Nearly one hundred of the world’s most sought-after independent rock, punk, DJ, and hip hop musicians descended into the heart of Austin for the the third annual anti-festival, the Fun Fun Fun Festival this past weeekend. Generally, one wouldn’t expect a festival with a capacity of just 7,000, taking place in Waterloo Park among crisps temperatures ranging from 50 to 80 degrees, could hold its own in the age of the summer mega-festival, especially in the same town that offers ACL, but with four stages and literally no downtime between sets, Fun Fun Fun lived up to the challenge, to its name and more.
Not only did Transmission Entertainment provide a student discount on the already-affordable tickets, but owner Graham Williams and organizer James Moody intended to showcase the essence of Austin and of Texas by inviting local restaurants such as Rudys Barbeque, Boomerangs, and Best Wurst to sell their trademark food. Daily Juice and Spider House provided refreshing beverages to combat the sun. Trendy local retail shops such as Toy Joy and Brave New Books set up booths, and Birds Barbershop gave out free haircuts. In addition to these authentic shops, attendees could throw on sumo suits and wrestle, skate on a vert ramp, and ride a mechanical bull in other areas of the park.
Fun count: One.
The northeast would later be well represented by authentic New York hipsters, Philadelphias reunited punk legends Dead Milkmen, and main stage headliners The National (Brooklyn) and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Connecticut. But I started off Saturday by grabbing a drink and sat in the grass, listening to Will Johnson of Denton’s Centro-matic serenade the crowd with their soothing alt-country.
It wasn’t really what I was in the mood for, so I strolled over to the dance stage to watch Oaklands energetic Hawnay Troof, an electropop musician who is all performance over substance. Engaging himself with the crowd, he used the entire stage and got the crowd pumped in the middle of the day, even going so far as to strip into his underwear to put on a different pair of pants.
Immediately following him, Austins Octopus Project took to the small stage to play for their adoring and loyal hometown crowd. Their blend of bashful experimental electro-pop was complimented by adorable green and white ghosts dancing in the background, and the members implemented numerous instruments including a Korg and a theramin in their live recreations of songs from the most recent album, Hello, Avalanche.
Fun count: Two.
With in-and-out privileges, and knowing the sun would set fairly soon, I decided to head down to 6th Street for a bit, as well as stop by the car to pick up a sweater. What else could make a weekend than being harassed by a drunk woman wanting you to try on a kids denim jacket? Well, it happened to my friend, and we ended up circling the block with a speed-walk in an effort to get away from her before heading back to the park. If there was one thing that could detract from a weekend, its having an experience like this.
Fun count: One.
As we got back, we treated ourselves to some barbeque sandwiches from Rudys BBQ. Im a little disappointed that I didnt notice if there was a bottle of Rudys BBQ Sause anywhere (yes, they spell it that way, and yes, its absolutely delicious), but it was still fantastic.
The west coast continued to be represented by Deerhoof, who was about to begin on the main-stage as we took a seat in the back of the crowd, yet we still had a phenomenal view of the stage. We werent really digging the set though, as it seemed like a cutesy, yet uninspired version of Blonde Redhead. It was over to Baltimores Dan Deacon for us. Between the crowd engulfing the tiny stage and the photographers crammed behind the DJ’s on stage, the moments leading up to Deacon’s performance were defienetly some of the most unique of the weekend. When he finally did take the stage, the immediate crowd around had no problem raving along to the pulsating beats. Unfortuantly, the energy didnt really transfer to where we were at and it wasnt long before headed back to the main stage for Atmosphere.
Fun count, on behalf of those in close proximity to Mr. Deacon: One Point Five.
So I went into this weekend completely blasting Atmosphere to anyone who would hear it. And not in a good way. To be honest, Ive never liked the hip-hop duo on record, or on television for that matter. I really was hopin to affirm my perception of Atmopshere once and for all with an up close and personal viewing. But alas, I was wrong. From the opening beat, I was bobbing my head and felt right at home within the confines of the massive crowd. Stage lights made faces in the crowd glow, as Slug commanded the stage with the confidence and moxy an MC is supposed to have. I honestly never thought he had it in him, based on my limited knowledge, but he completely surprised me and I thoroughly enjoyed the set.
Fun count: Two.
I left the stage a few minutes early to snake around the side of The National’s ever-growing crowd, and was able to position myself on the outskirts of the photo pit. Atmosphere finished off their set, and a few technical problems delayed The National’s arrival. Soon after, Matt Berninger and the Dessner and Devendorf brothers took the stage and blistered through “Brainy” and “Secret Meeting” to start the set, trying to play catch-up within the limited time constraints of the set. Berninger noted several times of the brisk pace of the songs, and banter seemed to be cut from the performance (a notable lack of a shoutout for Mr. November himself, President-elect Barack Obama, was surprising). It didn’t detract from the performance, and the mid set one-two punch of Boxer‘s “Slow Show” and “Squalor Victoria” had fans singing and raising their beer cans while the unconverted bobbed their heads.
With a reputation of being a standstill at the microphone, the fast-paced “Abel” is the song that had Berninger knocking over equipment and screaming into the microphone. It was cleverly followed by the change of pace of the ballad “All the Wine.” Naturally, the song mostly everyone wanted to hear was their hit “Fake Empire,” which had the majority of the crowd mouthing along. Horns accentuated the right parts of the song, and it was an absolute treat live.
Fun Count: Three.
So the first day had passed, and even though I missed out on the Dead Milkmen’s first show in four years, I still had three times the fun I would’ve had sitting at home and watching football (even though the Texas Longhorns were the reason I arrived to the park late). Fun Fun Fun Fest lived up to its name.