The weather Gods have been kind this year and Fun Fun Fun Fest 8 kicked off beautifully. Mid sixties during the day, then low 50s at night, this was wonderful weather to be outdoors and listening to live music. Maybe it was this weather and maybe it was festival magic, but Day 1 was so incredible – with only one diva behavior-related snafu – it’s hard to imagine a better festival kickoff.
There are some definite differences in logistical details this year. One signature innovation of Fun Fun Fun Fest was dual stages, where one stage was always prepping or tearing down while one was being performed on, which usually made for a seamless day of music. For whatever reason this has been eschewed in favor of the traditional one stage style with down time of about 20 minutes per set. It’s not a big deal since this is usually the case in most festivals, but it feels like it allows for less overall acts than previously.
The Smiths’ (Johnny Marr) “Bigmouth Strikes Again”
Perhaps because of this change, Johnny Marr came out about 10 or more minutes late, but once he did it was so blissful that it hardly mattered. He’s a small, unassuming and incredibly casual guy, hardly who you would envision as the towering innovator of British rock music. He was mellow and in a jovial mood, engaging with the crowd between songs, trying to engage the somewhat apathetic late afternoon crowd. He teased, asking if people had bought his album, this year’s ‘The Messenger’ and a sizable cheer went up to which chuckled and replied, “Liars! But that’s ok, you’re here now and that’s what matters.” The songs played from this album had energy and a catchy Britpop sheen sure to encourage a few more album sales.
Primarily known for his guitar work in legendary band The Smiths, the man did not disappoint, peppering his set with several Smiths songs, including “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before,” and “Bigmouth Strikes Again.” He even played fan favorite “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” which brought out many camera phones to record the event. Marr even threw in a cover of The Clash, the hit single, “I Fought The Law.” The Smiths songs are so completely associated with Morrissey’s signature voice, but surprisingly Marr pulled them off brilliantly. In cheeky voice he told the crowd, “here’s a little ditty from the old country,” before closing his set with his most well known song, “How Soon Is Now,” capping what was an incredible performance.
Once this was done it was off to the Yellow “stage” which turned out to yet again be no more than a piddly tent. The hope was to catch hilarious comedian Patton Oswalt, but unsurprisingly so do many other people, with a throng of people spilling out of the diminutive tent. At least last year there was a speaker on the outside of the tent so that overflow attendees could at least hear the jokes, but not this year, so if you didn’t stake out a spot very early on, you were out of luck to see him. Considering the festival booked some of the biggest names in comedy, it’s a mystery why they would try put them in such a small place when obviously they have a huge following. If the organizers like the tent in hopes of blocking out the music going on elsewhere, they’re going to need to invest in a bigger tent so everyone who wants to see these comedians has the opportunity.
Dismayed but not defeated, it was time to check out some of the other acts. Small Black were decent but I honestly mistook them for Cut Copy, which means that while their dance music was serviceable, it was forgettable. This caused me to venture over to see Thee Oh Sees on the Black Stage, but their brand of manic punk yelping was just not something I could get behind. They reminded me of an amateur garage band version of The Blacks Lips, but with more gutter punk influence and female harmonies.
It was then back over to Blue to hear Big Freedia, who was recommended to me because of my love for rap and hip hop. However, I can’t say the recommendation will be repeated by me to you. The cross-dressing and back dancer twerking were amusing, but the songs had a bang your head against the wall sort of repetition that made it difficult to watch a whole set. It’s the sort of music that would be just fine if you were out dancing at a hot nightclub and incredibly intoxicated, but any other context and it’s just tedious.
Lupe Fiasco was up next on the same stage so it was endured in order to get a good spot for him. What came next was a total fiasco. Usually these types of puns are despised by me for the sake of good writing, but it fits all too well in this case. Lupe starts strong with a few newer cuts, but then slowly the trickle of occasional rain drops become sprinkling rain. The soundboard and onstage equipment was not covered or prepared for this, so without a single announcement the whole stage goes dark as the crew hurries to set up tents and tarps to protect the sensitive equipment. After about five minutes of this I give up to go check out Quicksand. After doubling back to try to catch the last 10 minutes of his set, I find the place deserted with no one on stage and except for a few stragglers milling about. What happened?
What was ascertained from a guy whose acquaintance I had made earlier was this: after 10 minutes of rain coverage silence, Lupe returned, visibly irritated but carrying on. Then people on the side stage watching got too close for the performers liking so he stops mid-song, commanding the DJ to stop the music and then proceeds to bitch people out, telling them to “get the fuck off his stage,” blaming it on his mama somehow, then plays arguably his biggest single, “Superstar,” then tells the audience, “that’s a good place to leave things,” sets down the mic and walks off stage 20 minutes before his set is supposed to end. Wow. This is devastating to learn, since he was regarded quite highly for his socially conscious raps but this sounds like underneath this, he’s just another rap diva. Incredibly disappointing to hear.
Back to Quicksand—holy moly people! If you enjoy heavy music and thundering basslines, then you’re doing yourself a disservice by not checking out this band’s catalogue. Quicksand hasn’t been functional for several years, but you’d never know it from how tight they were, locked into monstrous grooves and grinning ear to ear the whole time. They had fun with it and every note enthralled the audience. Cutting out early to try to catch Lupe now seems like a huge mistake.
Back at Blue Stage, the stage crew worked furiously to get stage headliner RJD2 set up as soon as possible, in hopes of making up for Lupe’s premature exit. So when this DJ extraordinaire took the stage, there were no more than 100 people there, which probably disappointed him as he said, “you guys right here, you’re my favorite people in the world right now.” He didn’t let this stop him from putting on a killer show, however, and the crowd seemed to take notice and started trickling back over to the stage, hearing the awesome turntablist spin magic, including his infamous ‘Mad Men’ television show theme. Fortunately the rain never became more than a few drops here and there.
After appreciating his skills for a while it was time to make my way over to Snoop Dogg to watch this West Coast legend perform. Despite the huge crowd is very easy to make it near the front. First there was a DJ, spinning Snoop-related jams, hyping up the crowd, trying to get everyone to “make some noise.” Eventually Snoop strolls out in all black, opening with one of his Snoop Lion reggae numbers which was met was some uncertainty by the crowd but was quickly forgotten once he launched into “Gin and Juice,” working the crowd into a Spring Break-worthy frenzy of hands in the air, glow sticks waving and dancing. Most of the set worked as medley of his hits and choice verses from songs he guested on, including songs by Eminem, Dr. Dre, and even doing some he wasn’t a part of yet were huge rap jams. The bass thumped so hard you could feel your chest cavity vibrate, so suffice to say this party was bumpin’.
It was hard to leave such amazing festivities, but I knew I’d be kicking myself if I completely missed Flag, which was an amalgamation of former Black Flag members including Keith Morris. They crowd was wildly thrashing and enthusiastic as the band played old school punk classics one after another, closing their set with “Six Pack,” “Rise Above” and a raucous version of “Louie Louie.” Keith Morris was very gracious, ending the night by thanking everyone profusely for coming out and listening. The night concluded on an incredibly positive and energetic note, leaving my brain buzzing in anticipation of what fun fun fun the next two days would bring.
Written By Jarad Matula
OurVinyl | Senior Writer