Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012
“The rest of the guys looked like they just got back from stuffing their heads up a drunken wolf’s ass.”

I’ve written so many festival-review intros that at this point I’m totally numb. This writing-nose done snurped up too much deviated-septum word-coke over the years to do much for y’all intro-wise. But I will say this: Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012 was a hell of a way to spend a Sat-Sun; I can’t emphasize that enough. After a couple of rough fests last year, I feel like I’m full of the spirit again. Hopefully that enthusiasm can be transmitted to you, much like a sexual disease, by way of this rich, informative, over-the-top writing. Voila?


Tomahawk

Photo: Joel Baxter

“Do they have any cock? GIMME SOME COCK!”

So began Fun Fun Fun Fest in two-thousand-twizzy, with a conversation about the best barbecue joints in Austin between Mike Patton and audience members. I love and cherish Patton and just about all his bands. Would give my left nut to see Fantômas, and Tomahawk did just fine, as well. I’ve always found T-Hawk to be inconsistent and a bit dippy (less extreme than most Patton projects, not as out-there as his less-extreme projects), and their live show, though saddled by the aforementioned limitations, zoned in skillfully on sprinkling the crowd with quirky heavy-rock songs from their three-or-so records (and a new, boppin’ little baby on the way!). Patton isn’t quite a god, per say, but he’s a good guy to have around the house, nose in his tape-looping machine and mind constantly in the avant-rock gutter. “Mad scientist” doesn’t even begin to describe the chemical reactions gushing from Patton’s performance. A fun-fun-fun-as-fuck way to start out an extremely successful festival experience with an old friend and thousands of strangers who, in way too many cases, are extremely hottt.

Earth

“No flash; for medical reasons, goddamn it!” Earth’s Dylan Carson is a crotchety old man at this point, and absorbing Earth can drive you crazy by way of the tense, slow proceedings, and… no one would have it any other way. They are what they are, and it works just fine, so why fret? Post-rock, minus the climaxes, sounds so unappealing, so why does it become so mystical in the hands of this guy? Who cares, I guess, as all we have to do is continue to soak it in. Nothing about the live show of Earth delivers anything you can’t experience listening to his last few records, particularly the Angels/Demons sets, but I recommend it nonetheless. It’s a matter of sacridity.

X

I never liked X much, but I tried. And I still don’t like X much.

Run-DMC

Photo: Joel Baxter

Believe it or not, even as a young white kid in the 1980s, I never liked Run-DMC. I was into Public Enemy; I liked Chuck and Flav just fine, but I also demanded that the radical-sounding production be as powerful as the lyrical delivery, whereas Run Dizzle wallowed in plain beats and rudimentary rhymes. The few songs I saw did nothing to change my mind about them. I even prefer their gangster-rap period (NEVER LET A PUNK GET AWAY WITH MURDER / GUN SHOTS / GUN SHOTS / ALL YA HEARD-A; strange lyrics coming from the Reverend and co.) to that old-school “tricky” shit. Sorry, but no yes-yes-y’all from this Texan.

WHY?

Everyone knows WHY? sucks… right? I just don’t get it. So many enjoyable little bands were on Anticon (and a lotta bad too), and I liked ‘em for it, but just how did this guy ever break through on any level? The recipe: Take the worst aspects of pop music and… shit, I guess that’s it. What am I missing here? This stuff is so unmemorable I take no pleasure in shoveling shit onto it whatsoever; at least Teddy Bears were shitty-funny or maybe even shitty-shitty-YAY-YAY! WHY? has so much assumed character I feel like maybe this guy was imitating a best friend that annoyed him and decided to make a record… and people liked it! Rad, padre! Spin that Sugar Ray record next, then finger my butthole!

Brutal Truth

Photo: Joel Baxter

Having recently read a fantastic book about grindcore/death metal (Choosing Death), it was an extremely extreme bit of fortuitousness for me to be able to imbibe a potent batch of Bru-Tru so soon after. And as much as I love the canon scoured by the book (Cannibal Corpse, Death, Napalm Death, the latter of whom also played Fun Fun Fun), Brutal Truth are one of the most appealing — and Gumshoe-friendly — bands to emerge from the misty swamps of the Earache empire by dint of their math-metal chops, death-metal leanings, and unpredictable nature (not to mention the rapacious growling). Their live show might even be better because Richard Hoak (just found out he’s also of Total Fucking Destruction, an underrated band I’ve covered in the past; fuck) is grindcore’s Greg Saunier (don’t worry, Deerhoof played later!), all sinewy and launching forth with the evil-dead snarl of wind, fire, and rushing water. And as much as I love Saunier’s quirky bashing, there’s nothing — NOTHING — more ball-bashing than endless successions of blast-beats and double-bass bludgeon-fucks. The rest of the guys looked like they just got back from stuffing their heads up a drunken wolf’s ass, especially knighted thrash mega-legend Dan Lilker (Do Nuclear Assault, Anthrax, S.O.D., and/or Venemous Concept ring any bells?), and I’ll be damned if it didn’t precipitate an uptick in their intensity. How do they jam like that, in the ball-shriveling heat of Austin, when they obviously haven’t been outdoors in six months? I don’t know, but I hope they keep it up forever and ever. The three veterans kept up with their skinsman just fine, save the technical problems experienced by the weird/wiry/wonderful bassist. It’s typical that Brutal Truth’s timeslot was 2:30 in the afternoon and sparsely attended; all the best music suffers this fate at festivals full of bouncy-boobied yup-a-dups and uninformed, wannabe knobs. And hey, when people crowd the shittier stages, there’s more room for the knowing. Daughters reunion?

Paul Banks

I thought it was hilarious when Banksy conjured that Julian Plenti alias then scrapped it a few years later; it echoed the feeling I’d had all along that, much like his lyrics, he doesn’t quite make a lot of sense. But I’ll tell you what, I still play those old Interpol records and I don’t give a flyin’ ice-cream fudge if he’s snail-trailin’ it solo these days; the man knows how to ratchet up the tension, and he’s never stingy with the guitarpeggios (at this, he’s one of the best). This isn’t like that Julian Casablancas solo material, all mechanized and purposely faraway as possible from his day job. As much as Interpol cheered me at Sasquatch nigh on seven years ago, I can live with Banks’ new band and sound. I’m not ecstatic about it, but I can live with it. Don’t worry, once the money runs out, he’ll be back out-front doing what he does best with his boys.

Real Estate

I’ve avoided this band for so long because I somewhat enjoy Sunny Day Real Estate (and fuck you, too), and they turned out to be acceptable, quite so. This is indie rock, and it’s not boring. And that’s all. And what are you looking at?

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Wavves

I’m starting to wonder how I made it through this whole thing. So many bands! Wavves sounded alright, all snotty and punky and better than I figured they would be, and yet in the greater context of Fun Fun Fun, and pretty much any festival that’s any good at all, they pale. Whatever they’ve got — and they DO have something — isn’t quite enough right now. And I can’t help but think Nathan Williams is doing more whining these days than anything else. He doesn’t sound as pissed off as he does petulant. Next thing you know he’ll be complaining about money or some shit (most bands make a lot less!)… Bummer, bro-bro.

Peelander Z

I’m not sure why I thought Peelander Z were a super-charged, snap-crackle noise band, and I soon paid for my ignorance. As fun as spectacle-over-substance rock can be (Genitorturers, Nashville Pussy, Green Jell-O, Gwar, ICP; actually, that’s not fun at all!), in the right hands, Pee-Z’s rah-rah bullshit kept me warm for about seven minutes. All the odd helmets and crowd-baiting antics in the world won’t make up for punk songs so dated they make the current Alternative Tentacles roster sound like future-dubsteppers. The feeling one is seeing a performance both memorable and primal fading so quickly, like sticky smoke in the pre-dawn air. There is nothing necessary about this band. Pee-Pee!

Public Image Ltd

Johnny Rotten doesn’t have many friends left, but it was a pleasure to spend a fair Saturday night with his band. I could be wrong / I could be right / I could be black / I could be — and am way too — white, and there’s one thing I know: You don’t turn down the chance to see PiL or the lead singer of Sex Pistols, ever. And Rotten was rife with energy and bluster, just like I envisioned him, and his voice resounded with clarity and rich body. In the end, it’s a bunch of 60-year-old fellows reminiscing on old times, but part of me embraces that more and more, the more I see bands like Public Image Ltd. Considering how hard and fast most of the kidz are dry-humping the 1980s, it might have behooved bands like Diamond Rings to watch a band like PiL do its thing, even after all these years.

Refused

Photo: Joel Baxter

Refused were fucking dead. Now, they live again. For the first few tunes, it was tough not to wonder if maybe we craved them because, so soon after they arrived, we couldn’t have them anymore. And doubtless that will always factor in. But they’re also a raging boner of a punk/hardcore band, packing more intrigue and math into their hymns than most and topping it all off with the weighty screams and middling singing voice of Dennis Lyxzén. Their verses can be painfully awkward, so it makes sense to wait until the chorus to judge each song, keeping in mind that the real gold lies in the breakdowns and sudden rhythmic shifts. Super-exciting stuff when the jazz breaks get involved, less enthralling when the straight-ahead lurch of their older material is revisited. This much is sure: I’ve never seen a singer physically exert himself the way Lyxzén does. Not something to hang one’s hat on, but I appreciate the effort it takes to gallivant around the stage and keep things square on the mic. Four more albums, four more albums, four more albums…

Sunday

Liturgy

To say Liturgy don’t suffer for their lack of a drummer would be stupid as fuck; it’s one step short of awkward to see those two dudes up there jamming with a robot. I don’t want robots replacing real people in pornos, and I sure as sugar don’t want a probe-cold machine taking the place of a drummer in a promising, up-and-coming black-metal band. Greg Fox, where art thizzle? (Guardian Alien, that’s where bitches!) I don’t want to obscure the subtle pleasures of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s much-ballyhooed project by spending the entirety of this blurb gawking at the lack of a sticksman, but man, GET A DRUMMER ALREADY! Hunt-Hendrix looked bored as shit onstage too, his screams obligatory to the extent that my companion asked, “Do these guys have words?” I don’t even fucking know! And that’s weird; I’ve always stuck up for Liturgy in the grand scheme of things, and the voice-layering thing was cool in a tUnE-yArDs kinda way, and occasionally the songs broke through, though not nearly as clearly and fully as the records, in particular the split with Oval, and… Do I have to finish this? It hurt-Hendrixs me too much to besmirch his throne like this.

A Place To Bury Strangers

Nice to see these NYC boys again after checkin’ out their set in Denver a few years back, and though absolutely nothing has changed since then, that’s not their problem. Rock-steady drums, perhaps-too-predictable blasts of guitar effects, and Ian Curtis. I’m not in heaven nor hell; honey, get me my pills.

Har Mar Superstar

I can’t believe I finally saw this little man in concert after all these years, and… well, I still don’t know who the joke is on: him, us, or both. Har Mar Superstar can sing his cute little butt off though, and his soul-funk-disco style matches his jokester persona well. Not anything I could rightly recommend, of course. We run a serious ship over here at TMT, don’tchaknow!?!

Giant Giant Sand

We watched Giant Sand bask in the perhaps-less-hot-than-Arizona glow of Texas for a bit, and though the experience didn’t make me forget about Calexico or Friends Of Dean Martinez (they were awesome, no?), there’s nothing wrong with well-delivered alt-country with heart and spirit, especially if the deliverers delve deeply as these fellers do into different corridors of their chosen genre and many others.

Bosnian Rainbows

I wasn’t even aware Omar Rodriguez-Lopez was supposed to play Fun Fun Fun this year, but there he was, taking the stage/timeslot that was supposed to be graced by rapper Rakim. Bosnian Rainbows (Think you hate that band name as much as me? Nope, not possible.) is O-Rod’s project with… some lady who looks good, sings good, and moves… not so good (half the time it looked like she was squatting to pee; don’t judge me). I had a hard time taking Bos-Rai seriously despite the built-in impact of Rodriguez-Lopez’ by-now-almost-too-well-documented six-string mega-sizzles and the singer’s decent way on the mic. That’s great and all, but the songs had that un-lived-in feel; call it the Broken Bells Syndrome. Most of it was forced, some of it completely unnatural, and all of it below-par for artists who obviously hope to step outside of their comfort zones and at the same time get a ground game going for the youth vote. Thing is, I think most youngsters would be able to see through this guise, and did. On the other hand, older folks looking to get into something that sounds unfamiliar, that they think young people would be into, will probably eat this up, thinking they’re ahead of the curve in some way; they couldn’t be more wrong. WRONG!

Deerhoof

Photo: Joel Baxter

I might as well follow the Saunier thread to its conclusion sooner than later, and as Deerhoof’s set was one of the most pleasant surprises, it belongs near the top of this damn thing. I’m going to level with you: The experimental abyss has sucked me into its gaping asshole of a vortex (or is that vortex of an asshole?) to the point where bands like Deerhoof rarely make it onto my turntable anymore. A few obligatory spins here and there, but not enough feeling, not enough loving going on there. Perhaps I will return to the fold now that Deerhoof done went and poo-poof’d all over my hatin’-ass abstract fruit loops. Their music is as challenging as any dome-scraping drone-fuk will ever be, and their combined musicianship is the sort that only arrives after years and years of tears and beers. (The end is near.) The idiosyncratic drumming of Saunier, employing but a single tom and cymbal — not counting the hi-hats — is frenzied and busy enough to topple 95% of the dudes with huge bells-‘n’-whistles drum kits, and he manages to squeeze his improv-style drum flourishes into the semi-pop context of Deerhoof amazingly well. I know I’m rubbing too many drummer-balls here, but some of these bands were really stickin’ it to us, brah. Why you gotta trip, man? Not as explosive as EITS (reviewed below, don’t worry) nor personally relevant as Brutal Truth (reviewed… earlier, shit), Deerhoof, for what they play, turned in a pitch-perfect performance. Truly a group it doesn’t require a genre permit to appreciate.

Black Angels

I’m starting to wonder if my initial interest in Black Angels was brought about more by the fact that their debut LP came out during a musical drought in my life than any mystical connection they have to the classic rock they enjoy. I’ve seen them live twice, albeit on big, isolated stages, and come away more “meh?” than “yeh!” Once you push beyond the immediacy of their sound, which is admittedly formidable, I’m not sure if they have the songs to bring their propensity for the past to full fruition. And sometimes it’s OK to change chords every, say, 5 or 10 minutes; sometimes it’s okay to flip up that-there drum beat every, say, half-hour. The Warlocks used to do the ad nauseum repeating, but they at least changed their style from album to album and/or song to song. I tuned in, for the last time, and I’m tuning out.

Explosions In The Sky

You mean rumors can actually be true? Yep: Explosions In The Sky are as good as everyone says, and once again I feel neglectful for not having lent them more spins over the yores. I finally understand why these fellows rose so prominently to the top of the post-rock heap, even eclipsing faves o’ mine like Mono and perhaps even Mogwai (man that hurts to say, but I’ve seen Mogwai twice and it’s less of an experience; your move GY!BE). I can think of few elemental indie rock forces that possess more girth than the mighty triton wielded by EITS’ thrice-powerful guitar unit. Unselfishness like this — I’ve jammed with six-stringers that won’t even consider a second guitar player — is always rewarded, and the carefully planned progressions of each participant weave together in a way that, at times, causes emotions to pour out of the face, neck, and head in a cathartic purge. Memories flash in and out, unburdened by the presence of a singer that will paint his/her own picture for you. I’ve heard Sigur Rós’ live shows described in a similar fashion; I’ve yet to see those Icelanders duplicate what I witnessed Sunday. In-between cuts like “Let Me Back In,” from 2011’s Take Care Take Care Take Care, carry a rare, restrained bit of charm, but those who understand this band know where it all began and wherein the JUICE of this entity will always reside: The Earth Is Not a Cold, Dead Place, and that record was the fulcrum upon which Explosions In The Sky’s set rested, from its first song, played first, to its last song, played _____ (you’re not stupid). It’s sort of like Mogwai concluding their sets, to this day, to my knowledge, with “Mogwai Fear Satan”; sometimes you just can’t, and shouldn’t, fuck with what works.

Black Moth Super Rainbow

I was truly looking forward to my first experience with Black Moth Super Rainbow outside the pall of recorded works and came away flabbergasted. Is that Tobacco, that dude hiding behind an opened suitcase? Are these white people, nodding their heads semi-interestedly while I’m supposed to be banging mine? Is there any difference between the album and the live show, besides the lesser impact of the latter? Is this casual show coming from the same band that packages their records in hair and their vinyl in all the colors of the rainbow (not to mention foil-wrapped shit and silk-screened LPs)? Did Explosions In The Sky ruin me for Black Moth Super Rainbow? Wow, that’s entirely possible. But I think there’s something to the idea that, though BMSR pioneered to a certain extent a lot of the dance-y electronic stuff out there now, they’ve done little to move forward since alpha-album Dandelion Gum. I’ve enjoyed their records, however, and I liked Tobacco’s solo dealie just as much if not more. And that’s what really makes this awkward (that and the fact that I’ve personally met and gotten along fine with a member of the touring band). I guess I subconsciously thought there would be bubblegum monsters and voodoo masks and huge piles of shit-meat or something, maybe even the Kool-Aid guy, and that’s my bad! Maybe the Peelander Z show scrambled my brain a bit and I’m all bent on cock-of-the-walk strutting and costumes (the EITS fixation would seem to rebut that). Then again, maybe I just don’t like watching performances wherein the lead singer is obviously terrified of human contact. Seeing as his studio wizardry has earned him my praise in the past, it’s even tougher to come down so hard on Tobacco’s stage… whatever (wouldn’t call it “presence”). Jesus, what a way to end this thing, eh?