Had a great day 1 of FunFunFun Fest yesterday. I feel acclimated to the festival's new home at Auditorium Shores. It's a much larger space allowing for a lot more vendors and a lot more walking if you're trekking from the Orange stage to the Black stage. Luckily, there isn't a whole lot going on over at the Black stage that is of interest to this blogger. Or, more accurately, there is nothing going on at the Black stage that I would rather see than what is going on at the Blue and Orange stages. I rode the, never reliable, Austin city bus to the festival arriving before the first acts hit the stages. I ran into friends and contemporaries and then rushed over to the Orange stage in time to catch TV Torso's terse, energetic set. Lead-singer, Matt Oliver has moments where he sounds like Spoon's Britt Daniel and I'm ok with that. I just adore their songwriting and when they perform live they are, incredibly, on point.
After TV Torso I caught an outstanding performance from Nashville's, Canon Blue. Their set was so dynamic, with a couple of straight-ahead rockers mixed in with textured syncopated tracks and even a spoken-word/rap song. After their set I ran into, the lead Canon Blue and conducted a brief video interview.
Canon Blue - FunFunFun Fest Interview video via YouTube
I was back at the Orange stage in time to see a raucous performance from Cloud Nothings. Their bass was too loud, their performance was messy and it sounded absolutely perfect. You can only get away with their brand of highly-energetic, sloppy garage-rock when you are as youthful as this Cleveland 4-piece. Their recordings sound like shit, which is why they are lumped into the "lo-fi" scene and like most other bands in that group hearing the songs performed live is much more impressive. I could see several people in the crowd checking their line-up to learn the name of the group they were watching because the set was so fun, energetic and captivating they wanted to be sure to remember the band's name. I could see them fitting, perfectly, on a bill with Smith Westerns and Real Estate.
I took a short break in the media area after Cloud Nothings. I was just sitting at one of the picnic tables with my boyfriend when who should stroll up to the table behind us but Mr. Ryan Gosling. As you may remember from coverage of Austin City Limits Festival, Terrence Malick is shooting a film that has something to do with music festivals or concerts in general so while Christian Bale was spotted at ACL, FFF gets the Gos. Personally, I think that's a huge upgrade. The Gos chatted with Thee Oh Sees who were seated at the table behind us along with Coomers from, now defunct Austin band, Harlem. It was funny to watch all of the people surreptitiously taking cell phone photos and looking generally in awe. He sat next to me after they finished that scene and chatted a bit more off camera, he was very nice and oozed with charm, as one would expect. He was spotted all over the festival throughout the day along with co-star and on-screen love interest Rooney Mara. That's enough about the Gos for now, you can keep up with all of the sightings over at Ryan Gosling at Fun Fun Fun Fest.
I headed back to the Orange stage in time to hear a few songs from the Heartless Bastards who were putting on a clinic for the younger bands on how to shred at a music festival. Erika from the Bastards has such a powerful voice and when you match that up with the power of their rhythm section mountains are moved.
Following the Bastards was the punk-energy of, Portland Oregon's, The Thermals. They had the crowd moshing, crowd-surfing, clapping, fist-pumping and losing their shit. The drummer from The Thermals jumped up from his kit a couple of times to run to the front edge of the stage so get the crowd hyped. At one point he actually jumped into the photo pit to try and participate in the mosh pit from the other side of the barrier. They had great energy on stage and great stage banter, they could use some new T-shirts though, theirs looked pretty yellowed and hole-ridden.
Black Joe Lewis followed The Thermals and they brought some serious rock. It wasn't the sort of quick-fire punk that I heard from The Thermals but it was certainly a long journey from the more laid-back approach to soul that I first heard from them. Don't get me wrong, they still play soul-inspired music but now it's a roadhouse soul with a lot more Blues overtones. I was completely impressed, especially considering how many times I've seen Black Joe Lewis in the past.
As the sun set I caught a high-energy set from Okkervil River. Like Black Joe I've seen them perform many times but unlike Black Joe's set there weren't too many surprises. I don't mean that to be a criticism, there is something to be said for consistency and their closing trio of Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe, Lost Coastlines and Unless it Kick is always a crowd-pleaser. Actually, that's an understatement that trio of songs brings the motherfuckin' house down, especially at a hometown show.
I was very excited to see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, whom I hadn't seen perform since their first album was released. Their set was a blend of old and new, almost alternating precisely with the even numbered songs on the set list being the new ones. Like most people in the crowd, I was most excited to hear the songs from their debut. The band sounded great and they definitely showed less stage-fright than when I saw them several years ago but the vocal mix was not ideal. I'm not blaming the sound-techs though because I suspect the lead singer was backing away from the mic on the harder to hit notes and/or singing with less force when he was less sure of himself.
I almost forgot to mention that I saw Big Freedia and part of Spank Rock's sets. Both of which were absolutely filthy, fun, amazing. My only critique is that Big Freedia needs to tour with risers so the people in the back of the crowd can see her dancers shaking their asses. It's truly the most amazing thing I have ever seen in a live-music setting and needs to be enjoyed by all.
The close of my day was with Four Tet who had an amazing light show and did an outstanding job controlling the crowd with a set that built into a throw-down dance party. He was followed up by a, more hype than substance, set from Public Enemy who had a tight live band paired with a lackluster lip-syncing Flavor Flav. Chuck D was on point and the songs were absolutely chaotic in the best possible way but after so many fantastic performances it sort of seemed like a bunch of people on stage trying to get a paycheck and Chuck D.
This got really wordy and for that I apologize, now I'm off for Day 2! See you at Auditorium Shores!!