Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Review & Photos : Fun Fun Fun Fest 2008

To sum it up, Fun Fun Fun Fest lived up its name, again, and maybe even more so this time. Last year, the lineup probably had more to offer us as far as coverage and anticipatory excitement, but this year delivered just as much fun as last year did. While we're still coughing up all that dust from Waterloo Park (who knew it could be that bad!), it was well worth it.

-----Day 1----

We were most looking forward to seeing Deerhoof, who played at the end of the day, but we started off the day with their tour mates Experimental Dental School, a band very much in the vein of Deerhoof, but a less polished version.

The day really got started with Hawnay Troof's performance. We were going to catch him a few weeks back, but missed it and its a good thing we did. This performance was probably one of his best and it was a good introduction to his live show. He was hopping all over the stage, just him and his microphone, looking dapper as anyone in his thrift-store suit. He climbed the scaffolding of the stage and made everyone sing along with him, even though I can confidently say that none of the crowd really knew his music. He changed his suit, right there on stage, and had no qualms about it, which make me admire the man even more. He paused midway through his set to tell a story about the mishaps of the past month or so in his touring life, which were nothing short of hilarity.

We caught a bit of Bishop Allen on our walk across the park and business is usual there.

The next show that really caught our collective eye was Swinging Utters. I think I first heard the band when I was in middle school and lost interest when I grew out of that whole part of my life, but I almost wish I had kept them (and others) around. The thing about that side of the festival is that the people who listen to and stay around for those performances at the "punk/hardcore" stages are really into it, and not afraid to show it, unlike a lot of what goes on with the "indie" fans who politely nod their heads to the music. There isn't anything polite about this side of the park. Swinging Utters are a safer version of the bands who came before them, but they aren't regarded as pussies or anything. To prove it, lead singer Johnny "Peebucks" Bonnel punched himself in the forehead twice (just two times) and he started bleeding. I have a feeling he's done that before...

We've inconveniently missed YACHT every time we might have had the chance to see them, but all that changed on Saturday at Fun Fun Fun Fest. We've met them a couple of times now, but hadn't seen them prior to their performance Saturday afternoon, and like Hawnay Troof, I think this might have been one of their better shows. The crowd was very responsive and receptive which can go either way for a band that doesn't play any instruments (unless you count Jona Bechtolt's laptop). Jonah and his partner Claire L. Evans filled their stage with their awkward yet sincere dance moves and played a lot of new material that sounds like it will be a better version of past material. These two are intensely charismatic and I think there are good things in their future (ha!). They even let us take their picture at the porta-potties. What troopers.

Deerhoof is one of those bands that I have admired from a far for a long time and never had the opportunity to see. The time has finally come and gone and I can't say I wanted anything more from them. The show started off on the right foot with Satomi Satuzaki coming on stage with a huge tiger mask and prancing around to Offend Maggie's Basketball Get Your Groove Back. There wasn't much of an expectation for any material off the bands best (arguably) album Milk Man, but they gave it their all with the album's title track, which features some of the best guitar/drum arrangements on any song ever recorded (pardon my hyperbole). The band cruised through the best material off of Offend Maggie and their performance solidified the opinion that they are one of the best bands of our generation. No doubt.

-----Day 2-----

Those of us with enough hindsight to realize that Day 1 was hard to get through without something to cover one's mouth to protect the lungs from all of the dust Waterloo Park was throwing into the air made sure to bring something for Day 2. I know we've been coughing up dust since the festival came to a close, and the same can be said for countless others.

The start of our day was ushered in by a short set from Kevin Seconds of the semi-legendary punk band 7 Seconds. He's taking a break from his band mates and venturing out on his own. The songs he has written and is consequently playing live are silly, poetic acoustic versions of 7 Seconds songs. There's even one about hipsters playing bike polo on their fixed gear bikes one Sunday afternoon. Seconds has this lisp that can be best described as Daniel Johnston-esque, and it makes his carefree lyrics and singing that more endearing.

After Kevin Seconds, his comrades in the Revival Tour, compromised primarily of Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music, Tim Barry of Avail, and Ben Nicols of Lucero. All three men are in bands that have a good deal of notoriety in their respected spheres, but have joined forces to play each other's music together, and allow the opportunity for the individual men to play solo. There's this "good ol' boy" (not like Joe-the-Plumber, more like Joe-the-Rambler) feel to the music as they have reinterpreted it on stage and that feeling was heightened by due to the fact that they were accompanied by a fiddler, a stand up bassist, and a lap steel player. Their entire set lasted from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. so needless to say, we weren't able to see it all, but what we did see was certainly a treat.

Against Me!'s frontman Tom Gabel, opener on the revival tour, is something else apart from his band mates. His solo recordings have focused more on the political side of things (AM's do as well but this seems a little different) and he is certainly showcasing them on this tour. Apart from the new material, he played wonderful versions of Walking is Still Honest and Joy, both of which he wrote for AM. His solo material, released under the name Heart Burns is still relatively new, yet some of those in the front row and others sprinkled throughout the crowd knew every word. That's what is so endearing about a man like Gabel and a band like AM. They have that core group of fans that is intensely dedicated (we will get to another example in just a minute) and not jaded by music like so many people we tend to see at things like this. Gabel himself is intense while he is onstage and just as humble as could be offstage. Gabel ended his stage, joined on stage by the members of The Revival Tour for Anna is a Stool Pigeon.

After Gabel's set ended, we rushed over to catch Leftover Crack, whose set had already started, play on Stage 3. The crowd was already warmed up and incredibly receptive (as are most dedicated fans of the punk genre). They welcomed the band with their knowledge of the lyrics and their shared sentiments when lead singer Stza would talk about things of the social and political spectrum. The band has not been through these parts since 2004 when their then drummer Brandon Chevalier-Kolling died after the band's show in Dallas at the now-defunct Red Blood Club. The crowd was so anxious to see them since they haven't been here in over four years and it seems that the wait was well worth it. They didn't play songs that weren't known by at least half of the audience and had the crowd pulsing and crowd surfing the entire time. Stza talked a lot of shit, directed at H.R. of Bad Brains (festival headliners) for their now infamous beef with Austin's own Big Boys, and even had a Leftover Crack shirt with lyrics that call of equality of all. (If you want to know more about the beef, hit up Wikipedia)

Islands was our next band to catch and I have to say, they haven't impressed either time we've seen them this year. Maybe its because we have yet to hear their latest release recorded, and just their live interpretations of the material, or maybe its something else. In either case, the band just doesn't seem to live up to the expectations that have been thrust upon them, which I guess is not entirely their fault. Don't get me wrong, their debut album Return to the Sea was one of the best to come out that year, but they haven't capitalized on the true nature of their talent since then. I'm sure their live performances were better when they were supporting that material.

Dallas native Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, has been steadily amassing her fan base ever since the release of her debut album Marry Me and rightfully so. Her live show is not one that disappoints and the record is a genuinely good listen. It has been interesting to see her live show evolve in the four or so times we've been able to catch her in the DFW area, and this was definitely the largest scale of them all. From seeing her solo, to seeing her with the band, and now seeing this show where the production values have increased slightly and she has remained on point.

We managed to keep a low profile throughout the rest of Sunday night, and wound up the festival by catching some of Dr. Octagon/Kool Keith's wackiness. That dude is seriously good at what he does, which is rapping whilst simultaneously being a weirdo.

Anyway, all in all, we had the best time we've had a long time and can't wait until next year's incarnation of the festival. We're already speculating what craziness they will have in store for us, but only time can tell. We would like to thank everyone who put the festival on, from Transmission Entertainment, Austinist, the sponsors, and all of the great blogs like Gorilla vs. Bear, My Old Kentucky Blog, and Brooklyn Vegan who have great coverage of the festival on their respective blogs, so go check them out for yourself.

Here's all of our photos from the festival. I would like to have posted them all individually for easy access, but they are in this slideshow, which isn't that hard to navigate.

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