that is made for non-stop movement.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
It was no secret that Ted Leo was a bit put off by the Danzig antics. He peppered his set with constant jabs at the frontman, including statements like “I don’t have anyone to bring me French onion soup” when letting the crowd know that he was having vocal problems from the volatile dust. His voice still managed to stay right on key as he tore through his set, with the exceptions of a little coughing, and a few drink breaks.
About halfway through his time, he yelled “it’s cold in here!,” yet another jab, and ran behind the drums to change from a regular black t-shirt to a more punk rock appropriate cut-off. He then donned a black wig, and took on the identity of no other than Glenn Danzig himself as he exploded into Danzig cover songs. There must have been quite a few leftover Danzig fans because of how many voices chimed in to sing along with Ted-Glenn. He played his part well. A welcome surprise, and a proper vengeance for Friday night’s fiasco.
Insane is the appropriate terminology to describe Cannibal Corpse’s set. More appropriately set than earlier metal acts, the sky was black to match the souls of those in attendance, and the crowd seen from the stage seemed endless. It has become clear from finally having the opportunity to watch drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz at close range, that he cannot possibly be a mere mortal. The logical conclusion then, he is a cyborg drum machine. Lead man George dedicated “Fucked With a Knife” to the ladies present. Metal men can be so romantic sometimes.
Flower punks Black Lips never really put on a boring show, even if they try. They’re having way too much fun onstage. They presented their usual brand of antics. Ian St. Pe rocked firecrackers on his guitar, while Cole Alexander simply set his on fire, tossing it out after. The most beautiful part of their set came when Cole puked stage left (a pretty normal live Black Lips occurrence) with Ryan Gosling sitting on the floor only a few feet away. He seemed safe, but it was like that “kill something beautiful scene” in Fight Club.
Despite it all, the guys never missed a beat. They played some old favorites like “O Katrina,” and some new material off Arabia Mountain, including first single “Modern Art.” They made sure to let everyone know they worked with Mark Ronson, adding “yeah, he’s pretty fancy.” Reverb turned way up, jangly guitars, rough around the edges vocals from Jared Swilly, and flying hair drum work from Joe Bradly, who also impressively sounds great when doing vocals considering how fast his arms are flying. The Black Lips are the perfect package for a good time, and killer music.
What can really be said about Slayer live? Maybe “wow” or just a wide eyed stare. Once the metal gods start their non-stop assault from stage, it’s hard to walk away as they start to own your soul. The Orange stage up until Slayer’s take ver had mainly been ruled by hipster friendly bands, and it was visually very metal to see a sea of black take over the front end.
This isn’t to say only those considered to be more hardcore rockers were the only ones hanging around to witness greatness. The crowd size spanned both sides of the Orange stage, a first all weekend, and spilled as far back as one could see if near the front. From the back, also littered with small pod groups of observers, it was just a solid mass. The sight must have made the folks over at Transmission shed a few tears over how their baby Festival has now grown into a full grown monster. Pentagrams, blood, Satan, Satan, and more Satan. Slayer delivered on the ultimate end.