High and Lowlights from Day 2 of Fun Fun Fun, brought to you by Matt, Anthony, Rebecca and J.D.
Vockah ReduSaturday, Blue Stage, 12:35pm
Upon arriving at Auditorium Shores at the start of the day, Vockah Redu, more a dance troop than anything, were wrappin up soundcheck. Just one sight of gold MC Hammer pants is enough to pique one's curiosity never to leave blue stage's side. Over the course of Redu's set, the only really question one can ask is "no, really, what the hell am I watching?" The first two songs of the set blatantly crib Erykah Badu songs (in case you were wondering how to pronounce Vockah Redu). Many of the songs are in fact reappropriations of other R&B songs with irritatingly catchy house beats latched on whil Redu and his equally athletic back-up dancers adeptly shake their asses while doin handstands. It's total nonsense, but you just can't look away from it. It sure as hell was a show... whatever it was.
Vockah Redu's Mask at the intro looks like: a rejected Hayao Miyazaki concept. Likelihood Erykah Badu might sue this dude: 45%. Likelihood Erykah Badu is related to this dude: 25%
1:45 Blue Stage
Tom Waits, John Maus, Glenn Danzig. I never thought I would think those three names in sequence at any point in my life, but thanks to Pennsylvania-based crooner for doing so with his oddball early day set. Striking a sort of an Appalachian horror show vibe, Gibson (along with a keyboardist providing creepy drones) worked a MIDI controller to recreate the elaborate arrangements on his debut All Hell, even throwing in a few straight-outta Deliverance vocal samples to really freak out the few who braved the Blue Stage. Seeming to occupy some purgatorial state between wasted and hungover (he later told me it was definitely the later), Gibson thrust, shimmied, and growled his way through what had to have been the darkest early afternoon set of the Fest.
Best use of Mrs. Doubtfire quote: “This song is about doing the horizontal mambo”
Saturday, Blue Stage, 2:30pm
Possibly the best 8-bit band on the scene today, Anamanaguchi do not disappoint. The New York quartet are pure, joyful, bubbly energy manifested into corporal bodies once more. The band, who produce their 8-bit sounds through guitars run through synthesizers, play with a pure punk energy and a simple sensitivity amenable to moshing without all the danger involved (in case you've maybe never done so but the threat of what to do if injured without having healthcare is a nagging thought in the back of your head). This band is just plain fun, probably the most fun set of the day. Should get a medal for: best use of lighting at 2:30 in the afternoon. Inexplicable 3 Doors Down references: 3
3:15 Black Stage
Another welcome surprise on the Black Stage came in the form of Seattle-quartet the Spits, who I’d admittedly never heard before. The band earned immediate points for their day-after-Halloween sale costumes, and then earned full marks for putting together one of the days’ most thoroughly enjoyable sets. As opposed to some of their more hardcore counterparts on the Black Stage, the band seemed to take early Clash and the Damned as their reference point, allowing for some impressive melodic moments (hell, I think there were even some harmonies). And though most of the lyrics were unintelligible, but that clearly wasn’t the point. This band is a blunt weapon, striking with surprising force one 2-minute bang at a time.
Ballsiest move: bringing a keyboard onto the Black Stage. That sort of thing will get death by circle pit if you aren’t careful.
Saturday, Yellow Stage, 3:30pm
Upon learning performance poet Saul Williams was going to be on the Fun Fun Fun Fest lineup, befuddlement isn't too far off. How would he fit into all this? Does his serious, socio-political vibe fit with the levity of the primarily comedy stage? Would he be doing songs or poems? Yet seeing the man live is transfixing enough to quash all doubts. The Morehouse College grad (much like myself, what up!) held the yellow stage crowd in the palm of his hand, performing a litany of poems, new and old, by himself on the stage. Some he could remember, some written, some faded away in the corners of his fascinating mind but none of the crowd not bothered by his few mental hiccups. Williams' work broached topics like identity, social order, art, and all those other heavy topics you'd hear in coffee shops. Yes, it's sort of a weird fit for Fun Fun Fun Fest, but certainly no one in that tent packed to the gills was complaining.
Times Saul Williams thought he would forget how a poem should go: 4. Times Williams actually forgot: 2. Times anyone cared: 0, it was a dope set.
4pm Blue Stage
(Pic courtesy of houstonpress.com)
In what had to have been my best planned transition of the weekend, I wandered from Saul Williams’ fantastic poetry set down to check out hip-hops most inexplicable ‘star.’ Roughly 15 minutes late for her 40 minute set (a rare act of mercy on her part), Kreayshawn quickly reminded the crowd why internet fame shouldn’t ever be mistaken for the real thing.Her squeeky, bratty ‘flow’ somehow proved even more ridiculous live, especially when juxtaposed to her hypeman-for-hire, who seemed like he at least might be able to, like, rap. Somewhere between “Rich Whores” (Whatup Bitch!) and Krea’s pause to throw tacos into the crowd, the immortal words of Morrissey crept into my head: This joke just isn’t that funny anymore.
Highlight: Gucci, Gucci (yes, because it was last). Years Kreayshawn has likely set white rappers back: 10-15
Saturday, Orange Stage, 6:05pm
Ridgewood, New Jersey-band Real Estate are pleasant. Not pleasant in such a way that they're forgettable or so sachriney sweet to the point of being ultmately noxious. They're a band practically made fore festivals like these, on the banks of the water with a gentle breeze blowing where everyone can chill in the grass. Thus their sunset set was the optimum conditions for a Real Estate experience. The set, which essentially covered much of their self-titled album, lends the mind to wander, not that that's a bad thing. The surf rock songs don't demand much attention but not out of boredom or lack of skill, it takes a lot of talent to be so damn chill.
A succession of thoughts on watching Real Estates set:-When watching Real Estate, should I sit in the grass or stand and watch?-Everyone else is standing, so I guess I should, too.-There's really nothing to watch here. I mean, what are these people really looking at right now?-Could I be charging my phone right now? I bet I could fin a place to sit like I wanted to before absolutely everyone around me was standing (a bit of a buzzkill) and charge my phone.
Saturday, Black Stage, 7:10pm
To put it mildly, Nathan Williams & co. play Austin a lot. The band have played numerous Fun Fun Fun Fests. They've filled in every spare nook and cranny of SXSWs. They've toured through the city on their own shows. Frankly, one can see this band so often, it's hard to expect anything new. Hell, much of the crowd has likely seen Williams wear that same Metallica shirt before. Nevertheless, the reliably great pop-punk show is like Joe Morello's drum solo on Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" - yes, you know every arrangement but that doesn't make the show any less entertaining. Despite initially having staid expectations, Wavves once again came correct, running through staple songs from King of the Beach, Life Sux EP, and Wavvves, but also throwing a few curve balls in with new songs "Paranoid" and "In the Grave", song Wavves will surely play incessantly for Austin audiences for some time to come. Not that I'm complaining, it's not hard to have a damn good time at a Wavves show.
More unexpected event than debuting new songs: an on stage marriage proposal (she thankfully said yes, because whew that could have been awkward) EDIT: Other members of KRTU staff, were hoping for a no, or at least a don't-you-Dare-propose-to-me-at-a-pop-punk-show.
Public Image LTD
7:45 Orange Stage
Donned in his most resplendent Napoleonic overcoat and sporting a rather severe lime green Mohawk, John Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols fame) brought his recently revamped Public Image LTD. to the Orange Stage for one of Saturdays first night-time sets. Along with him was a reliable if slightly ridiculous band, including a guitarist who looked uncannily like Rasputin and a bassist in a kilt and a PiL shirt (seriously dude, never wear your own band’s shirt). The crowd was surprisingly light considering they were dealing with the founding father of punk, though perhaps most like me were far less familiar with the PiL stuff (or that the guy who sang "Anarchy in the U.K. was in it). Also odd, at first at least, was Lydon’s placement on the Orange stage rather than the hardcore/punk centric Black. IT proved to be a correct move on FFF Fest’s part, as the PiL set was far from punk, calling to mind the dancier mid-80s sound of Gang of Four or perhaps even Echo and the Bunnymen. As the set rolled on, the crowd continued to thin, likely like me wishing Lydon and crew would have dusted off some of the earlier, rowdier PiL or maybe even Sex Pistols material.
Set Highlight: “This Is Not a Love Song”. Year John Lydon seems trapped in: 1986.
8:45 Black Stage
In January 2012 - thirteen years after releasing the public, not so subtle manifesto, 'Refused Are Fucking Dead' - Refused are un-fucking dead, back for a one off, end of the world tour, bringing a brutal Swedish soundtrack to help beat the Mayan zombies back into their graves, or however this apocalypse thing is supposed to go down.
Pulling heavily from 1998's leftist, Ornette Coleman referencing, hardcore opus The Shape of Punk to Come, Refused burned up the black stage as slam-danced dirt loomed ominously over the crowd, looking real evil lit up by the band's blue and white lights. Jon Brannstrom and Kristofer Steen laid down mean licks that upheld the esteemed reputation earned by Nordic guitarists, all while bringing the speed and intensity of the finest of punk. When Refused burst into "Liberation Frequencies," repeating the phrase "We want the airwaves back," it sounded like a challenge from the Black Stage, the beat-up, Mad Max wasteland demanding their music to be heard. And after staying there all night, hearing the beefed up, snotty pop-punk of Wavves with a second guitarist, the truly awesome doom metal of Austin's The Sword and the influential and undeniable Refused, it was hard to disagree.
Black Moth Super Rainbow
Saturday, Mohawk, 11:15pm.
Hot off the heels of their latest Kickstarter-funded album, Cobra Juicy, psychedelic band Black Moth Super Rainbow played their first of two FFF sets at the packed Mohawk. While the volume and the sound mixing left something to be desired (which is weird because Mohawk usually has pretty decent sound), the quintet put on a modest, though perfunctory show. The psychedelic vibe certainly came through in the music but after a day of dynamic performances, watching this group run through songs primarily from Cobra Juicy and their previous album, Eating Us, without crazy light projections, crowd acknowledgement, or even looking at one another all that often left something to be desired from their set. Hopefully, they're saving the real heat for their blue stage set on Sunday night. Best use of a vocoder: Not here. Can I get Casey Benjamin of the Robert Glasper Experiment to show these folks how it's done? Best use of a ninja mask: Drummer Iffernaut, who didn't remove the mask the whole show. He could have committed a mugging after the show and no one would have known his secret identity.