While Fun Fun Fun Fest and Austin City Limits may only be separated by a few weeks and both take place in lovely Austin, Texas that’s where the similarities stop. Say goodbye to the flags, lawn chairs and mom and pop acts of ACL. Say hello to cutting edge music, miraculously reunited groups and a stage of some of the world’s best comedians. Now in its seventh year, Fun Fun Fun Fest provides a unique festival experience that is both relaxed and progressive.
The festival takes place at Auditorium Shores, instead of ACL’s preferred venue of Zilker Park. While this venue is typically a little more dusty, it’s a much longer park, making for an ideal situation for multiple stages with very little bleed from one to the next. Last year was the first time they moved to this park and while some missed the familiar Waterloo Park, the change was welcome and turned out to work fantastically. Now that Transmission Entertainment is familiar with the grounds, it should run even smoother than last year, if that’s possible.
Here are my picks for top acts each day for this fantastic festival:
Cursive – They may never have reached the level of popularity friend and label mate Conor Oberst and his Bright Eyes outfit, but the band has still managed to carve out its own unique path. Cursive continues to put out albums full of passionate, thought-provoking songs and as always put on an incredible live show. Best part of all, they don’t mind reaching back into their catalog and playing some old fan favorites.
Cursive’s Some Red Handed Sleight of Hand
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – You know him from the incredible acts At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta, but he also has a staggeringly prolific solo career, with over 20 albums of wildly diverse styles of music to his name since 2002. While Omar’s name may get the billing here, it’s actually his newly formed group called Bosnian Rainbows. It includes Les Butcherettes vocalist Teri Gender Bender and Mars Volta drummer Deantoni Parks. They’ll probably play plenty from this year’s brilliant Octopus Kool-Aid (how amazing is that title?) and who knows what else. The man is a true artist and worth watching.
Tomahawk – Sure, you may not be able to name a song they sing unless you’re a Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) fanatic like myself. But that shouldn’t stop anyone from checking out this incredible group that also includes Duane Denison of The Jesus Lizard and members of Fantomas, Helmet and Battles. This is the fe first time they’ve toured in a great number of years. Their strange brand of hard rock combined with Mike Patton’s always engaging and energetic stage presence makes this a MUST-SEE act of the weekend.
Run DMC – It’s been hyped for months. The legendary pioneers of rap reunite to headline the first night of the festival. How they convinced these guys to get together for this rare show is anybody’s guess. Regardless, this show is a can’t miss. Every rapper you know and love has been influenced by these guys. Even if you don’t know a single song title, it should be mandatory for every young person to witness this one-off greatness reappearing.
Brendan Benson – Most well-known as Jack White’s partner in crime in the Raconteurs, the man has been making music long before he hit it big with White. Brendan writes heartfelt and insanely catchy pop tunes that honestly deserve to be top of the Billboard charts. His music has more inventiveness and sincerity than anything currently selling millions of copies. This year’s What Kind of World album is awesome and worth everyone’s time. He’ll probably stick to his solo material but who knows, maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get a Raconteurs song or two.
Brendan Benson’s “Garbage Day”
Saul Williams – This incredible artist started out as “slam poet” delivery truth and beauty with the spoken word. He also did albums of music, where his poetry was put to affecting beats and considered hip hop. After gaining fans in the likes of The Mars Volta and Nine Inch Nails, Saul toured the world over, being introduced to rock fans and expanding consciousness everywhere he goes. This stop sees him returning to his roots, doing spoken word poetry instead of hip hop, so this will be something to truly wonderful to behold.
David Cross – Yes, this festival uniquely has a comedy stage and David Cross is headliner. The world may know him more as the strange Thomas Funke from Arrested Development, but Cross has been a stand-up comedian for decades and created (along with Bob Odenkirk) Mr. Show in the 90s, a sketch comedy show that truly showed off his sizeable comedic talent. He’s funny, engaging, blasphemous and controversial. He’s the closest thing we have to a Bill Hicks these days, so enjoy his fiery brand of comedy and get a break from the music for a minute.
Refused – If this incredible hardcore band wasn’t on an ultra-rare reunion tour, I’d be over at Girl Talk, shaking my groove thing. However, this seminal act is a can’t-miss experience. Every hardcore punk band of the past 15 years have used these guys as a blueprint. They pushed the genre in new and exciting places, stretching our idea of what hardcore or punk rock could be. While fellow reuninted hardcore band At The Drive-In adapted their sound to fit where they are now as musicians, Refused (as evidenced earlier this year at Coachella) pick back up like they never left, delivering all the screaming fury they did oh so many years ago.
Fang Island – It’s hard to put what this band does into words. They are a spiritual cousin to both Dan Deacon and The Mars Volta, but this odd child-like wonder that comes out in their strange, exploratory songs. I’ve only heard their albums, so it will be fascinating to see how this band of layered, dense sound translates to the stage.
Japandroids – Celebration Rock, the band’s sophomore album released earlier this year, is only 35 minutes long. But that’s ok, because in their press release they point out the classic albums from the Beatles and the Beach Boys were also this length. It’s difficult to put them in that category just yet, but they’re well on their way with this latest album. Every minute is jam-packed with energy and catchy riffs.
Japandroids’ “The House That Heaven Built”
…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – These guys are Austin natives but we haven’t heard from them in a while. Their brand of propulsive indie rock has changed shape and sound over the years, but they’re always fun and engaging in concert. Expect to hear both old favorites and songs from the album they’re currently working on.
De La Soul – Like Run DMC, these guys are also legends of hip hop. Produced by Prince Paul, their music, samples and beats have always had jazz and other out of the ordinary elements that set them apart from their contemporaries. Their rhymes were intelligent and tackled topics with the utmost philosophical diligence. Acceptance by your peers, the love of another and even racism were all tackled in thoughtful ways over the course of their albums. To watch these veterans of the game will be a true treat.
But That’s Not All!
The festival creators decided three full days of incredible music wasn’t enough and bring you FFF Nites. Unlike the ACL Aftershows, these are completely FREE! Artists making an appearance after hours include Superchunk, Surfer Blood, Tanlines, Indian Jewelry and Astronautalis. For a full list of these after shows, check out the lineup at the bottom of this page.
Just like last year, the festival will also have a wide variety of food trailers and cold drinks to satisfy festival-goers nourishment needs, as well as an extensive merch area. There will also be a “flat stock” area, where many top show poster artists will have their work for sale. Oh, did I mention there will be taco cannon launching food at lucky crowds throughout the weekend?
After the technical difficulties of last year’s streaming attempts, it doesn’t look like the festival is streaming anywhere online, which is very unfortunate for those you out there hoping to catch some of these acts even if you can’t make it to Austin this weekend. Don’t worry though, OurVinyl will provide you with full coverage of the festival, complete with great photos. Here’s to another great weekend of fantastic music courtesy of Fun Fun Fun Fest 7!
Jarad Matula | Senior Writer