Tuesday, November 8, 2011

FunFunFun Fest Wrap-Up

Alright y'all, I procrastinated on this yesterday but it's time to put the 6th edition of FunFunFun Fest to bed. I did a wrap-up of day 1 at the beginning of day 2 and it got out of hand, so I'm going to try to keep this write-up a bit more concise. I bore witness to many great artists and I'm not going to run them all done. Think of this as the USA Today of festival write-ups.

So, let's start with the highlights, shall we? The award for best set from an up-and-coming act, definitely, goes to Purity Ring. I was predisposed to enjoy their set based on my love of the 3 tracks they have floating around the internet but I really had no expectations of their live performance. When an artist's music is electronic you never know what you're going to get. It could just be one person cueing up backing tracks, which was the case with MNDR or you could be seeing a live band, essentially doing covers of the electronic compositions. Purity Ring gave us something that fits between those two areas. It was just two people, one of whom was mostly just doing the vocals but it was incredibly powerful. The gentlemen twiddling knobs was using some sort of homemade contraption that I presume was wired to an MPC. It had various, brass pipes welded together that would cue different sounds depending on which part of the pipe sculpture he struck. He was also manipulating the vocals live, sending phrases off into different directions and generally tweaking the hell out of them at key moments. The singer had a bass drum on her side of the stage, which she would dramatically strike on occasion but she was mostly tasked with having a strong, beautiful voice. The cheers and applause from the crowd grew more emphatic at the close of each song in the set. By the end of the set the crowd was densely packed and roaring with excitement. You could tell the audience was completely awe-struck with the performance and I feel very pleased that I was able to be there for the whole thing.

The aware for best set from an established artist goes to M83. Again, I knew I was going to like this set. I love M83's last three records and I have seen them perform before so I know they are strong performers, the wildcard was the crowd response. I wasn't sure if my enthusiasm for M83 was an anomaly or if there were a lot of people excited to see them play. Well, around 5 o'clock on Saturday when I was jammed into the crowd with cheering people, I realized I wasn't the only one excited for M83. I couldn't see the edge of the crowd in any direction and people cheered at the opening notes for the majority of the songs. I was surprised that the newest single, Midnight City received one of the biggest reactions. Generally speaking, when an artist has been around for a long time it's the older stuff that gets the biggest reaction but Midnight City is such a monster single that the opening squelches sent the crowd into a frenzy. I truly feel as though M83 could have played a headlining time slot, as opposed to a dinner time set. Conversely, I feel like Passion Pit could have played a dinner-time set but that is none of my business.

The award for best frontman goes to Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes. She had so much stage-presence, energy and enthusiasm I wanted to cheer, scream and smile all at once. Their set started at 1:30 in the afternoon on the final day of the festival and they put it all out there. She stalked the stage, she mugged for the crowd, she jumped into the photo pit, she leapt from the drum risers and she did it all in the cutest little dress. She was like a female, mexican, punk-rock version of a young Mick Jagger. My favorite of all of her stage tricks was the way she would stalk to the edge of the stage and sing to the crowd without the benefit of a microphone it was incredibly powerful and she even did it for the folks watching from the side-stage platform. I had heard Le Butcherettes played some incredible showcases at SXSW and I look forward to seeing them play again.

The award for most intense dance-party of FunFunFun Fest goes to the back-to-back sets from Flying Lotus and Diplo. Their styles are so different from each other but they can both throw-down like no others. Flying Lotus' mixes would build into absolute chaos with layers of beats and noise that crescendo into a frenzy and then he would completely clean up the sound and leave you with a simple beat. Diplo used his signature blend of samples from indigenous cultures mashed up with modern pop references to make the crowd go bananas. The last time I saw a set from Diplo was during SXSW 2008 and I can definitely see a huge progression. He is a master at working the crowd both with his music choices and shouting directives into the mic at key points in the set. The result of these back-to-back sets was pure, ass-shaking magic.

The award for best performance from a band I have seen many times before is to be shared between Girls and Ra Ra Riot. Their performance styles are so different but they are both so great. Ra Ra Riot always perform like they are having the time of their lives on stage and that energy is contagious. You can't watch a performance from Ra Ra without a huge smile on your face unless you're a complete and total dick. Girls are less enthusiastic but their songs are so gorgeous it makes up for their lower energy. Also, this was my first time seeing them perform with back-up singers and that added a really nice texture to their sound.

The award for in your face haters goes to tUnE-yArDs! I tried to tell people who were hating on the record that it's a much different and more powerful experience in person but they had to hear it in person before they became believers. Merrill converted many haters and preached to the choir of painted-faces in the crowd.

The award for talk of the fest goes to dust, Glen Danzig's soup needs and Ryan Gosling. These were the things that seemed to have the most chatter both online and in real life. I contributed to chatter on all of these topics and choose not to delve into them any further.

The award for sets are heard great things about but didn't attend goes to Trash Talk and Black Lips. I heard both sets were absolute madness in the best possible way but sadly I was not there for either one. Isn't that always the story of festival attendance?

The award for oh yeah, they're awesome goes to Spoon. Having seen them perform on many occasions, including their Austin City Limits Television taping I had planned to skip their headlining set at Fun Fest. However, through a series of circumstances I ended up watching their performance and was reminded of why they are local legends to begin with. Great songwriting, spot-on performances, lovely stage decor, it was magic.

Obviously, I saw many other great sets throughout the weekend but I'm not going to recount them all. FunFunFun Fest is, by far, my favorite music festival with a centralized locale and I look forward to how they top this year's fest next year. I, like many of you, was hesitant of the move to Auditorium Shores but I think it went off without a hitch. Sure, it was a longer trek to get from the Orange stage to the Black stage but it was nice to have more vendors and having more space made the walking part easier because the crowd density wasn't as intense as it had been at Waterloo Park. Did you have fun at the fest? Who would you award with what?