Austin’s most eclectic music festival has come and gone with some memorable moments and entertaining performances left in its wake. Read our roundup of the great and not-so-great events that transpired at Auditorium Shores with our Fun Fun Fun Fest recap below.
Best Half Hearted Performance/Worst Performance: Lupe Fiasco
It all felt forced. The unnecessary lashing out at some of Fun Fun Fun Fest’s onstage crew; the emotionless and immobile live rendition of “Kick Push”; and the forced microphone drop at the end of a boring performance of “Superstar.” It’s ironic that Lupe’s forthcoming album, Tetsuo & Youth, is somewhat influenced by Akira’s Tetsuo Shima. The rapper, like the fictional antagonist, was a ticking bomb whose fuse went off multiple times throughout his performance. It’s unfortunate because his set started off well–backed by a screen that filtered through symbols of excess (money, drugs, women, guns), Lupe was militant and energetic, jumping across the stage in all black attire. But one problem led to another and the rapper’s enthusiasm quickly transformed into frustration and apathy. After completing “Superstar” Lupe mumbled some quick words and disappeared offstage. The words weren’t declarative–more mumbled and forced than anything else. That was Lupe’s show: a microphone drop that lacked resonance, disappointed faces piercing through an Austin night sky.
Best What The Fuck Is Going On Performance: Melt Banana and The Locust (Tie)
Melt Banana, a noise rock band from Japan, and The Locust, also a noise rock band but from California, were easily the most interesting and polarizing performers during Fun Fun Fun Fest. Melt Banana is the older, Japanese and ADHD-riddled pen pal to America’s Sleigh Bells. The Japanese duo, composed of a female lead singer and male guitarist, performed over a backing drum track and flailed around wildly on the Black Stage. Each song bled into another, with guitar screeches roaring into frenetic drum parts and high-pitched screams. A moment of calm rarely, if ever, appeared throughout the band’s wild set, and that’s what made it memorable.
Same with The Locust. Wearing skin tight, full body nylon suits, the four piece went through a set of songs that never faltered on their abrasiveness. The fact that nearly every song performed was, at max, a minute long, only added to the band’s immediacy and forwardness. There were indecipherable screams, squeezed guitar strings and dissonant synths, the combination so intimidating that even veteran headbangers were overwhelmed. Fun Fun Fun Fest prides itself on being an anti-festival, and bringing in acts that one doesn’t commonly get the chance to see. Melt Banana and The locust embody that notion: bizarre acts that end up being some of the festival’s most underrated performers.
Best Performance By A Group Of Teenagers: Unlocking The Truth
Brooklyn trio Unlocking The Truth had a well sized audience for their afternoon set on Saturday because, well, they’re a group of teenagers that play heavy metal really well. Although band leader Malcolm Brickhouse’s guitar amp had multiple technical difficulties halfway through the group’s set, the band left an impression on people as they went through an assortment of intricate and heavy music. There was even a brief moment of comic relief, when drummer Jared Dawkins began to talk with the audience while crew members onstage attempted to fix Brickhouse’s amp problem. Even with multiple cable and amp changes the problem continued, resulting in the band’s set being cut short. But the crowd cheered on, pumping their fists as the band ended with “Monster.” Of course the band members couldn’t have seen this but as they finished the last seconds of “Monster,” a middle age man in a walker stood immobile, his head moving back and forth enthusiastically. The power of metal transcends any and all ages–even when that music is coming from teenagers that make you wonder what the f*ck you’re doing with your life.
Best Performance That Almost Happened But Didn’t: Killer Mike
With Action Bronson canceling his performance on the final day of Fun Fun Fun Fest, Killer Mike was scheduled to take his place and perform at the skate ramp on the festival grounds. What would’ve arguably been one of the coolest, if not best, performances of the entire festival (Killer Mike rapping while guys do 360 flips and handstands behind him? Priceless) unfortunately fell through because of sound issues. At first it seemed to work but ultimately Killer Mike had to give up on the performance, assuring fans that his Fun Fun Fun Fest after show would make up for it. However, he did tell fans to find him in the crowd and spark up with him, although I’m not entirely sure anyone took him up on his offer.
Best Performance That Also Doubled As A Stand Up Comedy Routine That Wasn’t At The Yellow Stage: Antwon
From encouraging the crowd to sing the Backstreet Boy’s “I Want It That Way” to telling the audience that they’re “too turnt up” off of Whataburger, Antwon provided a dose of comedy during his enjoyable set. Antwon’s set was plagued by sound issues but he made it work, performing songs about oral sex (and sex in general) but putting a slightly morbid perspective on it. (He has a song called “Dying In The Pussy,” if you needed additional context.) It’s no surprise that the rapper has been compared to Notorious BIG in terms of delivery, but his love for hardcore punk music and lo-fi production adds to his already aggressive sound.
Best Contradictory Performance: Body Count
Yes, Ice T is an important figure in gangster rap and rap music as a whole, but a large portion of his success is due to cops. Whether it’s threatening them or acting as one Ice T has proven that one method of everlasting relevance is contradiction. This isn’t bad; through Law & Order Ice T has created a characters that every cop should aspire to be. Maybe this was the plan all along: to critique the Department of Justice not only through music but through a hit TV show. Anyways, this contradiction is what made Ice T’s performance wildly entertaining. “Cop Killer” sounds dated today than when it served as one of the many theme songs to the 1992 LA Riots, but it still hits just as hard. There’s nothing like yelling “F*ck police brutality” at the top of your lungs, or screaming the chorus of Suicidal Tendencies’s “Institutionalized” (which Body Count covered) with a guy in a leather black jacket. Body Count is extreme in the same way extreme sports are extreme: over-the-top and ridiculous, but you absolutely cannot look away.
Best Performance That Made You Nostalgic For Your First Year Of College: MGMT
There’s something distressing about hearing MGMT perform some of their biggest songs when you’re about to graduate college. It’s easy to dismiss their sad and melancholy lyrics when bubbly synths and upbeat, danceable drums are what is emphasized most in their music. But as I sat in the grass and listened to frontman Andrew VanWyngarden sing the lyrics to “Time To Pretend,” I felt as if an existential crisis were coming on. Fortunately, no such thing occurred but their set actually left me pretty sad. It was a good performance; “Electric Feel” was simultaneously sexy and weird, and “Your Life Is A Lie” and its weird-pop structure is best understood when performed live. But something about it left me contemplative. I wish I could blame this on a mild acid trip (their visuals obviously catered to the trippers present at the festival) but if anything I took it as what often happens when you revisit an important band or song associated with a certain time period of your life. Sometimes songs no longer resonate with you or they do, but in a different way. Maybe this is what MGMT tried warning us about, but we were too busy pretending.
Most Boring Performance: XXYYXX
XXYYXX is a talented producer but his set failed to leave an impression. Halfway through his set he even acknowledged the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm towards his set, stating, “You guys look bored.” There were some great moments such as when he went into a remix of Ryan Leslie’s “Addiction,” but nothing else really stood out. Challenging an audience is always interesting and if you navigate it well then kudos to you, but XXYYXX’s set became unbearable halfway through.
Best Rap Performance: Deltron 3030
When an act is deemed a supergroup there are certain expectations you have, one of them being that the group is, well, super. Sometimes that band exceeds our expectations (Atoms For Peace) while others fail miserably (Chickenfoot). Deltron 3030 can proudly claim to be a part of the former. The act was bound to have a decent sized crowd because of core Deltron 3030 members Del The Funky Homosapien, Kid Koala and Dan The Automator, but there were some additional members that added to the crowd’s anticipation. From bassist Juan Alderete (of Mars Volta fame) to a 16-piece orchestra, Deltron 3030’s set explored the fictional dystopian future that’s present in the group’s latest album, Event 2. The future Del creates is bleak but the music that accompanies it isn’t, as smooth baselines and head-bobbing drums kept Del’s intricate rhymes intact. And yes–they totally did “Clint Eastwood.”
Best Crowd Participation Moment: Twerkers For Big Freedia
Big Freedia is a queen and when referred to as such her wish is your command. So when the New Orleans bounce rapper requested that members from the audience come onstage and twerk, around 15 people enthusiastically did so. Most of them had no idea what they were doing (although there was this one girl who twerked very slowly and somehow ended up being the best guest dancer) but it was amusing to watch, especially when Big Freedia gave each dancer a tap on the shoulder followed by a declarative index finger pointing to the floor. They dropped it low immediately and the self-proclaimed queen diva smiled approvingly.
Best Performance By An Artist That Can’t Decide What Animal He Wants To Be: Snoop Dogg (Lion)
Every time someone refers to Snoop Lion as the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg, it’s inevitable that the response will be, “It’s Snoop Lion,” followed by a chuckle of disbelief. It’s been over a year since Snoop Dogg evolved into Snoop Lion, and yet most of us still can’t take the name change seriously. Whether an actual reincarnation or a marketing ploy, at least one aspect of Snoop hasn’t changed: his ability to entertain. From beginning to end Snoop had the crowd reciting lyrics from his biggest hits. From his guest feature on Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” to West Coast classics “Gin and Juice” and “Nuthin’ But a G Thang,” Snoop went through everything we wanted and more.
Best Performance: Bonobo
When a band you didn’t care to see stops you from seeing a band you were anxiously awaiting to see, they’re doing something right. I had known of Bonobo before his Sunday night performance, but preferred to see Slayer because it’s, well, Slayer. However, Bonobo’s set was mesmerizing. Interspersing his production with live instrumentation, Bonobo’s set included a woodwind player, guitarist, drummer and singer. His audience danced underneath a breezy Austin sky, taking in the warm sounds coming from the stage. It was hard to leave but I didn’t regret missing a single minute of Slayer’s opening set.
Worst Thing Ever That I Hope Transmission Events Gets Right For Next Year: Sound Issues
For the past three years that I’ve attended Fun Fun Fun Fest sound has never been a problem. However, it was apparent at every stage, and it quickly became intolerable. Sound issues are inevitable but when they’re significantly effecting a performer’s sound–come on, y’all.
Slayer, M.I.A., Flatbush Zombies, Washed Out, Cro-Mags, August Burns Red