In its fourth year, Fun Fun Fun Fest has become a mecca for indie music lovers. Barely a month after the high-profile Austin City Limits (QRO recap), FFF Fest attracts a different breed of music fan entirely. Passive crowds dominated by thick-rimmed glasses and recycled 80s clothes lacked the energy that is seen at ACL and the club intimacy of Austin’s sprawling South by Southwest music festival (QRO recap). Despite a crowd that offered little more encouragement than a foot tap and an appreciate puff on a cigarette, FFF’s solid two day line-up delivered.
Day One of FFF was temperate and sunny, prompting many cracks about the Great ACL Flood in early October. Even the schedule pamphlet mocked the Zilker mud pit, boasting Waterloo Park’s well-rooted grass. The weather was well matched by the energy of the bands in the afternoon. Austin’s premiere (and only?) ‘foot funk’ band, Foot Patrol, blew up the tiny Blue Stage. The somewhat intricately choreographed back-up dancers aided to the bouncy songs, and you can’t help but be drawn in by their enthusiasm. But just when listeners start to pick up on the chorus of "Footography", they seem to collectively halt and think, as the banner behind the band aptly proclaims, "What the foot?" Despite their subject choice dooming them to novelty status, Foot Patrol’s live show is at least good for some sweet dance moves and unforgivably catchy funk.
Lo-fi rockers Times New Viking drew one of he more eager crowds of the day, or perhaps everyone was pressed against the stage in order to decipher what song was playing. In recordings, guitarist Adam Elliot and keyboardist Beth Murphy are used to hiding their voices behind raucous fuzzed guitars, but their obscurity took on a new level with the competing sets and outdoor acoustic element. The vocals came together on "California", finally serving as the proper compliment to their gritty musicianship.
Alan Palomo took the Blue Stage as Vega for the first of his two performances of the day, but it was his return with Neon Indian that stole the show. The ambient beats backing Palomo’s slack vocals guided the crowd into an hour-long trance.
A strangely chipper MC Chris proclaimed that he was in a "good fucking mood," and his playful on-stage antics proved it. Insults delivered with gusto rather than his typical sneer filled the breaks between a balanced mix of new and old tracks. The set could have easily been mistaken for one of the comedy segments also featured at the festival, and MC did his best to offend everyone equally. The rapper remained composed even after a complete blank, which resulted in a do-over of "Nrrd Girl". After assuring one member of the audience that, "of course I’m going to play my fucking hit," MC closed the show with a troped version of "Fette’s Vette", with frequent pauses in his flow to allow the audience to finish the line.
No Age proved that power does not necessarily come in numbers as the duo blasted their messy noise rock from the Orange Stage. The hard hitting, wild guitar of Randy Randall and the punch of drummer and vocalist Dean Spunt have all of the kick of the trios and quartets that preceded them, but even halfway through the set, you still cannot shake the feeling that their fragile coherence could fall apart at any second, leaving two soloists instead of a band.
Usually wild stage antics come in lieu of actual talent, but in Les Savy Fav’s case, the ridiculousness came as a bonus. After a solid barrage of fan favorites, lead singer Tim Harrington proceeded to plunk a ladder on top of the crowd that he then balanced on, bringing one of the audience members with him. The shirtless Harrington casually donned purple tights and blue short shorts, but only after shedding his space suit and wedding dress that he had on previously. He managed all of this while performing an unhassled "The Sweat Descends", keeping his vocal quality astoundingly clear.
And check out our other photo galleries from Day One (click image for full gallery):
Sugar & Gold, Blue Stage
Melt Banana, Black Stage
Yeasayer, Orange Stage
Ratatat, Orange Stage
Destroyer, Yellow Stage
Then the floodwaters came.
Just as God flooded the earth for the humans’ wretched arrogance, so did the Festival Gods flood Fun Fun Fun Fest in reparation for festival organizer’s bragging. Day Two was a steady downpour, and not even with the merciful clear moments a-la ACL. Causing more than few equipment malfunctions, the rain certainly was not welcome, but the enthusiasm of festivalgoers must have been hidden deep within their ponchos. Crowd morale remained high, even after continual quips of, "Is it still raining out there?"
[editor's note: torrential rains prevented any photo taking on Day Two]
Atlas Sound, the moniker of Deerhunter’s (QRO live review) lead singer Bradford Cox, took the stage with a self-identified awkwardness that is completely endearing. Playing songs off of his recently released album, Logos, Cox made small pokes at his subdued style that makes festival sets uncomfortable. With that kind of humility, listeners could not help but forgive the slightly shy performance.
Recalling the sun-lit vitality of Saturday in the midst of dark skies, Harlem gave all of their bouncy, sing-and-dance-along drive to soaking crowds. Although running behind with their fussy volume check, the trio delivered the punk-fused swing apparent joy. The recent addition of bassist Jose Boyer has added consistency to their sets, acting as the glue between the free spirited drummer-guitarist hybrids Michael Coomers and Curtis O’Mara.
Strange Boys took the Yellow Stage after Harlem, catching the rain at its peak. The water pervaded the stage, causing waterlogged equipment and unsafe conditions for the band. After ignoring warnings from the stage managers, the band was finally coaxed off-stage early, and left disappointed fans wanting more.
As the rain finally began to let up, Crystal Castles emerged out of the fog. Okay, we’re being dramatic, it was their own fog machine. Despite this self-indulgence, Crystal Castles’ melee of digitalisms swept away the crowd. Crystal Castles’ electro-charm warmed fans up for "Crimewave", which they wedged precariously in the middle of the set, risking losing the masses after this crowd favorite. The fans remained loyal, however, allowing Crystal Castles to finish off their pulsing set with an eloquent smoke-filled haze.
After a nervous, ‘Is it too good to be true?’, thirty-minute wait, Glenn Danzig took to the stage for the first Austin show in fifteen years. Aside from blowing minds with his still shockingly able baritone, the former lead singer of the Misfits also revealed the source of all the rain. "I heard you guys were having a drought, so we brought the Danzig black clouds of rain for you!" Danzig lead the massive crowd through a series of fist-pumping riotous anthems that scattered throughout his twenty-year career. Bringing the festival to an epic but unsurprising close with "Mother", Danzig gave a flawless summation of the independent spirit behind all of the Fun Fun Fun artists and a premature longing for next year’s line-up.
- (words) Abby Johnston
- (Fun Fun Fun Fest ’09 photos) Michael Gonzalez