Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014 Recap
Leon casino, Photo: Tina Phan
It’s November in the year, and that means that it’s time for another Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores in Austin. Even though the festival layout has changed from last year, it was definitely a good time to catch up on artists that you wouldn’t normally see in one place. A good example of that is Mineral, pictured above.
On Day One, I was particularly interested in catching Knapsack. Parking, which has never been kind in our state’s capitol; was better than last year. After about a ¼ mile trek and a wonky sign in process, I made my way over to the Orange stage. Ironically, I got to hang for a bit with singer Blair Shehan prior to their performance. As a guy who sees tons of bands in one month, rather than a year; I watched the entire set. The band played tunes from the bulk of their back catalog including some from “Silver Sweepstakes,” and “Day Three of My New Life.” They sounded pretty epic, so I was shocked when they said that there wouldn’t be a new album in the future. “We just do what looks like fun nowadays,” explained Shehan. It’s a shame, because they were twenty years ago and still are one of my favorite bands.
Mineral was on stage next, and they really played like it was the nineties. It was strange as it felt like time had stood still for these guys. Playing from their back catalog as well, they played a set I’d never witnessed; which is insane for a guy who saw them at least forty times back in the day. They, believe it or not; were the highlight of day one. It was insanely cool to see them afterwards as well, when I found out that they’ll be in Houston at Fitzgerald’s in January. It was also pretty amazing to watch Dinosaur Jr. play their cray back catalog while performing many of their newer songs. Though I had a Judas Priest photo pit pass, it was just a little too crazy with rules, crowded pit, security for the festival and security for the band to hassle with.
On day two I found myself starting things off with Jello Biafra’s spoken word set in the comedy tent. I have to be honest, I’m not a big fan of him, but his words came across with depth. I kind of wished that he was speaking out against the ills of society rather than fronting a new post Dead Kennedys project and running a record label. I watched Glassjaw perform like they were still in their prime before having like fifty people tell me about how I had to catch Iceage. I was pretty happy with the suggestions, though the band reminded me of Pulp a lot. They really put on a great show, especially for being on in the middle of the day.
The rules for The New Pornographers’ photo pit were so bizarre. That being said, they played better than I had seen them in years. They played just a bit of their new album, and really played the better of their past songs, including the best from their last album, “Together.” The sad thing, is now that Neko Case is blowing up; I almost feel like the days for this band are numbered; so it was nice to catch them live. I then had the odd chance to talk to Fred Armisen, before having to hand a coconut water to King Diamond; which was kind of epic. I interviewed one man band and bluesy rocker and pal, Scott H. Biram; before heading over to catch Nas. When you’re from Houston, or at least for me; I feel like you have to be amazing for me to watch you rap. Yet Nas really performed on his “a game” while referencing Houston rappers Scarface and others as influences. As amazing as he was, I felt obligated to watch a bit of King Diamond, with his age and all. Again, I was surprised at how well he can still sing at his age. With a crazy stage set up, and then bringing his mother on stage to sing to her; Diamond was the perfect lead in for Modest Mouse. Maybe it’s because it’s been a long time, maybe it’s because I see so many bands, or maybe it’s because I’ve changed…but Modest Mouse was a little oatmeal. I still love their sound and their songs, but their performance was subpar at best.
I started day three watching Houston Gabe Bravo perform comedy with the blaring sounds of music behind him. Third days at fests can be tedious; yet I felt charged enough to make the most of it; and I did. I then made it over to watch Har Mar Superstar perform his soul based pop music. Har Mar has been steadily touring since he dropped “Bye Bye 17” last year, and yet he still seemed fresh at the fest. I bounced a stage over to watch a little of Foxygen while I waited for comic Jonah Ray to hit the stage where Har Mar just played. Ray was in rare form where he made fun of Austin, admitted to hating Sublime, and even judged a dance competition. He was followed by comedy from Thomas Middleditch and Kumail Nanjiani from the show “Silicon Valley.” Middleditch was a surprise who quickly won the crowd’s hearts by comparing Austin to a seaport full of bearded and tatted up pirates who just hang out. Nanjiani was hilarious as well, but not a surprise. The comic/actor has always been hilarious, and he too begged Austin to change; or at least cut down on the amount of pedicab drivers.
I kind of geeked out when I got to talk to BMX legend Mat Hoffman about the new SPOON album, and then further got geeked when I got to chat with Rocket From The Crypt. I then went to watch Scott H. Biram with me, which was really great. I’ve known Scott a long time, but it feels like he’s in his stride; and he’s always been great live. He played a couple from his newest album, “Nothin’ But Blood” while still playing older tracks and blues traditionals. Then, I chatted about music with Jonah Ray, and then sang along to Gorilla Biscuits with him. These guys have always been on my bucket list of bands to see live, and they didn’t disappoint. They played basically their whole catalog from their two albums from 1988 and 1989. I then stuck around to watch Rocket From The Crypt. RFTC has always been one of my favorite bands, and they came correct. It quickly went from 2014 to 1995 while the band in matching uniforms played like they had never broken up. They ran the gambit of the albums playing deep cuts and hits, while interacting with the crowd and holding them in their hands.
I had to catch some of Flying Lotus, who brought visuals to match his tripped out sound. I only got to see two of his songs, but I was glad to see what I did. He had a big crowd which was nice to see, and he played a song over his allotted time just to do so. I ended the fest with Wiz Khalifa who was in a prime. He played songs from “Blacc Hollywood,” “O.N.I.F.C.” and so much more. It felt like he was happy to be there, and in a place like Austin who isn’t as hip hop spoiled as we are in Houston; it was welcomed.
I truly enjoyed this year’s festival and was happy to see that it’s still going strong. After the usual festival world hiccups, and a stage swap that didn’t reflect the map, overall it was an amazing experience that those at Transmission pulled off with great ease. If you’ve never been to a Fun Fun Fun fest, then I’d recommend it. I’ve gone since the festival began, and it’s just getting better and better with each passing year.