Wednesday, November 13, 2013

FunFunFun Fest 2013: Looking Back On a Few Days Ago TLDR

FunFunFun Fest is not just a clever name. It is a clever name but it's not only that. I've written and re-written this wrap-up post at least three times. I know people like lists and they like pictures and if I wanted to get lots of hits that's what I'd do. The fact of the matter is, I don't have a DSLR camera so I don't shoot pictures of the artists performing and even if I did who's to say my photos would be worth looking at? I could make the shit out of a list and I still might. Lists are easy to read and they can really help you distill your point but they are also a pain to code and they can be pretty vapid. This site doesn't get very many hits. Chances are I know most of you who are reading this but that was never the point. I started Austin Bloggy Limits because I love music and I love writing and I thought that if I didn't do this my brain might atrophy. I was just waiting tables and spending what little spare money I had to see as much indie rock as I could afford. When I lived in Maine I would drive 3.5-4 hours to Boston to see bands play hour long sets. I still wait tables. I still don't make any money doing this, I do this because I love indie music and I love going to shows. FunFunFun Fest was created by people like me for people like me. Obviously, those people are much smarter and more ambitious than I am but they get me and I get them and if you're still reading this then you get it too.

Active Child - Subtle video via YouTube

On Friday of the fest I was watching Little Boots with @atxhipsters but I wanted to see The Impossibles as well. So we listened to three songs from Little Boots, whom we have both seen before and love, and headed via the "Homies" entrance toward the Black Stage. We happened upon Big Freedia. A friend of mine has been working as Freedia's tour manager and offered to introduce us to the Queen Diva. Freedia offered her hand for a handshake, to which I replied, "Can I hug you?" Because I'm a creep like that. She obliged. @atxhipsters followed suite, then we said goodbye and walked to the Black Stage in time to catch three songs from The Impossibles.

I feel like I could just wrap things up there because that story perfectly encompasses why I love FunFunFun Fest. Blog over.

For real though, I had so much fun and if you were there you did too and if you weren't there, you would have. Like I said, I don't have a DSLR camera I just use my cell phone. My goal was to take portraits and I ended up getting 18. These weren't pre-arranged, staged things I was basically lurking and waiting for artists I recognized. I would then accost them and get their photograph. Some had time to chat, some had just a moment. I was originally going to post all of those photos here but since this blog is tribute to the year 2005, it's not really formatted to showcase photography. The easiest way to see them for web-viewing is on my Tumblr. Now, I'm gonna start making the shit out of some lists. Props if you read all the words in this post.

Friday Highlight Sets

My first time seeing Active Child was at FunFunFun Fest either last year or the year before, I'm not Googling that. I only caught like a song and half the first time but it was enough to make me listen to his record more and see him again at the Mohawk. I ended up picking up You Are All I See on vinyl and I became obsessed. Mr. S. can tell you that I'm still likely to burst into, "I fall in love...way too fast". The new EP from Active Child is even more brilliant than the previous LP. His ideas have gotten sharper but he hasn't lost focus on what makes his songs beautiful and unique. I ran into Pat backstage and asked to take his portrait for my Instagram. I chatted with him for a moment telling him basically what I've written here but I mentioned that I grew up in a cold climate and I'm drawn to music that sounds like winter. He connected with what I meant and told me the new EP was recorded in Denver in the wintertime. We talked a bit about the effect snow has on sound.

I loved Mac Demarco's set because he and his band have such an unhinged, art-school kid energy. I feel like Mac went to elementary school at the sort of place where they start their day by centering then they begin to explore ideas. The last ten minutes of his set were spent playing various out-of-context covers with varying degrees of accuracy or intent. Switching from Du Haste to The Four Seasons's Sherry into Taking Care of Business with some made up lyrics that including something about kissing a penis? I ran into Mac backstage and asked for a portrait. He obliged and I told him about how I love Montreal and I tried to impress him with my knowledge of French-Canadian curse words but he and his band-mates are not from Montreal. It's a city that's like Austin in that way, one of Canada's premiere magnets for weirdo-geniuses.

My love for the set from Thee Oh Sees is partially because I was still drunk on the lusty rock 'n roll energy of OBN III's set at Red 7 the previous night. Thee Oh Sees kicked ass on the Black Stage but a bigger, more involved crowd would have really brought everything up a notch. That being said, their set was still one of my highlights for Friday.

Cut Copy also played one of my favorite sets on Friday. They crafted a set that pushed the crowd's energy up and kept it up through their full hour. I danced my ass off and I know that many of you did too.

Saturday Highlight Sets

I am a total sucker for Bleached. I love their melodies, I love their bratty energy, I love that they like heavy music but their music's not too heavy for me. I didn't go to their Nites show at The ND but I heard that it was even better than their set at the fest, which I thought was great.

Merchandise were way better than I thought they would be. I know that's a backhanded compliment but that's how I felt y'all! Get off my d! I was more familiar with their press than I was with their music and I was much more impressed with their music than their press.

Seeing Television changed my world-view and I'm not even one of those people who knows every word to Marquee Moon. Their performance was very straightforward, they didn't do any rock 'n roll theatrics. In fact the lighting hardly even changed throughout their set. The thing that was so magical for me was watching the way Tom Verlaine used his guitar. The way he moves his hand is different than any other guitarist I've seen before. I know that sounds completely ridiculous but it's true. He seems to be coaxing something out of it or reacting to something from inside of it. The only player that has moved me in a similar way emotionally is Nels Cline who plays with Wilco. After the set, I talked to people who said that it sounded terrible where they were and I'm not disagreeing with them but from where I was standing it sounded magical.

I have missed seeing Chromatics many times since moving to Austin and now that I have actually seen them, it kind of bums me out. I tweeted that I wanted to build them an altar. They put me in a trance and I was transported to their dark, hazy universe. They sound so cinematic and beautiful on their records and in concert that sound just envelopes you. I feel like Glass Candy is easier to fall for but Chromatics is more satisfying.

Other than the fact that he is an outstanding performer the thing that impressed me the most about Ice-T was witnessing his hustle. I watched the last half of his set with Body Count and he exudes a tremendous amount of energy. He commanded that massive crowd, and he left it all on stage. When he walked off the stage, he got on a golf cart to a little media area between the Black and Orange stages. He sat there with bright lights pointed at him and was interviewed for at least a half hour. I was told that when he arrived to the interview he looked pissed off or annoyed but as soon as he sat in the chair to be interviewed that was all gone and he was back to being the pro that he is. He took a half hour or less between the end of his interviews and the beginning of his performance on the Blue Stage. The crowd for the Blue Stage was pretty lame compared to the Black Stage crowd but Ice-T still ran through a series of crowd pleasers. He poked fun at himself a bit on both stages, making reference to Law and Order.

I included Descendents' crowd as a highlight because the energy at the Black Stage was palpable. Even if a band is great, they are made even greater if the crowd is giving them great energy. It was amazing to watch people losing their minds and completely living in the moment while their favorite band bonded with them. At one point, toward the end of the set, the crowd put up a man in a wheelchair who was carried to the stage-diving platform where Milo used rock 'n roll to save his soul, blessed his forehead and pushed him backward onto the hands of the waiting crowd who passed him for at least five solid minutes. Even just writing about it has brought me to tears. It was one of the most spectacularly human moments I have ever been a part of at a rock 'n roll show.

Sunday Highlights

I almost didn't bother going to the Blue Stage for Chet Faker because I just saw him at Red 7 about a month ago but I'm so glad I did. His set for the fest was solo, whereas when I saw him at Red 7 he was with a full band. With most artists I prefer the full band but with Chet Faker I preferred to see him solo. He is a fantastic singer no matter what but with the full band his performance is less unique. It was interesting to see him construct his songs with the electronics rather than rely on players. I asked him about it when I ran into him backstage and he said that he prefers it solo too but it makes things awkward between himself and his band. He was very nice and chatted with me for at least five minutes about Australia's music scene. It helps that I started by just listing bands like, Electric Wire Hustle, Hiatus Kaiyote, Ta-ku and Movement. He told me to keep an eye out for Oscar Keysung too and to watch for an LP from Chet Faker.

I might be XXYYXX's number one fan but he made quite a few new ones on Sunday too. He is creating some of my favorite musical ideas right now and I am so excited to watch his development. This was my second time seeing him and he always impresses me but I think he will continue to get better as he starts to build better sets. Scholomo's set followed on the heels of XXYYXX and his set built into more logical peeks and valleys. That's the sort of thing that you get better and better at the more you play for audiences.

Even if you're a Washed Out hater because you don't enjoy their records for some reason, you might still like their live sets. Washed Out is one of the tightest bands in indie. They play funk grooves with prog-rock flourishes and their live energy is off-the-chain. The crowd on Sunday was very tired but Ernest from Washed Out really got the crowd moving. I had a little incident with some beach balls during this set, which distracted me and the audience a bit but that only lasted a couple of minutes. Victoria from My Well Fed Life captured it on her Instagram.

Basically, I feel like those beach balls are distracting and annoying. I'm trying to watch Washed Out but now I also have to keep an eye out for these damned things that keep almost hitting me. I started thinking about Slayer's fans and what they might do. My first instinct was to use my lighter to pop them but then I thought, what if it becomes some sort of napalm floating fire bomb? I mostly ignored them, one almost hit me but Mr. S. swatted it away just in time. Then a few minutes later one did hit me and I hit it back toward the crowd. Then one of the little suckers fell right in front of me so I grabbed it and started to pull at the nozzle where it inflates then I grabbed it by the seams and just ripped it apart. It felt great but I heard some sounds of sadness and/or anger behind me. Then I got hit in the head with an Absolut Vodka T-Shirt. I looked back and saw a 30-something woman looking very sternly back toward me so I did what any grown adult would do, I picked up the T-Shirt held it over my head and shouted, "Yeah! Brand loyalty!" because that's the first thing that came to mind. Then I threw the shirt on the ground. Then ANOTHER ball fell right in front of me, I looked and the woman who had hit me with the T-Shirt was looking right at me hella-pissed so I threw the ball back to the crowd. I heard people making sounds of disappointment when I didn't pop the ball. Then a woman (who it turns out is Victoria) said, "Oh, I was going to shoot you destroying that ball." I told her, well if another one appears I'll...then another one fell in front of me. I grabbed it and ripped it apart, holding it over my head, at which point I heard jeers and boos, then I turned into a professional wrestling villain, then it was over. The next time I entered the press pit where this took place, the kid checking wristbands said he knew why we hated those things but I can't do that anymore or else he'd have to kick me out. I agreed. For the record, I didn't see anymore beach balls go out into the crowd.

I have never listened to Dismemberment Plan so I was hearing most of their songs for the first time on Sunday and they were fucking phenomenal. It sounded fresh, interesting, hooky, the vocalist was superb and funny. Their energy, their performance and their banter were all really impressive. Now I know why to those who know them, they are legends.

The run of acts that closed the Blue Stage on Sunday was just outrageously good. Deltron 3030 was Del, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala backed with a 3-piece band as well as strings, horns, and backing vocals. It was bananas. Then Bonobo took to the stage with a full band, guest vocalist and a full DJ setup. The set was a blend of live instrumentation and live production that only Bonobo could do. There is no one else doing what he does in a live setting. Jurassic 5 were about 500 times better than they have any business being. I just kept thinking about how much they must rehearse to be as perfect as they were. I know I like to use the phrase "on-point" a lot but seriously. Seriously. No, seriously they were on-point. Jurassic 5 are the standard-bearers for the live hip-hop experience and that's coming from someone who has seen Nas, Kanye, Talib, Mos Def and The Roots. If you have never seen Jurassic 5 perform live then you need to set your priorities straight and get on that.

With that, I conclude my FunFunFun Fest 2013 coverage. If you have read all the way down to the bottom of this post, I commend you. There aren't very many of us who still blog with this many words because there aren't many of you who read this many words. I'm glad there's still a few of you left because, I don't plan on getting any less verbose anytime soon.

Oh, and if you want to see the fest in photos Pooneh Ghana just posted her photo gallery.

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