Fun Fun Fun Fest Day One

Just woke up from a long, incredibly long day in Austin at Fun Fun Fun Fest, and I’m fairly confident in saying that my god festivals take work. First, though, I wanted to say a big thanks to Jeremy (man, you gotta come to one of these some day!) for allowing me access to his blog to write about the goings on at the qf (I don’t think that moniker’s caught on just yet but I’m holding out hope — the q stands for quad and the f stands for fun, oh and then it stands for fest there at the end; kind of catchy, right?). In any case, thanks, Jeremy.

The moment I arrived downtown to park, there was a feeling in the air that this was going to be a different type of festival experience than any I’ve had before–there was actual parking on the street (for free) close to Waterloo Park (which is close to Rick Perry’s house, lucky bastard), the weather was in the high 70s rather than the low 100s, and the weight of anxiety (felt by people who know they’re gonna have to sit through Blues Traveler to get to Band of Horses — sigh, ACL) tied to musical boredom seemed to be lifted. It was going to be a good day.

Or maybe everything was better because of Obama, which is very very possible.

So I got to Waterloo Park at like 1:00 and the whole place was kind of empty. Which was good. Because I had the chance to wander around the grounds and take in everything the fest had to offer, and there was a ton. And I know I mentioned to port-a-potties during my SXSW blog, but goddamn–those lavender smelling boxes are the physical manifestations of how far we’re progressing as a nation–we’re fucking coming for you, China. Oh but then at the end of the night, they’re totally gross. But whatever. Waterloo Park is great — there are actually trees (unlike Zilker, really); there are hills and park benches and swing-sets and walking trails and places so easy to hide and smoke weed that it’s sort of ridiculously perfect for a place to see ten hours of music.

The stage setup at FFF Fest is brilliant. There are four stages. Stage 1 (the main stage), is broken up into 1A and 1B, something that allows artists to play for their allotted time (between half an hour and an hour), and then allows the next artist to begin, literally five minutes later. It’s incredibly well thought out and accessible for the audience, and other festivals would be wise to take some cues from this type of set up. Another thing that gf does that no other festival I’ve ever been to does, is give the stages a genre. Stage 1 is basically the indie/pop/rock sort of combo, not sure what stage 2 is because I never ventured over, stage 3 is the punk/hardcore place, stage 4 is the dance/electronic stuff. It makes decision making so easy, and again–ACL–listen up. THIS IS THE WAY AUDIENCES WANT TO CHOOSE THEIR MUSIC. STOP MAKING US WALK A MILE BETWEEN SETS WHEN THE SETS ARE LIKE 45 MINUTES LONG. Fun Fun Fun Fest is doing things right.

The first band I saw was Colourmusic, out of Oklahoma. I had never heard of them before, but was pleasantly shocked that artists from Oklahoma not called Flaming Lips could produce such interesting music. For comparison’s sake, I’d say Colourmusic sounds a bit like Yeasayer — touches of tribal drumming, a few heavy electric guitars over spot-on screaming. If I had to put these guys into some form-fitting genre, that genre would be: irony-dependent neo-fuzz freak pop (oh and Wikipedia says they’re communists, but Wikipedia’s idiotic). Good start to the day.

Parts and Labor were up next. Everyone go and read Jeremy’s review of this band — it’s kind of exactly what I would like to say but won’t because Jeremy can so clearly do it better than me. I will say this, though, the record label they’re on — Jagjaguwar — seems to be out Sub-Popping Sub-Pop, signing bands that just seem right, you know? The type of band that is just what a certain percentage of a certain sect of the indie music community needs at a certain time. Parts and Labor are that band now. Oh yeah, one other thing — please, all bands, please pretty please can we put a moratorium on songs about the Iraq War? You hate it, we hate it, Bush sucks, yada yada. It seems like these things no longer have any lexical meaning anymore. New days dawn; let’s dawn with them.

Centro-matic alt.countried me to blah-town (turn right at Son Volt junction, pick up some turkey jerky and admire the tight denim button downs). It’s boring here.

Bishop Allen, who only three nights ago played a show at Rudyard’s in front of literally 8 people (five of whom I came with), was on stage 1 next. They sing pop music that makes people smile. That’s it. A line from one of their songs is “Take another picture with your click click click camera.” It was adorable, and the people loved it. They have a new record coming out in February and I was promised that they wouldn’t let the low turnout get in the way of their return to Houston. (But seriously, H-towners, come on.)

Before The Blow turned into an uber-feminist karaoke singer, The Blow was fucking amazing. She churned out danceable pop songs that questioned everything from heterosexuality to date rape to bicycles. What The Blow used to be, Yacht is now. It should be noted, of course, that when The Blow was good, Yacht was in the band. But I digress — seeing Yacht on stage 4 (it’s amazingly small but way cozy) was the perfect transition to the night bands. Wearing a Palin (get it? nice) shirt, the male vocalist (not sure of his name, but before last night I though this dude was the only person in Yacht, but I was wrong) and female vocalist (I wish I had time to look up their names) wove their way through 30 minutes of straight dance music.

By the time Deerhoof played, the air was so brown with dust that the spotlights coming from behind the stage looked like silhouetted cigarette smoke blown from tight lips through the tiny holes in a piece of rye bread. It was disgusting and it was beautiful. What was disgusting and not beautiful was that one dude who walked right past me with vomit (seriously, vomit. like, vomit vomit) covering the entire left side of his face. But Deerhoof, it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at a festival. It was violent, it was loud, it was full of artful angst, it was over the top, and it was so much better than I could have imagined. Deerhoof resemble gods.

The last show of the night was the National, and it’s a show I’ve been waiting to see for years and years and years. It did not disappoint. I had no idea that lead singer Matt Berninger was capable of channeling his inner Frank Black (or Avey Tare?) to give us some of the most inspiring screams in music. That’s not really heard on the records, but it is heard brilliantly live. The National played songs from their records Alligator, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers, and Boxer, all of which sounded like they belonged together. The most outstanding tracks, in my opinion, were “Squalor Victoria,” and “Apartment Story.” They were transcendently gorgeous, filling the Austin sky with something like majesty.

I think it was the best first day any festival has ever provided. On to Day 2.


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