Fun Fun Fun Fest Day Two

And then we all got sick. Yeah, all of us. There were six of us in the car, one of whom was sick on the way up and I guess all the coughing and sneezing in that cramped little car and then on the floor of that cramped little apartment got into the systems of each of us. But upon waking up on Sunday I said to myself, no way am I gonna let this (excuse me, gotta blow my nose…okay, back) get in the way of all the fun fun fun (okay, maybe one fun, but no way this’ll stop three) — is what I said to myself. So away I went.

The first band I saw on Sunday was Frightened Rabbit. This summer I did an interview with lead singer Scott Hutchinson for this very site before their show in Washington D.C., and after speaking with him that night I was even more impressed with his demeanor onstage. He seems to be a very kind and generous artist with (let’s face it) some incredibly difficult demons he’s had to deal with, which he expresses with sometimes uncomfortable vulnerability in his lyrics.

On Sunday, though, that vulnerability wasn’t there as much as it has been before. Hutchinson seems, while much more confident in his ability as an entertainer, a little bit detached from the songs that seemed before to mean so much to him. This isn’t to say that this is a bad thing — I think what he’s doing, as is natural, is giving his audience his songs to use for themselves. I think before he was so close to some of the things he sang about (“I might not want you back but I want to kill him,” is one example) that he had a cavalier attitude to the people (those who bought his records) not inside his head.

But now it’s like he’s back to having a presence that says, here, take this emotion and use it as you will. It’s yours now. And that was nice to see — the band seems happy. They only had 30 minutes, so they had to get through seven or eight songs quickly, but all the favorites were there — “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms,” “Keep Yourself Warm,” “The Modern Leper,” and — my favorite of the afternoon — “Old, Old Fashioned.”

It was hot at this point, really really hot. And I needed to sit down. So I did — and Spinto Band came on. I’ve really loved these guys for years, basically for the reason I think everyone loves them. They make music that makes sad people happy. Those girls with the huge polka dotted sunglasses that ironically look like 1982, or those guys in the kitschy cut offs, Spinto Band is for the young. They take us to a place with a certain kind of worldly indifference where bopping heads are the only things that seem to matter.

And that’s exactly how it was on Sunday–all the shit that was bothering you was magically forgotten about; and since the thing that was bothering most people was that huge cloud of dust hovering diabolically above our heads — Spinto Band made it all secondary to kicking your feet to and then fro, making the dust go I’m coming straight for you, eyeball. But it didn’t really matter at the time — there was dancing.

Annuals were up next, and my god these guys can do wonders with instruments. They’re kind of like a reincarnation of Broken Social Scene without the enigmatic schedule of are we together or are we broken up. They’re from Chapel Hill, NC — once a hot bed of up and coming indie rockers, and that’s exactly what Annuals are. There are two electric guitars (sometimes three), one acoustic guitar, keyboards (sometimes two), drums (sometimes two, sometimes three, sometimes one electric with one standard), slide guitar, bass, and I might be missing more. But they are a band that relies on their instrumentation, and the audience on Sunday got a heavy dose of what these guys can do.

We mostly got songs from their new record, Such Fun, which is okay–not nearly as good as their older stuff, particularly the drum heavy stuff from Lay Down Dry and Be He Me. But overall it was great — Annuals are one of my new favorite bands, one who I’m sure will be staples on the festival circuit for years.

I was basically able to stay put on stage one all day (thank god, lest I enter the wall of brown surrounding me), and was able to see the inimitable St. Vincent next. She is Annie Clark and she is a virtuoso on guitar. Clark was once a member of Polyphonic Spree as well as Sufjan Stevens’ (huh?) touring band, but now that she’s on her own we’re all the luckier for it. She plays songs with such jest that you think it’s coming from three or four different people, but it’s not. It’s just her. Sure she has backup musicians, but they don’t count. Clark is the brains behind this outfit, and the pretty huge early evening crowd got more than I think they bargained for.

St. Vincent transfixes you into musical delirium when she accompanies her voice with her guitar, and when she goes into a song like “Marry Me,” or especially “Your Lips are Red,” you sort of don’t know what to do with yourself. Her music is easy to admire and easy to not understand and easy to be jealous of the fact that you’ll never be able to do what she’d doing, and hard to turn away from. It was one of the best shows of the festival for sure.

And now the festival was almost over. Only one more act to see (sadly I had to choose between Clipse, Bad Brains, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah). I chose Clap Your Hands. And it was well worth it (though I’m still sad I missed Bad Brains — I mean, BAD BRAINS! shit). Anyway, I’d seen these guys I think four times before tonight, and they always seem to put on a confusing show. Alec Ounsworth, lead singer and sometimes lead tyrant, regularly gets pissed off at sound guys, light guys, and even his own band guys, but tonight he seemed to be relatively at ease. CYHSY played an hour’s worth of songs, mostly from their eponymous debut record.

They played four songs from their next album, due early next year — songs that are incredibly dark and somewhat overwrought with historical yes-we-cans (one is about Leon Trotsky, for example), but songs that sound like they’ll fit in with the overall ethos of the band eventually. Something interesting about this band is that they are so reliant on audience participation that new songs just don’t seem to work live. They could have played more from their second record, Some Loud Thunder, but chose not to. They thought the new stuff would fly, but it really didn’t.

That’s not to say it’s not good — it is, it’s just not what the audience wanted. They wanted to sing as loud as they could and they wanted to dance their inebriated asses off (which they did for the most part, but only for the most part). “Satan Said Dance” was particularly fun, as it always is, and “Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” almost caused a mosh pit (a mosh pit, at a Clap Your Hands Show. So good). Overall it was one of the better CYHSY shows I’ve seen.

And so it ends. I wonder how long it’s going to take FFF Fest to realize that we need a third day. Next festival, SXSW? See you in about 100 days.


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