Fun Fun Fun Fest 2013
You all are taunting me with your functional sticks.
If you were to tell me after the bodyfuck that was the Housecore HorrorFest event that I was going to enjoy myself at Fun Fun Fun Fest almost as much as I did at SXSW 2013, I would have laughed at you, spit in your face, stuck two fingers in your nose, and pulled up sharply. Not because I enjoy laughing/spitting/sticking(?), but because I straight-up would have felt incredulous at the idea. Festivals are so laborious, and omnipresent, these days that a few bad-laid plans can send even a seasoned curly fry like Gumshoe running to the hills, his balls nestled in a fruit-picker’s pail.
But that wasn’t the case, bro-slice. Fun Fun Fun has quickly become a machine so well-oiled KY is worthless; all you can do is slip-slide in and enjoy the onslaught of comedy, indie-rock, rap, metal, and… taco cannons. And I did. And we did. And you should have.
The following is not a paid testimonial:
Patton Oswalt: Is there a single Christmas-movie scene more fun than that provided by Oswalt and Kal Penn via the holiday installment of the Harold and Kumar series? There’s Oswalt, playing a department-store Santa that sells weed, getting racked “right in the sugar plums” and baking up in the mall parking lot. That’s the image of Oswalt I’ve had in my head over the last few years because I’ve blocked out the last time I saw him perform, at the Sup Pop reunion celebration, as he, somehow, wasn’t very funny. Which was discouraging at the time (and it was five years ago or so) because I didn’t imagine previously that he even knew how to not be funny. But good news is afoot, fellers! Oswalt, circa 2013, kicks out the comedy jams without a hint of the relationship-heavy banter that befouled his Sup Pop set. He also made a sport of ripping on the bands playing at the adjacent stage (“He [Kurt Vile] must be standing in a wading pool of soy milk or something” was one barb, followed by, “Oh shit is that Kurt Vile? I love Kurt Vile!”), flexing a bit of his improv muscle while reeling the crowd in with his flawlessly verbose prepared bits. ‘Twas a win.
Thee Oh Sees: I shouldn’t even mention my brief foray with Thee Oh Sees because it lasted but two songs, but hey, I like what they do, twistin’ garage-rock up into all sorts of fresh, psych-y shapes and colors. In fact, two songs from them is like four songs from most other bands. Petey, dammit!
The Walkmen: As most of you know, I fucking love this band. It’s too bad their latest album is so… ugh. Listening to it is like shopping at the Gap or some shizz; I can’t find anything that fits my ears and feel mildly irritated by it all. Hamilton Leithauser seemed a little drunken and irritated himself, and for good reason, as Fun Fun Fun’s sound engineers flubbed most of the first day. You couldn’t hear Leithauser sing for the first song or two, and even when you could it was a faint whisper of what one can usually expect from the New York five-piece. Being forced to end their set after about five or six songs, by dint of the slooow pace of Kurt Vile and the other bands preceding them, was the ultimate insult. And so I plead with you, Walkmen: Don’t judge Fun Fun Fun Fest on your experience in 2013 alone! It’s usually much, much better.
Lupe Fiasco: We thought Lupe was done after two songs because of a pregnant pause, but as it turns out the main stage wasn’t the only area having sound problems. Unfortunately, even when LF got their electricity flowing, something was missing. Rap shouldn’t be this boring. After a few songs it was time to amble.
Cut Copy: If you’re a dude it’s almost become tough to truly love Cut Copy, as they’ve morphed from post-punk upstarts to Duran Duran/Depeche Mode obsessives with little in mind save getting that all-elusive dance-party started. The thing is, however, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with a dance party, and if said dance party includes addictive hooks, bulbous beats, and reasonable un-annoying vocals, I can’t fight city hall. Nothing remarkable about this Aussie act, but then again what is remarkable any more? Fuckin’ solid.
Snoop Lion: Strangely I wasn’t looking forward to Snoop. Saw him at Lollapalooza 1998, back when he only had one, maybe two, albums out, and figured at this point he didn’t have much else to offer from the No Limit (and beyond) years. And while a few of the tunes sucked, and others were sliced and diced (Gumshoe be payin’ tha’ price) into lame medleys, Snoop-a-loop ain’t so poopy once he hits the stage. I.E. he’s a pro. He dazzles, he dizzles, he rizzles, he razzles; he’s like a running back you can’t ever get a good, clean hit on. Can I blame him for not playing “Murda Was the Case”? YES. And I do. Yet I remain under his spell. He didn’t lose me until the very end, when his chorus of So what we _____ / so what we _____ ran until not a single soul in the house cared. Snoop Lion kicked the bucket, Gum’ said Fuck it.
Chelsea Light Moving: Love the little in-between songs that get stuck in the brain for months on end just fine. I just prefer that one, knock-out track every reasonably desirable band has to possess. For Chelsea Light Moving, helmed by Thurston Moore, that cut is “Alighted.” Its ferocity was unsurpassed by anything I saw/heard all weekend, and stood out despite the steady nature of CLM’s entire set. I knew I’d get a kick or two out of this project, but apparently I really fuckin’ blew it when I let their record slip by me. While a few of their other compositions leave something to be desired, on the whole it’s tough not to be excited about the bottled blue-yellow guitar lightning they’re generating.
Doug Benson: I’ve seen this guy kicking the Comedy Central can down the road, and he’s always been a pleasant surprise. His humor focuses on average stuff guys focus on on an average guy-stuff day: Penis, sex, porn, and the different sizes his penis can be. I insist privately, to myself, that one day I’ll tire of jokes about these subjects, and then I always let myself down the next time a sick-ass comic takes the stage.
Craig Robinson: Fuck fuck fuck-fest, I can’t believe how much I hated Robinson’s set. A funny guy, playing with a band, and barely making any jokes amid the funk rush of covers? I will never forgive that sweaty mother for what he did to me that day.
Tenacious D: After failing two consecutive years to get into a Tenacious D show at SXSW I gritted my teeth through Craig-Ro and a sweat-shop atmosphere at the comedy tent to see some prime D, take-you-to-brown-town action. God it would have been so painful to tell you if they had failed to deliver their message! Bless the heavens then that the duo unrolled their set like a fleece of sparkling gold, ripping through quite a few hits and some lesser songs from that recent album that’s not-great. NO MATTER. Jack Black gesticulated like the man-child we’ve all come to adore so much while his partner Kyle Gass squeezed acoustic riffs from his lightbulb frame. Love to see them groovin’ so hard on each other even with the “Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Cage” drama of the past. Seeing as I ended up missing Television to see the D, they owed me big, and came through. (Am I sure it was the right decision? No.)
Body Count: It was morally wrong to skip Quasi to see Body Count, but assuming this was the reasonable course of action is to ignore the larger issue here. You see, if you were a white kid in the 1990s, there’s a good chance Body Count were the scariest band you’d heard, ever. I mean we’re talking about killing cops, kid! And there was at least a modicum of musicianship behind it to counteract Ice T’s brittle spoken vocals. I was hooked. I still have the original Cop Killer CD, including old-school cardboard CD box, signed by Ice T. And I don’t collect autographs; it might be the only autograph I own. Anyway, it’s too bad and all because BC really sucked. They played “Disorder,” an old duet they did with Slayer (funny, the Slayer guys didn’t show up, fuckin’ snobs), and got my hopes up, but “There Goes the Neighborhood” was ragged like a floppy pair of semen-stained tight-whites (as opposed to uptight whites, whom helped Body Count sell a shitload of records) and their cover of Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized,” substituting playing X-box for the proverbial Pepsi, might have been the most tonedeaf cover I’ve seen performed live. And I’ve seen Me First & The Gimme Gimmes! Body Count, Body motha-fuckin’ Count… Body Count, Body motha-fuckin’ Count… sucked.
Deerhunter: Seen these guys a few times now and they never suck, and “Nothing Ever Happened” is always great and too long, and the songs I barely recognize (because sadly I have little time for this band these days) always seem better than I remembered them. Perhaps our paths will intersect in a more meaningful way again in the future, as there’s just something about the way Bradford Cox pushes a melody through… It’s like a victim apologizing to its captor, innocent yet resigned to the ugliness of the world. Oh, and they play indie-rock music.
M.I.A.: M.I.A. is so fucking awesome. Her vocals were hella-fucked for at least half the show and it didn’t even detract from the show, as the production is so bouncy and peppy you can’t help but lose your shit when it breaks it down. She never quite took shit over like we all expected to, then again now that I’ve seen her in concert finally I can understand what all the fuss is about. Once she finally played that “Planes” song I’d forgotten I was even waiting for it! Unreal, with a crazy ferris wheel-esque light thingie and a couple of naughty dancers keepin’ it tight and makin’ it right. One of those performances that, if you feel that festival burnout creepin’ up, will lift you right out of it, at least for awhile.
I should say this: Day 2 was not a success. I missed Melt Banana, Pelican, Descendants, Merchandise, and still more only to wait hours, wasting away, to see Tenacious D. If I was going to salvage something fragile and/or beautiful from this particular FFF experience I was going to have to crank it into a new mach for the stretch run. And that I did.
Deltron 3030 w/ full orchestra: Caught wisps of XXYYXX and Schlomo, the latter quite impressive, but the first show I truly witnessed was the Deltron 3030 extravaganza, conducted by Dan The Automator like he was working a group of sock puppets. When that first cut slumped to life like a post-trip-hop dream voyage I thought I was going to see one of the best concert performances of the last 20 years. While things cooled down a little the power of the orchestra bolstered the already-tight tunes those who went to college in the early aughts couldn’t avoid. They even tossed in a “Clint Eastwood” cover. Yoda yogurt, babe.
The Dismemberment Plan: Forgot; I saw The D-Plan before Deltron. Rather than rewrite everything, however, I’ll just tell you about The D-Plan now, cool? So they’ve played a few reunion shows and what-not, new album and what-not, but what’s the real deal here? Are they loved enough to justify anything beyond that? From what I saw, probably not. Any gold nuggets they hit upon back in their day have been mined by others like Enon, also now-defunct, or proven to be dead-ends. You gotta love Travis Morrison as he struggles to light up a glow ring (and fails, much to his chagrin, as others flaunt theirs; “You all are taunting me with your functional sticks,” he says.), and… well, that’s it really. Glow ring.
Gojira: I almost, almost went to see Mgmt with my companion, and I’m glad I didn’t because Mgmt suck and Gojira kick devil cock-ass. While they seem to get distracted by that late-era Death/Cynic/recent Mastodon prog-metal shit at times, when the metal hits the meat you’re gonna bang your damn head, guaranteed. I love it when foreign dudes attempt between-song banter too. Yeah man, your english is great bro! Man to think I almost skipped this for Mgmt… That’s almost as bad as creating a makeout playlist on Spotify…
Daniel Johnston: Ran over after four or five ‘Jira songs to catch DJ and he SOUNDED WONDERFUL. So much better than when I saw him nine years ago and endowed with the spirits of angels. “True Love Will Find You In the End” is all well and good, but witnessing the cover of “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” is an opportunity in life I had that I’ll never, ever forget. The love the crowd had for Johnston swelled to blue-purple, sucking all the air out of the hay-stuffed ex-comedy tent (you can’t call it that if DJ’s playing in it) and blowing it into my soggy soul. Heaven isn’t too far away, folks.
The Locust: At times it’s nigh impossible not to want to strangle Justin Pearson and his Locust brethren. PLAY A BEAT/RIFF/ETC. FOR MORE THAN FIVE SECONDS. PLEASE!!!! But that’s what they do: They test you, they tease you, they dangle their cock in front of your face and slap you with it a little, all while refusing to offer more than little scraps of the warp-speed, post-power violence hardcore they’re capable of. ARGH! Love it.
Jurassic 5: Look, it’s late, and if you don’t already know what to expect from a J5 show what am I going to detail that’s going to complete the picture for you? The grips of air-locked group raps? The Bushwick Bill appearance that sorta ended abruptly and rudely (much respect, Bill)? The mind-buckling duel between Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark? Well, I guess I just did, but I shouldn’t have had to. And yeah, I skipped Slayer again, partly because they didn’t duet with Body Count on “Disorder” and partly because I’m pretty sure they’re going to play Sunday night on the main stage circa Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015. I can wait it out.
[Illustrations: Carolina Purdum]