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Fun Fun Fun Festival 2015 Review: From Worst to Best

Ten years later, the Austin festival stays true to its original spirit

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    On the way to a 10-year anniversary, most American music festivals lose something. Whether that is a bit of their identity, a bit of their comfort, or a bit of their local appeal, at some point, some sort of consolation has to be made in the name of survival.

    Fun Fun Fun Fest, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year, might be the closest thing we have to an exception. Sure, the festival isn’t the same as it was in its inception, but still present is the atmosphere and appeal that has earned it a reputation as one of the premier music festivals in the country. Whether it’s big little festival or a little big festival, its punk rock ethos is still very much alive, and not just quarantined to the Black stage on the farthest corner of the festival. On Friday evening, Antemasque played the main stage followed by Cheap Trick — both artists who are very much in tune with what Fun Fun Fun Fest holds as its core.

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    Photo by Philip Cosores

    This isn’t just the impression of the festival we’re talking about. Back in 2012, when Consequence of Sound named Fun Fun Fun our festival of the year, co-founder Graham Williams spoke to the festival’s identity and ambition. “It’s just about having that reach and presenting everything that is great about underground/progressive music, old and new,” he said. “We never want to just become known as a nostalgia fest that only has old bands.”

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    If we’re to gauge the fest based on this vision, 2015’s iteration was exactly what FFF set out to be. Venom (who Williams was eyeing way back in 2012) played their first-ever Texas show. L7, American Football, Ride, and Babes in Toyland all brought their reunions through. And some of today’s most heralded contemporary acts, like Grimes, Future Islands, Neon Indian, Chromeo, Schoolboy Q, and CHVRCHES all impressed. Many bands even signed up to play twice, capping off their evenings with slots at FFF Nites series.

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    Photo by Philip Cosores

    While Fun Fun Fun Fest is a music festival, it also manages to be so much more. The taco cannon was back. So was the wrestling, the BMX and skate park, the headliner-themed hot dogs (the Wu-Tang dog from Frank came with a chance to sit on-stage with the rap group), and a pretty amazing frozen banana stand called Bananarchy. Fans could sit on the grass, stand and stare, or stage-dive from the front of the pit. But maybe best of all for the citizens of Austin and the music fans that make the trek here, FFF is a chance for like-minded individuals to gather and find their common ground. Metal fans get the chance to walk by rap or indie rock; fans of electronic music might get to witness the mayhem of Converge or American Nightmare for the first time. Never is there tension for the fest to cater to one group or another. Unlike pretty much every major music festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest can sit firmly in its identity and know that the audience is there for whatever it has to offer.

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    Photo by Philip Cosores

    With all that said, we caught more than 40 of the acts that played over the event’s three days. Here’s our take on them, from worst to best.

    Philip Cosores
    Associate Editor

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    Schoolboy Q

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    Photo by Philip Cosores

    Schoolboy Q was fighting a nasty cold and was visibly and audibly fatigued for his Blue Stage headlining set. “I’m worn out,” he admitted, taking breathers after each track to wipe down with a towel. After “Hands on the Wheel”, he stepped back for a monologue: “Ya’ll ready for another album? I know I am. I’m so tired of performing these songs. ‘Man of the Year’? Tired of it. ‘Collard Greens’? Tired of it. ‘Studio’? Tired of it. ‘Hell of a Night’? So fucking tired of it.” He performed all these cuts, albeit begrudgingly. Maybe it was the illness, but this was not Schoolboy’s finest hour. –Jon Hadusek

    Rae Sremmurd

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    Photo by Philip Cosores

    What the youthful duo of Rae Sremmurd bring to the table in boisterous energy, they lack in the ability or desire to actually perform their songs live. While the pair entertained with declarations of their intent for partying, their encouragement of voting, and their distaste for ex-girlfriends, their backing track wasn’t just something to lean on; it was often the majority of the song that was heard. Chalk it up to inexperience, but in terms of live performance, jumping around for hits “No Flex Zone” and set highlight “No Type” just isn’t enough. Even the group’s DJ showed a lack of polish, botching a song only to be let off the hook by a dancing panda bear and a troupe of young women invited on stage. For fans, it wasn’t a bad time, but not the caliber of performance that they deserve given the group’s nighttime placement. –Philip Cosores

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