The word “fun” may be getting a little derivative for some. Graham Williams, owner of Transmission Entertainment, probably took a long, hard look at the ever-growing list of year-round music festivals, and saw a lack of the word “fun” in those titles. So what’s the man to do? If I were in the position to name my own music festival, I probably would have picked a word that accurately describes the experience one might encounter myself. Book a festival in Los Angeles and invite the world’s biggest DJ’s? Name it the “Dance Dance Dance Festival.” If it were to take place in the Mojave Desert, perhaps “Dirt Dirt Dirt Festival” would suffice. So as cheesy as the Austin based event sounds, it live up to its name, both in terms of the bill offered and the experience realized.
Day one of the Fun Fun Fun Festival met the hype, but day two was meant to exceed it. Headlined by Clipse, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Bad Brains, and the Tim & Eric Awesome Show, there was an aura of excitement coming into the second and final day. On the main stage, buzz bands lined the card from the bottom up, starting with Austin’s Ume to Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit and others such as Annuals, Islands, the Black Angels, and St. Vincent. But after a long night (I didn’t get to bed till 5 AM), I found my way to the park at 2:00 to catch Austin’s own dirty funk musicians Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears.
Singer Lewis has been making waves over the year as a showman with the charisma of James Brown and an authentic quirkiness only found in Austin. After a stint opening for Okkervil River on this past tour, the Honeybears sounded amazing as they encompassing sounds complimented Lewis’ groovy voice perfectly. As for the Honeybears, the backing band formed just recently by guitarist Zac Ernst, they are getting better and better with every show, and as veterans of both ACL and Lollapalooza, it’s only a matter of time before Joe and Co. start gaining national attention behind their Jim Eno-produced debut LP.
One of the coolest features of the festival is the fact that there is literally no downtime between sets. The punk stage and indie main areas are divided into two equal stages side by side, so as soon as one side finishes, the other side is ready to go. This isn’t seen at many festivals, and with such close proximity and small crowd sizes, it truly is one of the more intimate experiences for a festival-goer.
That kind of intimacy is needed when watching the soft, indie rock of Glasgow’s Frightened Rabbit, a band that has been making waves stateside throughout the year. In the vein of the Shout Out Louds and Nada Surf, Scott Hutchinson weaves his emotive vocals with the clean guitar and drumming of his band mates. The sound is so precise that it becomes quite ostentatious, however, and I soon became disinterested.
It was off to 6th Street again to look for some food, and we ended up drifting into this restaurant called the Boiling Pot. The sign said seafood, and we said ‘hell yeah.’ But it definitely wasn’t what we were expecting. After the waitress covered our table with two massive sheets of butcher paper, it all became clear. She emptied a big bowl of roasted potatoes, sausage, corn-on-the-cob, shrimp, and a blue crab. What the menu didn’t tell us was that the eyes and guts and shells were still intact, and that we would have to eat our fish like true Cajuns, which we weren’t . It took a long time, and it took gag-reflex control, but we downed it and headed back to the park. Looking back, I’m just glad we didn’t get crawfish!
I decided to pass on Annuals and Islands due to both group’s inability to capture my attention on record with their latest efforts. This may piss off a lot of readers, but after experiencing that meal, it was time to dance, and dance, we did. We arrived mid-way through the scheduled set of France’s Toxic Avenger, but ultimately it was Los Angeles’ Frankie Chan who stole the show – spinning and mashing on stage, feeding off the energy of the excited crowd. Hipsters in pink and yellow glasses, women in all sorts of attire, black people, white people, Hispanic people, Asian people, even a dog: it didn’t matter. Everyone was there to party, to dance, and to have a great time. It truly was one of the funnest experiences I’ve ever had at a festival, as Toxic Avenger and Frankie Chan spun together, inviting the crowd up to the stage several times.
It took a lot, but I was able to pry myself away from the stage to get into position for St. Vincent. The Black Angels were just finishing up their set, and the crew were setting up the stage for a full band show. St. Vincent’s Annie Clark likes to mix it up a bit – there are days she’ll perform solo, like at ACL last year, where she’ll have her musical toys to accompany her, or there are days when she’ll have her full band to help fill out the sound a little more. Hammering through most of the songs off her spectacular debut Marry Me, the quirky Clark was still able to take the reigns despite the band behind her. Most of the effects, like the fantastic second microphone she uses for distorted vocal work, are her own doing, but when she took a seat behind the keys for a beautiful rendition of the title track, she seemed right at home. The crowd didn’t seem to appreciate her ‘busting out the jams,’ as she put it, but that didn’t phase her one bit. On the vicious set-closing Your Lips Are Red, St. Vincent made a lasting impression on their return “home to Texas.”
I didn’t stick around too long for Minus the Bear, but the few songs I heard sounded pretty good. They’ve never done anything for me though, and neither have the rest of the acts performing on the day, so I ended up leaving. But even though I decided to skip out on a lot of the buzz acts, I still had a great time, and I strongly recommend the festival to anyone who’s looking to visit Austin next year. You won’t be disappointed.