Music festivals usually end up being something less than the sum of their parts. Whether it be a hot summer day in a park or a week long event spread across multiple venues throughout a city, the anticipation and planning is usually a lot more fun than the reality — a reality that consists of short sets, less than ideal sound, standing in lines, and hard decisions about what acts need to be skipped in order to get a good spot for acts that overlap a personalized schedule. If you’re just looking for an excuse to get out among the crowd, then these festivals are a great time, but if you are serious about seeing live music, then you are more than likely going to be disappointed. Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest is the exception that proves this rule.
As the line-up trickles out via ridiculous youtube videos every year, I am never more than a little excited about more than a handful of acts, yet the first weekend in November has proved to be a highlight of my live music experience for the past four years. Fun Fun Fun Fest is the only festival that proves to be more than the sum of its parts. By booking relatively obscure acts, treating them right, and providing more than adequate space and facilities, the independent Fun Fun Fun could almost be considered an “anti-festival”.
After booking Slayer as their first “major” act last year, 2012 was somewhat of a defining point for FFF. The people behind the scenes could try to top that epic close (and risk becoming something ‘bigger’ but not necessarily ‘better’), or they could bring things back to basics with leather-and-lipstick clad Norwegian deathpunks, complete with a new “biker bear” of a frontman and “chapters” of fans from all over the country — yeah, I’d say booking Turbonegro to close things out was a statement that FFF is not going to be the next Coachella any time soon!
Of course, Turbonegro were not the largest draw of the weekend. Edward Sharpe, Explosions in the Sky, De La Soul, Girl Talk and The Head and the Heart were all crowd favorites on the Orange Stage, but for my money, this year was all about Black and Blue — the Heavy, the Hardcore and the Hip-Hop. In fact, the only acts I saw at the prominent Orange location were Run–D.M.C., Santigold and Sharon Van Etten (two of which were technically ‘Blue’ acts anyway). 90% of my time was spent at Black, where personal highlights included Refused, Cult of Youth, Lagwagon, Fucked Up, Kvelertak, Converge, Napalm Death, Between the Buried and Me, La Dispute and Japandroids.
Like most people, my Friday was all about seeing Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels. Along with Jam Master Jay’s sons, Run-D.M.C. brought their original hip-hop all the way from 1980’s Hollis, Queens to modern-day Austin, Texas — immediately inciting ‘hands-in-the-air’ from Adidas-wearing fans young and old. The emcees were guilty of rapping over their own (much younger) voices on some tracks, the DJ set was a little long, and the ending of the set was a little anticlimactic, but witnessing the legendary duo perform classics such as “It’s Tricky”, “It’s Like That”, “Run’s House”, “Peter Piper” and “My Adidas”, was nothing less than epic.
The weather was much warmer this year than year’s past, so after a full day of high-80’s, sparse shade and nothing but Tecate and Heineken to cool the savage beast, we decided to show up a little later on Saturday. We ate some dust and watched OFF! kick some hardcore ass between Keith Morris’ political rants…we were reminded that Seaweed were a pretty good band…we enjoyed the dance stylings of Franki Chan before the vocal stylings of Danny Brown (bitch!). We rocked out with our cocks out in outerspace during a headline-worthy hometown show from The Sword and we finally found out what this hyped Refused reunion was all about. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Refused before the reissue of The Shape of Punk to Come a couple years back, but I am now a true believer! In between their absolutely essential (post?) hardcore attacks, Dennis Lyxzén told stories about how the Swedes struggled back in the day, and how much fun being back together has been. It sucks that they are about to hang it up again, but I count myself lucky to have been there this time around.
Sunday Funday was a Roughday. As if 2 days and 3 nites of partying weren’t enough, turning the clocks back the night before allowed for an unnecessary extra hour of drinking. But that didn’t stop me from getting out there in the thick of it all for one last day at the Black Stage. A great run in the blinding sun included Pallbearer, Cult of Youth (performing to a criminally small crowd), Liturgy (with a gaping hole where Greg Fox used to be) and La Dispute. Japandroids drew one of the largest crowds I had seen all weekend before Between the Buried and Me brought their progressive metalcore to the masses. But it was Lagwagon’s 90’s skatepunk that made my night. Having been a huge fan since my teenage years in Southern California, it was so much fun to hear classics such as “Angry Days”, “Island of Shame” and “Mr. Coffee”.
Fucked Up followed Lagwagon with their usual fucked up performance. Damian Abraham was in the audience most of the time, as always, but this was the first time I kinda wished he wasn’t. This was the first time I’d seen them since David Comes to Life and I would have liked to have heard him actually sing (used loosely) those tracks from the stage. Although, it was pretty fun watching him stoke the crowd.
So overall, another successful ‘outsiders’ festival from the people at Fun Fun Fun Fest. Gotta give it to them for continuing to pull this off year after year. With that being said, I do have some constructive criticism…
First off, there needs to be a better choice of beverages. I cannot drink Tecate or Heineken all day. Those beers are awful! And switching to liquor too early is just too dangerous.
Second, the Yellow Stage should not have bands! Especially not great bands like Lucero, Titus Andronicus and …And You Will Know Us. The sound sucks in there!
Third, the Orange Stage needs to have better acts, or it needs to be moved to the corner. The largest headliners lately (Slayer, Run–D.M.C., etc.) don’t belong on Orange anyway.
Fourth, Nites were kinda weak this year.
Fifth, Turbonegro were interesting, but Sunday really ended with a whimper this year. Book something better for Sunday night next year.
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fun!