Fun Fun Fun Festival @ Austin, TX
Like a musical summit, thousands gathered at Auditorium Shores divided by taste (and perhaps stage) but all there for a love of music and good times. What other festival do you know where Lykki Li and Cannibal Corpse are both on the bill? Thus is the appeal of Fun Fun Fun Fest 6, it had something for everyone. Musicians brought their A Game (for the most part, but more on that later), audiences brought overwhelming enthusiasm and the weather brought winds that turned into mighty dust storms. All in all, a very satisfying experience.
The layout of the festival was very intuitive and easy to navigate, seeming like a carnival thoroughfare of music and commerce, flowing from one stage to the next in a line. Just far enough away from each other that most bands didn’t drown out each other, but all stages close enough that dashing from stage to stage to catch different acts was far more plausible than getting across the park for something as massive as ACL Festival. Part of that definitely had to do with the amount of people. A couple thousand can make a huge difference and as a result there was never much “bottlenecking” or traffic jams. Every stage and vendor was easy to get to. Another appreciated aspect was the stage setup, where each stage was very long, but divided in half. Bands would perform on one half while the other half was set up for the next performance, so there was very little to stop the rock, so to speak. The schedule remained on time and efficient all weekend, so this definitely helped keep spirits high.
Probably the only two chinks in otherwise flawless armor of this festival are vendor prices and sound. The drink prices seemed steep, as $9 for a 24oz Tecate is not a good deal. Even ACL Festival was cheaper than that. Most vendors were reasonable, though charging $5 for a slice of pepperoni pizza seems like a bit much as well. Other than that, this was one of the best, most efficiently running festivals this author has ever attended. As far as the sound, one’s not sure what to blame, the P.A., the sound engineers or the wind blowing sound in strange directions. Most of the sound problems were primarily on the Black Stage and usually pertaining to vocals, but Blue Stage had a few slight difficulties as well. But these were minimal and while noticeable, not make or break at all.
Now, on to the music.
Heartless Bastards – The Mountain by tadpolegames
Black Milk – Starting the day with energetic hip hop on the Blue Stage was a good choice. After getting attention from the indie rock world earlier this year through collaborating with Jack White on a single, this Detroit MC seems to get bigger by the minute. Using only live drums and keyboard as his beat, Black Milk’s sound was soulful and organic. For earlier in the day, he really had the crowd going, with hands in the air and clapping along to the catchy flows.
Bane – Sauntering over to the Black Stage, Bane was laying down a solid set of hardcore music. It was punk at heart, but with metal tendencies. As the lead singer put it, he uses the music to “work through his stunted adult life.” If his performance was any indication, they are working real hard on those issues.
Omar Souleyman – First introduced to Mister Souleyman by his Björk remixes, I was surprised to see a middle-aged Middle-Eastern fellow in traditional garb, singing passionately in Kurdish and Arabic. He proved that dance is a universal language as the crowd danced enthusiastically to the pulsating world beats.
Heartless Bastards – Over on the Orange Stage, Heartless Bastards were road-testing new material they say will be on their upcoming album released this coming February. As a solid rock performance it was a nice, mellower (in comparison) experience and even included a guest appearance from Austin musician Heidi Johnson.
D Generation – After a quick stride all the way across the park it was time for this fantastic glam punk band. Playing one of their first shows since disbanding in 1999, their look was something straight out of the CBGB heyday and a sound that was sounded like a more punk Guns N’ Roses. There was a mention of the occupy movement as singer Jesse Malin climbed the speakers and performed resistance-inspiring anthems. His fantastic solo career has definitely rubbed off on his return to the band, as his vocals were far more powerful and even soulful than when this author last saw this band opening for The Offspring in 1999. A truly fantastic performance!
Thermals – Yet another cross-park run back to the Orange Stage for the Thermals. Unfamiliar with them at the time, this Portland group played a great set of up tempo indie rock, coming across to these ears as a more hard rocking Mountain Goats.
Upright Citizens Brigade – A big fan of their sketch comedy show, this was a do-not-miss. Apparently it was for many others as people were spilling out of the tent for the Yellow Stage, making it difficult to hear the comedians and hard to pick up and the physical comedy. Next year they should perhaps not underestimate the draw of the Yellow Stage. Give it a bigger space and louder P.A.
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears – Almost as if he could sense the difference in audience from other festivals he’s played, this modern day bluesman played what can only be described as dirty punk blues. The man is one of the only musicians today that takes such an old genre like blues and manages to shape it in new and interesting ways.
Russian Circles – Great cardio this weekend as the trek from the Orange Stage all the way back to Black happened again for Russian Circles. This is the sort of metal band I believe in non-metal people could get into. Think of them like Explosions in the Sky with Mastodon riffage, full of expertly crafted brooding musical movements that end in a fantastic catharsis.
Okkervil River – Back at Orange, Austin locals Okkervil River performed an impassioned set, despite lead singer Will Sheff’s voice failing him on some of the more reaching of notes. He reassured the crowd by saying, “I’d rather be losing my voice to this beautiful Austin crowd than anyone else.” Despite their last album being an intricate studio affair, the newer songs came across very well despite the stripped down setting.
Murder City Devils – A favorite hardcore band of many, they have reunited much to the glee of music lovers everywhere. Dressed like somebody’s kooky Canadian uncle, the lead singer joked with the audience, saying “we’re going to play some new songs. You know like bands that aren’t broken up are supposed to do.” Mixing these with classics, it was a solid set.
Danzig Legacy – Where to begin? This whole debacle could be its own article. Let’s shoot for brevity. Danzig began his show 45 minutes late, but kicked things off with a bang. Opening with “Skin Carver” the band then played choice cuts from the first three albums. A Samhain banner was haphazardly erected and the band launched into songs from Danzig’s 2nd band, which was very entertaining, with Glenn even wearing a mask while singing. And then the moment everyone had waited for. In full classic Misfits attire, Doyle joined Danzig on stage as the band ripped through 2 classic Misfits cuts. But then the stage got quiet. Danzig returned to the mic, saying that the band had to be done in 5 minutes, but they still had lots left to play! Instead of just playing until time ran out to see what happened, he stormed around stage, complaining, even trying to incite a riot. And then…ZAP. Power was cut at 10pm promptly. The audience booed and threw thrash, very disappointed.
The story doesn’t end there. Angered fans, band members and event staff took to Facebook to vent about the situation. The band claimed they didn’t know about the curfew and it wasn’t the stage they had intended on playing, blaming the fest. Some fans blamed the fest, but most blamed Danzig himself. He was late after all. If a fest staff member’s story is accurate, then apparently Danzig felt sick, didn’t want to play at all, complained of being cold and demanded they rent heaters, cover the sides of the stage in tarps so wind wouldn’t blow on him, and even wouldn’t’ even leave his trailer to look at the stage, just saying it was wrong and he didn’t want to play on it. There are even stories that involve demands for French Onion Soup and a Wendy’s chicken sandwich. On the festival’s official Facebook page they took a dig at him, posting two words: “Glenn Stefani,” to which fans replied, “at least she would have arrived on time.” OUCH. So while it doesn’t affect how one should feel about the man’s music, his behavior was terribly disappointed, as well as his treatment of his fans, some flying in from as far away as Montana to see him perform Misfits songs. It was the biggest letdown of the event. As many said, we shouldn’t have tolerated such, and should have been at Public Enemy instead, which I hear were fantastic.Hot Snakes – XOX by PassionOnPlastic
Dead Horse – There’s no better way to give your day a jolt than with some metal. These Texas natives blasted through a punishing set of what can only be described as satisfying blend of Cookie Monster metal and Suicidal Tendencies-style punk.
tUnE-YarDs – A favorite here at OurVinyl, this band has an utterly unique stage presence. Colorfully dressed, the band played a fun set that had indie kids dancing wildly. There’s something to be said for the way they can take saxophones and yodeling and turn it into dance songs. This was one of the more interesting performances of the festival.
Dan Deacon – Over at the Blue Stage, Dan Deacon jumped into the middle of the audience, playing spacey dance music that sounds like an electronic acid trip played on the inside of unicorn…if that makes sense. Unfortunately his wild sounds proved too much for the P.A. and the sound went dead multiple times. Obviously frustrated, he complained of no soundcheck but thanked his audience for their patience and eventually things were fixed and the audience got to once again enjoy the amazing audio journey of his music.
Youth Brigade – A certifiable punk rock classic, this band brought just as much enthusiasm as their albums of old, giving the audience a taste of that enjoyable southern California punk sound, telling the audience, “lots of songs with the word fight…life’s a struggle man.”
Ra Ra Riot – To keep the energy going it was back to the Orange Stage as the band combined upbeat indie rock with beautiful use of violin. The singer jumped off the drum riser as the crowd clapped along to their fun songs.
Neal Brennan – As co-creator of the Chappelle Show, you know he’s going to be funny. It was a big turnout and Neal didn’t disappoint, making jokes about race, religion and other pointed but hilarious topics. The guy did look rail-thin though. For every funny joke, he should have been given a cheeseburger.
M83 – This band dances a thin line between dance music and space atmospherics. But every now and then guitars would cut through the synths like a breath of fresh air, giving the music beat and direction. It was an experience seeing M83; definitely one that should be repeated in a smaller, enclosed space so that this intense music could envelop listeners.
Kool Keith – A last minute substitution for Rakim who broke his foot the day before his performance, he did not disappoint. Bringing his unique mix of visceral weirdness and booty rap, he played songs from his cult classic ‘Dr. Octagon’ and even did a medley of his best tracks, probably touching upon at least 20 songs through the course of his relatively short set. The man is a legend for a very good reason.
Childish Gambino – It was to be a hip hop evening as directly after Keith was Childish Gambino, better known for his role on NBC’s comedy Community. The beats and flows were decent, but overall seemed like a weaker Lupe Fiasco trying to bring the swagger of Kanye West. Great to aspire to, but it’ll be a while before he gets there. Solid set though.
Hot Snakes – One of the most anticipated artists of the festival for this journalist, this newly reunited band met expectations and then surpassed them, almost to make up for the disappoint of last night. They played the best cuts from their first two albums then switch drummers and played tracks off their not quite as good but still stellar third album. They even poked fun at Danzig, saying it was cold on stage asking where the heaters were. The highlight was during “Plenty For All” when a small child wandered onstage and danced around to the song.
Major Lazer – What better way to cap a Saturday night than a dance party? Major Lazer was the place to be as hundreds stomped around, causing a huge dust cloud to surround the Blue Stage as thudding beats rained down on anxious concert-goers. They kept the crowd hyped most of the time, with occasional comedowns before dropping another earth-shaking sound.10 The Lie by adpatel24
Le Butcherttes – Let’s begin the day in a weird way. Featuring guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of At The Drive-In/Mars Volta fame, this band is a three piece where Omar fades into the background playing steady but fairly standard bass lines lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist Teri Gender Bender wailed about strange topics with a voice reminiscent of PJ Harvey at her most forceful. Near the end of the set she jumped off stage, leaned on the audience, then took a bottle of water and placed it on a speaker as if she was placing something scared on an alter. With a thank you and goodbye in Spanish they exited the stage.
Bird Peterson – Craving something a little more dancey, the Blue Stage was the next stop as Bird spun a set that seemed like fairly standard mix of dance, dub and electronica. It had plenty of people dancing, but nothing was of note, expect his story of being cut off on the highway on his way hear, spinning out of control and nearly dyeing. My heart goes out to the guy, but he needs to work a crowd better.
Budos Band – Hearing good things about this band beforehand, it was back to the Orange Stage where Budos Band delivered what sounded to these ears like a strange mix of 70s Grindhouse soundtrack music and the horn-fueled sound of a late night talk show’s house band. It was mostly instrumental but interesting and definitely going to check out their recorded work.
Cannibal Corpse – This was mostly just a bucketlist, morbid curiosity viewing as they tore through song after song of Cookie Monster metal and claimed one song was for the ladies. The title? Something explicit about fornication and a knife. How romantic… Though the lead singer’s headbanging skills must be admired, he must have neck muscles of steel to do that head whipping through an entire song.
Del The Funky Homosapien – This was a genuinely unique experience, seeing a favorite MC of old. Backed by a live band, his songs took on a whole new dimension. He played songs from his very first albums up through present day, even playing his biggest hit, Gorillaz track “Clint Eastwood.” There was a huge turnout which was pleasing, because this is one MC that deserves far more attention and record sales than he gets.
Hum – One of the few shows they’ve played since breaking up, this 90s cult classic band brought their melodic buzzsaw guitar attack to an enraptured audience, even playing minor hit “Stars.”
Boris – This is not your average metal band. For starters they’re Japanese, and as such they take the concept of heavy in new and exciting directions. Other times their music is menacing with a haunting drone. A powerful band to be sure.
Black Lips – Bringing the fun and ramshackle excitement of 60s psychedelic garage rock, Black Lips put on one of the best sets of the festival. They managed to do so while giving the audience the feeling of watching their friends goof around in a basement. That is a rare talent indeed.
Diplo – Without a vocalist to hype the crowd, his set was wildly uneven, bouncing between dance floor-ready beats and more chillout compilation-worthy arrangements.
Slayer – What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about these giants of metal? They brought all of the speed and brutality one would expect from Slayer. Playing an excellent mix of classics and newer tracks, an impressively humongous crowd either thrashed around wildly or stared in awe at one of the best shows of the day.
Blonde Redhead – Deciding it was best to have some sort of aural come down after the fury of Slayer (lest unsuspecting people in the streets feel my frenzy), Blonde Redhead seemed like the perfect comedown to a fantastic day of music. Focusing on their newer material, the band built a hushed intimacy with the crowd as strange tiny light bulbs whirred with orange glow like tiny spirits around the band. The focus on the mellow and electronic side of their catalog was great atmospherics, but it does make one miss the Sonic Youth-inspired rawness of older tracks like “Taking Out The Eurotrash” and “Luv Machine.”
With storm clouds gathering ominously in the dark and dust swirling through the air, Fun Fun Fun Fest 6 came to a close. This was one of the best put together festivals with one of the most eclectic lineups on the major concert circuit today. Everyone should do themselves a favor and be on the lookout for announcements next year, because you will certainly want to be there.
Written by Jarad Matula
Photography done by Matt Danser. To see more pictures from this festival click here.