M.I.A. at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2013 (photo by Jaime Monzon)
Day 2 of Fun Fun Fun Fest 2013 featured Twinkies, 13-year-old metalheads and epic sound issues. For a city that probably has no need for a festival beyond already massive SXSW and ACL Fests, FFFF always made a case for itself simply by aspiring to a higher level. The lineup is diverse and music geek-centric, shows run on time, celebrities stop in, as they did in 2011
and do crazy shit, as they did in 2012
and a spirit of good vibes—be they chemically induced or otherwise—seems to always pervade each year. Cracks started to show in this eighth edition with Day 1 falling victim to scheduling setbacks and some terrible sound issues. But with a Saturday lineup anchored by M.I.A., the Descendants, Television and Ice T, surely there was plenty of opportunity for a turnaround.
I opted to be one of the 50 or so people there at opening at 11:30 a.m., a ghost town considering the expansive Auditorium Shores grounds. Luckily, I was rewarded at the gate with all-I-could-eat free Twinkies (which have probably comprised half of my caloric intake for the past two days) and with a fantastic performance by Austin locals Frank Smith
. Yes it's a terrible band name, but their Wilco-inflected Americana made for a fine primer for the day.
On the strong urging of a friend, who sold me immediately with the pitch "13-year-old black kids playing heavy metal," I then trekked down to the Black stage for Unlocking the Truth
. They were exactly as advertised, though surprisingly more brutal and technically proficient than I'd have suspected of middle-schoolers.
From there I wandered through a haze of reverb-laden indie pop courtesy of Bleached and Merchandise, both '80s-obsessed acts that are custom-crafted for mid-day festival sets.
It took Japan's Melt Banana to rudely break up the dreamy haze. Having come up with the Boredoms and Boris back in the early '90s, there are few more worthy vanguards of noise-rock than Melt Banana. True to form, they were blisteringly loud, spastic and mesmerizing, an aural fuck-you to no one in particular. Unfortunately they were at half-strength, their whole rhythm section replaced for the set by laptop. Luckily the band packs enough frantic energy in two of its members than most bands have in a dozen, so this hardly quelled the frenzied, moshing crowd. Here
is Melt Banana in four-piece form.
Go to the next page to see FFFF videos of Television and M.I.A. and a Deerhunter review.
Television at FFFF 2013 (photo courtesy of FFFF)
After a comedy break courtesy of the eternally stoned Doug Benson and R&B joke crooner Craig Robinson, things were all set for Saturday's marquee show (in my mind at least.) Proto-punk pioneers Television hit the Orange Stage at 5:50 p.m. This iteration of the band features three of the original members responsible for the the 1977 classic Marquee Moon
and its fine follow-up Adventure
. It was the new guy, guitarist Jimmy Rip, who ended up stealing the show, particularly through an extended (and explosive) solo on "Little Johnny Jewel." Frontman Verlaine eventually reclaimed his place in the spotlight, closing the set with a winding, pitch-bending solo of his own on an aptly epic rendition of "Marquee Moon."
If there was any question to the depth of Television's influence and brilliance, Deerhunter answered it with their set immediately after. Deerhunter's Branford Cox could barely stop himself from quoting Television songs, and his guitar work seemed particularly attuned to Verlaine's vibrato-heavy, neurotic tone (that may just have been because he was playing on Verlaine's amp though).
Go to the next page to see M.I.A.
For the big finish was M.I.A., who proceeded to deafen her field-filling audience with an opening bass drop that must have registered on the Richter scale. Keeping with the unfortunate theme of tone-deaf sound mixing on the Orange stage, it was a full four songs into the set before the tremulous bass rumble was scaled back to reveal any other audio. Once sound issues ironed out, Matangi "Maya" Arulpragasam slowly began to show why her status as an international pop star is deserved. She kept mostly to material from her first two excellent releases Arular
, working the crowd up with "Bamboo Banger" and "Jungle." But these weren't straight playbacks of the original tracks; she'd splice Lil Wayne into the intro of "Bucky Done Gun," or re-work the chant from "Jesus Walks" into the bass line of "Bird Flu." It made for a constantly shape-shifting, genre-skipping set, ending with a hysteria-inducing TKO with the one-two combo of Kala
's "Paper Planes" and "Bad Girls," from her latest Matangi
Though Saturday certainly put in line a lot of what threw Friday off, it still fell a couple of sound issues away from securing its status as Austin's best fest. But hey, it's MGMT, The Dismemberment Plan and fucking Slayer on Sunday, so plenty of room for full and glorious redemption.
M.I.A. at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2013 (photo courtesy of FFFF)