Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

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rsz funfest 260x260 Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011Fun Fun Fun Fest rounds out the festival season with a magical three-day weekend that is both very Austin-centric while also showcasing some of the most exciting talent to release material this year. The fest blends the bizarre (Captured by Robots, an all-robot metal band with songs like “Don’t Shake The Baby” from a Star Trek: Next Generation-themed album), the popular mainstream indie-pop darlings (Passion Pit, The Joy Formidable), the “fucking metal” (Slayer, Cannibal Corpse), the local favorites (Autobody, Speak, just to name a few), the hilarious (comedians Matt Bearden, Henry Rollins), the dance tracks (Flying Lotus, Diplo, Major Lazer), and the most controversial (Odd Future) — and a veggie hot-dog eating contest to top it off.

Gossip from the weekend in Austin, TX included the filming of Terrence Malick’s upcoming film Reckless with stars Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling appearing on every stage, and even causing the creation of a Tumblr account dedicated to taking photos of the Drive star. Transmission Entertainment did an incredible job of creating an environment that is intimate enough to run into familiar faces (The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne roamed about on Saturday) while also meeting music lovers from across the country. Night shows (FFFNights) located downtown in the Red River district were a new, free addition to the sixth year of the Fest, and included scenes like Sexy Sax Man playing live to George Michael (erm, Michael Cera) at Beauty Bar on Saturday night.

dsc 0201 Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Jennifer Sinski

In hindsight, Danzig was the only major disappointment (festival creator Graham Williams released a long statement regarding the debacle of a late-start time, supposed sickness, and Diva-demands of the washed-up rocker) during a weekend of controlled chaos set along the waters of Ladybird Lake at downtown Austin’s Auditorium Shores. Deciding to focus on the positives, however, Marie Prescott and I chiseled down the weekend into 12 of our favorite sets.

-Jennifer Sinski
Contributing Writer

Feature image by  Dillon Williams

Yacht

yacht Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Jennifer Sinski

Blue Stage – Friday – 4:00 p.m.
It’s no secret: YACHT loves Texas. Throughout the Portland duo’s Friday evening set, enigmatic frontwoman Claire E. Evans highlighted her affinity for Texas by answering questions from the surrounding local crowd, eventually namedropping her favorite Austin dig (vegetarian South Austin haunt Boudin Creek Cafe). One highpoint arrived when the very Annie Lennox-like Evans sung into the faces of those in the first three rows, her long microphone wrapped around her tight, see-through white skirt as she belted an electro-punk cover of The B-52s “Mesopotamia”. With tracks like “Dystopia (The Earth is on Fire)”, “Utopia”, and the endlessly bouncy “Psychic City (Voodoo City)” to kick around, YACHT makes you want to live in the world they’ve created, dancing for eternity. -JS

Okkervil River

okkervilriver Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Jennifer Sinski

Orange Stage – Friday – 6:30 p.m.
Dust, exhaustion, and passion—all of these things peppered the faces of Okkervil River as they stormed through songs like “The Valley”, “John Allyn Smith Sails”, and “Our Life is Not A Movie or Maybe”. Anthemic was the word of the night, with Will Sheff thrashing back and forth to the beat, crashing to the stage at one point, only to get up and exclaim “Oh shit, the dust! Fuckin’ A!” An Austin favorite, Sheff and his band were warmly welcomed by a large crowd, many with bandanna-covered faces to avoid that aforementioned dust. A highlight of the evening was when the band played older song “For Real”, the lyrics true and touching: “Those blue bridge lights might really burn most bright/As we watch that dark lake rise.” Okkervil River doesn’t play Austin often, but when they do, it’s always a delight, and Friday was no exception. -MP

Clap Your Heads Say Yeah

clapyourhandssayyeah8 Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Marie Prescott

Orange Stage – Friday – 7:30 p.m.
“I feel like I’m experiencing everyone at the same time right now,” Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (CYHSY) frontman Alec Ounsworth said to an adoring crowd Friday night, between a solid set including “Satan Said Dance”, “Misspent Youth”, and “Ketamine and Ecstasy.” Ounsworth showed the world that a man of small stature can still belt heart-wrenching vocals to the sky. The energy on stage was evidenced by the keyboardist, who bounced between keyboards, guitars, and drums for the entirety of the set. While CYHSY occasionally lapses into moments of homogeneity in their songs, the set was driven by the screaming vocals of Ounsworth and the resonation of lyrics like “turns out the man with all the answers/wrote from within the asylum,” a wrenching line from newer song “The Witness’ Dull Surprise.” There are a lot of ways to describe this band, but “affecting” is the most fitting. -MP

Passion Pit

passionpit1 Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Colin Budd

Orange Stage – Friday – 8:30 p.m.
“We haven’t played together in like a year, so I hope everything’s alright.” There was no doubt this concern was unfounded as Passion Pit bounced and gyrated through crowd favorites like “Sleepyhead” and “Let Your Love Grow Tall”. Michael Angelakos was frenetic, a characteristic he imbued on the crowd with entreaties for arm-waving and synchronized crowd-jumping. The band made full use of synthesizers on new songs “American Blood” (a less-upbeat-than-usual, very lovelorn song) and a song that is still untitled, but is very clearly about taking a walk. The latter started the encore, which was followed by “Little Secrets”, a terrific ending to a festival evening filled with flashing rainbow-colored lights and electro-pop music. -MP

Active Child

activechild Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Jennifer Sinski

Blue Stage – Saturday – 1:00 p.m.
Let’s be honest: Harpist/singer Pat Grossi, with his haunting high note operatic-vocals as singer of the ever-serene electronic outlet Active Child, invokes many feelings, but perhaps the most overwhelming of them all is, um, sex. (Quite an unexpected feeling when you’ve been covered in dirt for two days, and you can’t tell how attractive your neighbor is, thanks to their survival gear of sunglasses and bandanas.) Opening Saturday’s festivities, Grossi and Active Child brought some soulful R&B to the fold, especially with standout track “Hanging On”, off this year’s You Are All I See. After they closed with “Playing House”, the audience lingered around, still stuck in the dazy tar. That’s some power. Or, just a very peaceful way to start the day. -JS

tUnE-yArDs

tuneyards Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Jennifer Sinski

Orange Stage – Saturday – 4:00 p.m.
No one was happier to be on stage this past weekend than Merrill Garbus. As the head of tUnE-yArDs, Connecticut’s most eccentric export to date, Garbus’ powerful vocals hike over the looping trail mix of everything from ukuleles to saxophones, drums to stellar guitarwork (courtesy of Nate Brenner). At times, Garbus even fiddles about with glass bottles. On Saturday afternoon at FFF Fest, they did all that, running through most of their sophomore LP – this year’s fantastic who kill – with some dabbling in 2009’s Bird-Brains. In front of them were a sea of adoring fans, some who, like Garbus, donned vivid face paint. (One fan asked nearby, “How much to paint my face?” Another girl answered, “Free, of course! Let’s just dance, this is beauty.”) Garbus worked with these vibes, jumping up and down for afro-beat hit “Bizness” and undeniable favorite “Gangsta”. Somewhere in there, she pounded at the drums so hard, it felt as if her beats broke one’s bones. By the set’s end, clouds had rolled in, but so did a slew of new fans. There just wasn’t enough face paint. -JS

Turquoise Jeep

t jeep  Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Jennifer Sinski

Yellow Stage – Saturday – 4:45 p.m.
Believe it or not, but satirical hip-hop crew Turqoise Jeep has nearly six million view on YouTube, all for their low-budget, high-camp video, “Lemme Smang It”. (The group answers the dilemma of what to do when you meet a beautiful women after a night in da club: Do you smash or bang it? Answer: You smang it). Crowds packed the Yellow Stage to witness an internet-meme IRL, but stayed because of catchy tracks from the group’s release Keep The Jeep Ridin’ and their shockingly hilarious, impossible-not-to-love dance moves. One standout moment (out of many) arrived during “Fried or Fertilized”, which contains this golden nugget of a lyric: “How you like your eggs, girl? Fried or fertilized?…When I say fried I’m talking breakfast eggs, but when they fertilized — those the eggs between the legs.” Plenty of fans re-sung that throughout the weekend. -JS

Childish Gambino

childishgambinofff2 Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Dillon Williams

Yellow Stage – Saturday – 4:15 p.m.
Well before Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, took the stage, a crowd had gathered inside the tent, spilling out, and bowing around the sides, reaching for a glimpse of the new funniest man in comedy. Upon starting, he ran through a litany of mostly crowd-pleasing jokes, keeping everyone laughing. His shining moments came during his jokes about television—regarding his dislike for Glee: “…No, I don’t care! Put that shit on YouTube! What’s gonna happen? More people are gonna start watching Community? Oh, no! Like two people watch Community. My mom and Chevy Chase watch Community.” As evidenced by the laughing– and at times roaring– crowd, Glover was one of the biggest acts of the day, demonstrated also by the length of the line waiting for him outside the autograph tent. -MP

Cold Cave

coldcavefff Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Dillon Williams

Blue Stage – Saturday – 5:20 p.m.
Touring on their latest release, Cherish the Light Years, Cold Cave brought a gothic, synth-driven sound to FFFFest Saturday afternoon. From NYC, frontman Wesley Eisold is a sight to behold on stage—tall and skinny, dressed in solid black, he exudes no-nonsense confidence. What Eisold and his band lack in crowd engagement and eye contact, they make up for with violent, jerky dancing and striking keyboard performance. While dark and intense, the songs maintained an upbeat, electro-pop sound reminiscent of New Order, the obvious comparison for a band like this, with the keyboards and Flock of Seagulls-esque hairdos. Eisold certainly has his musical priorities figured out, as this show confirmed. -MP

Girls

girls2 Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Jennifer Sinski

Orange Stage – Saturday – 6:30 p.m.
San Francisco’s Girls took the stage with mic stands covered in bright clusters of flowers, a celebratory ornament for quite a celebrated performance. Surrounded by three backup soul singers, whose black glitter tops shone as the sun set over the festival’s second day, Cobain-look alike Christopher Owens (it’s the hair) broke into favorites like “Die”, “Vomit”, Just a Song”, and “Honey Bunny”. The fuzzy, melodic rock attracted a very eccentric audience – packed with celebrities, too. (Later on, Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne tweeted photos of himself with Owens, Ryan Gosling, and Lykke Li.) During the performance, one fan drew everyone’s attention by crowd surfing via boogie board. Wild stuff, exceptional set. -JS

Spoon

spoon3 Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Jennifer Sinski

Orange Stage – Saturday – 8:00 p.m.
Prior to Spoon‘s headlining performance on Saturday, a hype man of sorts strolled out, announcing that this wasn’t actually the only set for the band in 2011 – they had performed the previous night at Austin’s east side club, The ND. But, the audience there “fucking sucked”, so the hype man screamed out, “You all need to be better.” (Word is the last minute announcement of a secret show brought in an audience of non-fans. Oops.) Within the first notes of “Walk”, the crowd fell in love with Spoon again, especially its hits-heavy set of Gimme Fiction favorites “I Turn My Camera On”, “The Delicate Place”, “My Mathematical Mind”, “Was It You?”, “Merchants of Soul”, “Sister Jack” (one slight blunder for singer Britt Daniel struggling some on the vocals with a quick recovering), and “The Beast and Dragon, Adored”. Members of Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears and Grupo Fantasma tagged along as the horn section for “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” and “Underdog”, while the crowd helped out on Kill the Moonlight single, “The Way We Get By”. Thanks to hometown adoration and one lovable frontman in Daniel, Spoon’s FFF Fest set served as a loud reminder that they’re still a formidable force in the scene. -JS

MNDR

mndr Festival Recap: The Top Sets at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

Photo by Dillon Williams

Blue Stage – Sunday – 3:45 p.m.
Amid a sea of indie pop and sludge metal bands, there was MNDR (man-dar), a woman named Amanda Warner in a bright pink t-shirt and ponytail. From NYC, Warner collaborates with Peter Wade to create fun electronic beats, supported by her rollicking, howling vocals. Her show Sunday afternoon on the Blue Stage was perfectly accented by the weather—stormy, dark clouds and on/off rain showers drew the crowd closer in and made her presence on the stage that much more clear. MNDR has only released a few songs so far – namely “C.L.U.B.” – but she’s someone to watch. -MP

The Culture of FFF Fest

Gallery by Jennifer Sinski

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