Monday, November 5, 2012

FunFunFun Fest 2012: Wrap-up

Well kiddos, it's Monday afternoon and I think I'm finally ready to sit at a computer and attempt to comprehend FunFunFun Fest 2012. The weather was spectacular, in spite of reports of rain there was nary a cloud in the sky throughout most of the festival. Saturday we were treated to bouts of slight overcast with some heavy breezes, which were very welcome. Mostly, it was sunny and hot on all three days of the festival. There was dust but it wasn't as intense as the previous year and everyone was well prepared for that possibility.

I saw a mix of artists, from varying countries and genres on all of the fest's four stages. There were highs and lows but there really wasn't anything that I absolutely despised. All in all I'd say it was a very successful weekend for me and Mr. S. it was great to catch up with friends and see some great performances. Find the full rundown and a collection of Instagrams after the break.

Danny Brown - Witit video via YouTube

Alright so, I'm not going to go through every band I saw or every moment of greatness or badness I'm just going to sort of free-associate this shit. I want to start with the lowest of the lows. I was SOO disappointed with araabMUZIK. I really enjoy his albums but seeing him live was one of the most tedious, monotonous experiences of my life. I will not dispute that he is the MVP of the MPC. It is incredibly impressive to see him play the MPC as a live instrument constructing beats on the fly HOWEVER, it was an hour of musical masturbation. He seemed so obsessed with showing the crowd how good he was that failed to create enjoyable beats. Sometimes less is more and I feel that with more experience and maturity he will learn that lesson. For now, I wished he would have just let a beat get in the pocket so the crowd could dance rather than turning it into some bullshit dubstep meets hip-hop trainwreck.

I was also disappointed with De La Soul. I was looking forward to their set all weekend, which certainly contributed to my disappointment. First of all, like almost every artist who performed this weekend they were only allotted roughly an hour. They started their performance 10-15 minutes late, then the first 10 minutes or so was the DJ playing a medley of songs by A Tribe Called Quest. Once the group came out they started doing the typical hip-hop directions, "Put your hands in the air!" Blah, blah blah. Then they halted the performance to criticize the photographers for not putting their hands up. They told them that for the first few songs they should show respect and be ready to party. Perhaps they don't realize the photographers are only allowed to shoot during the first three songs and that they are doing their job. Furthermore the job of the photographer is to document and promote the very performance they halted. So, from that moment I was already annoyed. They performed a few songs and they were spectacular then they criticized the sound engineer(s) saying how much they suck, they criticized the festival itself and then talked about how long they have been performing and used that to explain how they are perfectionists. Then they wasted another 5-10 minutes trying to see which side of the crowd was louder.

De La left me with a really bad taste in mouth. I feel like they didn't act in a professional manner. They didn't express appreciation, or humility and they didn't deliver what I would consider a stellar festival set list. In my opinion, since they only had about 45 minutes to perform they should have delivered a Greatest Hits set. I know that is sort of a lame thing to expect from an artist but if you're doing a festival gig in a place you haven't performed in MANY years just give the people what they want. Take your BIG paycheck and THANK the people who brought you there as well as the people who enabled the MANY fans to hear your performance.

Friday night's set from Run DMC delivered exactly what I'm talking about. Sure, they left the stage earlier than their allotted time and they also spent about 15-20 minutes letting Jam Master Jay's kids DJ. However, when they were on the stage they were playing all of the songs the crowd wanted to hear with extreme enthusiasm. They thanked the crowd, the festival and gave specific shout-outs to the festival founders. The next day I asked a festival insider if they were difficult to deal with or if their entourage was difficult to deal with. I was told they were incredibly polite, humbled, friendly and fun to be around. The entourage consisted of family members and everyone was excellent to deal with. I have been to FunFunFun Fest for years and I have never seen the crowd as big nor as attentive as they were for Run DMC's set. Only the crowd for Slayer could compare. Hearing them perform King of Rock was one of the highlights of my life.

While I'm thinking about hip-hop, I was also really impressed with Danny Brown's set on the Blue stage. He is one of the strangest, most interesting voices in contemporary hip-hop and his live performance was totally on point. He wore a dress, his hair was as crazy as I wanted it to be and he managed to spit all of his verses, of which there are many. He did have a hype-man to add emphasis to punchlines and to keep the crowd lively but he didn't rely on the hype-man. Also, it was only ONE guy, often times with young emcees they rely on a group of people to fill in lyrics when they get winded but Danny Brown was on point and it was apparent he was practiced in the art of live performance.

I only caught two acts on the Black stage but both were fantastic! The first was Refused who headlined on Saturday night. I have never listened to their music and was only marginally aware of who they were. I was told that they are not to be missed and Mr. S. was really looking forward to seeing them so we ventured over in time to catch the end of The Sword's set and all of Refused's. I have never seen such a high-energy performance from a musician in my life and from what I heard after the lead singer didn't even get as crazy as he often times does. He moved like the Swedish love-child of Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger in their prime. Swinging the mic like a weapon doing David Lee Roth spread eagle leaps from the drum platform and squirming around like Mick. The musicianship was astounding, my friend who was is a drummer and happened to be stage managing the Black stage described their sound as "Jazz-core," which somehow made total sense to me.

The other act I watched on the Black stage was Japandroids on Sunday. I feel like they attracted a lot of people who would normally be over at the Orange stage. Their banter was hilarious, they talked about being from Canada and complained that their frail Canadian bodies couldn't stand the Texas heat. You would never know it from they way they powered through their set though. Japandroids are a two piece but they play as one super-human music animal. The crowd was going insane for them. I'm sure for people who hang out at the Black stage all weekend it was mild but I'm not accustomed to the pit mentality so it was crazy to watch people losing their minds like that.

Other highlights for the weekend included sets from Real Estate and the Helio Sequence. I have seen both bands before and was pre-disposed to like them so I was pleased that they put on such great performances for people who may not have ever seen them before. This was my third time seeing Real Estate this year and I maintain that they are one of the best touring bands in indie-rock today.

The biggest surprise of the festival for me was the crowd for Class Actress. I really like their record but I was shocked at how many people made their way over to see them perform. They sounded really great and the crowd was super-enthused about the performance, I just feel like Nite Jewel was equally deserving.

The act I would most like to see again in a non-festival environment is Fang Island. I don't know what sort of musical mathematics they are using but their music is so exhilarating and fun. I want to see them on a split bill with Anamanaguchi at the Mohawk with a packed crowd of super-fans and guitar geeks.

I feel like I could go on and on about FunFunFun Fest but I know I lost many o you several paragraphs ago so I'm going to wrap it up. I had a great time as I always do and I look forward to next year. I trust Fun Fest's taste and I think they booked another solid line-up this year. I would like to see a couple of subtle changes next year though. I think they should borrow two ideas from ACL Fest. The first is two entry points. I approached the fest from the west so I had to walk the length of the grounds on the outside and then again on the inside. I think an East entrance and west entrance would also reduce congestion near the Blue stage. I know many people attend the fest solely for the Black stage and for those folks being able to enter on that side would be very nice. The other thing I think would be great is the crowd-sourced trash clean-up/recycling. At ACL Fest, attendees are given free T-Shirts simply by bringing a trash bag full of recycle-ables to the recycling center. I think that's a great idea for many reasons. On the other hand, I think that ACL Fest could borrow LOTS of things from Fun Fest including no chairs/blankets and free aftershows. Also, spreading out the food vending is genius and reduces cluster.

With that I bid you adieu Fun Fest, until 2013!