Fun Fun Fun fest is the best festival in the country. It’s relatively small. It’s in Austin. It has everything.
It’s so nice to see the metalheads playing nice with the punks at the Black Stage. It’s great that you can walk right up to the Orange Stage for front-row viewing or chose to kick it on the lawn further back and enjoy from a distance. It’s amazing that you can see up-and-coming and even legendary electronic and hip-hop acts on the tiny Blue Stage. And if that’s not enough for you, head over to the Yellow Stage for variety acts from around the world. Mix that shit up with some beautiful weather, good grub and alcohol and you’ll know why it’s called Fun Fun Fun!
The diversity of the crowd always amazes me as well. Seeing the 16-year-old kid with the pink mohawk standing next to the 40-year-old hesher as they sway back and forth to the chillwave sounds of Toro Y Moi is as amazing as it is hilarious. Sure, there are those who stick to their one stage all day. I think this is most prevalent with the Black Stage, but I did see a real tall white boy that seemed to be in the front row at the Blue Stage the whole weekend. He also knew every word to every song…damn impressive!
For someone like me, this is a dream weekend. My taste in music varies quite a bit and somehow the promoters at Fun Fun Fun seem to cater to me alone. Last year they got me down to Austin for Gorilla Biscuits, Face to Face, Danzig and Lucero. Four of my favorite bands from the past and present. I seriously doubt those four bands would end up on any other list together! This year the same thing happened…Slick Rick, Suicidal Tendencies, Bad Religion and Descendents. Maybe not quite as diverse as last year’s list, this is still a dream line-up of bands I haven’t seen in 15 years (or ever!).
If you have been following along, you will know Saturday had some disappointing moments, but Sunday more than made up for them. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Sunday was probably my best day at a music festival, EVER! And that’s saying a lot since I was hungover until after 4pm from staying out until 4am the night before!
My day started out with Kylesa. If you don’t know this band, you need to check them out. Southern sludge in the style of Mastodon, with a female lead and synchronized drummers that will blow your mind! Even if you arn’t into metal, give this band a chance! It was a great way to kickstart the day!
From one extreme to another…I caught the last few chillwave tracks from Toro Y Moi. Pretty mellow stuff and not something you would expect to translate from a large stage on a sunny day, but it was just what the doctor order for my aching head. A cold beer, a Bratwurst and Chazwick Bundick‘s soothing, soft rock sounds had me feeling human again. Quite a crowd gathered for his set as well, which included a guitarist and drummer. Lots of dancing in the last rays of the sun.
After Toro Y Moi I did a little wandering, catching partial sets by Kaki King (amazing guitarist, but couldn’t hold my attention), Ringworm (loud and obnoxious, not really anything original) and Jean Grae (who was putting on a great hip-hop set, but the crowd was very dense). It wasn’t until I got back to the Orange Stage for that I found something to hold my interest. Cults. I have liked the few songs I have heard from this new indie pop band, but I wasn’t prepared for Madeline‘s range or beauty. She’s got the look, the style and the sound to go far. I’m expecting this band is going to blow up pretty quick and that Madeline Follin will be a household name by this time next year.
Not to take anything away from Madeline‘s counterpart (and maybe boyfriend), Brian Oblivion, or the rest of the band. They were all great as well. Unfortunately Brian‘s set was plagues with technical difficulties, causing him to abandon his guitar a couple songs in. Best Coast came to the rescue, but Madeline was visibly distracted throughout this ordeal. For a brand new band that was booked at the last minute, these young musicians manged to put on an amazing set despite their equipment issues.
Turns out it was Madeline‘s 22nd birthday, so Bethany from Best Coast came out to lead a sing-along of Happy Birthday.
Best Coast have three members in the band. A drummer named Ali, a bassist named Bobb and a singer-songwriter named Bethany. There are times when I think Bethany is actually more well-known than her band. It seems she came outta nowhere and is now everywhere. Websites, magazines, interviews, parties, lending her guitar and singing Happy Birthday to Cults members and now there she is, on stage, smoking a joint and strutting around like she’s a well established rock star! She’s got her little plastic sunglasses on, she’s got her guitar and she’s cooler than all of you! No seriously, she is. Somehow this little thing who writes fuzzy, California beach pop wears her cockiness well. And damn if her band doesn’t kick-ass, even if Bobb, who was wearing a Godflesh shirt, would rather be playing for Mastodon instead of this ‘girly band‘!
Great set, highly recommend, but still a little partial to Cults. But that’s probably because of my crush on Madeline.
What is it with hip-hop acts and being late? Every festival I go to, it’s always the hip-hop acts holding everything up. Most of them don’t even have instruments! But then again, most of them are so high it’s hard to keep track of time.
It wasn’t P.O.S.‘s fault he was late, it was just a domino affect on the Blue Stage throughout the day. In fact, he tried to get things going before they were even ready. He was losing patience quicker than the crowd. But it took his Marijuana Deathsquad a little bit to get going and I could only stay for a few songs because I seriously had to piss and wasn’t going to hike all the back . The hip-hop/punk rock that I did catch was just a good as I remember it being when I saw him with part of the Doomtree crew earlier in the year. Those that stuck around were treated to a crazy energetic set from one of the best rappers out there right now.
Since I was already over at the bathrooms by the Black Stage, I decided to check out Snapcase. This hardcore band from New York never made it’s way to California, or if it did, I missed it somehow. Seems like a band I would have been into. They broke up in 2005 and reunited this year. I’m not sure if this was their first show or anything, but it great. Usually I can’t get into a band when I don’t know the material, especially hardcore, but I got sucked into this and it was a welcome surprise!
Fun Fun Fun 2009 made me a believer in Bradford Cox. For some reason I could never get into Deerhunter, no matter how hard I tired. But being front row for his daytime set as Atlas Sound changed everything. He was funny, he was personable and he was damn talented. Get Bradford out of the basement and he fuckin’ jams! Earlier this year I caught Deerhunter open for (and completely outperform) Spoon and once again, he made me a believer. I still don’t put on Deerhunter albums on a regular basis, but as he proved again Sunday night, Bradford Cox is an artist to see live!
I’D LOVE YOU TELL YOU ABOUT HIGH ON FIRE…BUT I CAN’T FUCKING HEAR ANYTHING!
Holy shit, these guys are loud! I’ve seen High On Fire before, but I forgot the beating they will give you! I got back over to the Black Stage in time for my favorite track from the new album, Bastard Samurai, after which Matt Pike assured us that they are just ‘normal dudes up here, we want to hang…it’s just hard to hang like dudes when there’s so many of you’. Typical stoner talk from the masters of stoner metal. I like High on Fire and was glad I caught the set, but I watched most of it from the side where I was holding my spot for Suicidal and standing way too close to the speaker! My poor, poor ears! By the time they were done people were screaming at each other because no one could hear.
I had an argument before Suicidal Tendencies. It was an argument between my 16-year-old and my 33-year-old selves. The teenage me wanted to stay up front, in the pit for Suicidal Tendencies; the 33-year-old me wanted to hang toward the back, catch some of the set and then head over to The Hold Steady. The teenager won…for a while.
The last time I saw Suicidal was many, many years ago and I had no preconceived ideas that this would be the same band. I knew Mike Muir wasn’t a kid anymore, I knew he had gained a lot of weight and I knew Mike Clark was the only other member of the band still around from the 80’s…but I also knew it would be fun. I knew they would have the Suicidal gear on, I knew they would do the old songs, and even if they couldn’t perform them like they did 20 years ago, the crowd would probably sing every word anyway. Seeing a band like Suicidal is to revisit a time and a place, not to see quality music. And that’s exactly what it was and it was AWESOME! Institutionalized, Subliminal and Join The Army were highlights. Hundreds of people screaming ‘all I wanted was a Pepsi!‘ made it worth the trip!
The band was much more funky than I remember ST being; it almost seemed like a mixture of ST and Infectious Grooves, but I think they went that direction after I stopped listening. The show was fun, the pit was insane and Mike looked like he was having a good time up there. After the drum solo, I decided it was time to take a trip back to reality. I am 33, I don’t belong in the pit, and I actually don’t like this music all that much anymore. With a certain reluctantness, I started my journey back to the grown-up stage and The Hold Steady.
‘when the kids at the shows have kids of their own…you gotta stay positive’ Yup, this is where I belong. The Hold Steady speak to me in 2010 like Suicidal Tendencies did in 1990. This would be my 9th time seeing Craig Finn and the crew and it was not disappointing. The energy level was so high, because they were opening for the Descendents, a band Craig ‘saw on 1st Avenue in Minneapolis for their last show, all those years ago…and now we’re opening for them…thanks Fun Fun Fun for making punk rock dreams come true!’ Craig is an excitable guy, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look more like a little kid excited for Christmas morning!
And then came the moment we had all been waiting for ever since we saw the above graphic posted on Facebook. Descendents in 2010! I probably listened to Descendents in the early 90’s more than every other band combined, but I never got to see them live. I missed the short-lived reunion in the mid-90’s and had no clue they were even a band anymore. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned they would be taking the stage for the first time in 10 years in place of Devo, who had to pull out at the last minute.
Once again, I expected a bunch of older guys, going through the motions and heavily relying on the crowd to get them through these silly punk songs. Holy crap was I wrong! The band on that stage might have a lot of grey hair but damn if they couldn’t play! They kicked things off with their theme song, Descendents, before busting through an hour’s worth of material spanning their whole career. A whole hour! That’s longer than any punk show lasted back in the day and an hour allowed for no less than 27 songs!
For a band that hasn’t performed in 10 years, who’s lead singer is a biochemist and who was called in at the very last minute, this was incredible! If you closed your eyes, you’d swear is was 1985 and those were kids up there singing ‘I don’t wanna grow up!’ Descendents have grown older, but last night proved they haven’t grown up! Sure, they stayed away from the fart jokes and Milo decided against the homophobic references in I’m Not A Loser, but other than those slight changes, this was the Descendents I remember even though I was too young to see them.
Highlights for me included Hope, Sour Grapes, Cheer, Suburban Home, the Weinerschnitzel/No All! conversation around a Chipotle burrito and I’m Not A Loser (still stuck in my head!).
The encore started out with their magnum opus, the 1-word All!, before covering Uncontrollable Urge as a tribute to Devo (c’mon, Devo is a cool band). Milo thanked the crowd and confessed ‘I’m relieved I can still do this’ before driving the crowd into a frenzy with Bikeage! This song that I have seen performed live by no less than 4 bands…but never by the Descendents themselves! Thank you Milo! Thank you Bill, Karl and Stephen. And thank you Fun Fun Fun, you really do make punk rock dreams come true