|Identity. It's what separates your brand from everyone else. There are so many festivals every year that host the same bands and the same line-up to pull in tickets and expensive beer. That's not to say their acts aren't justified, but the thing that should bring you in is the chance to see something no one else is going to see that year. There is a reason Fun Fun Fun Fest is my favorite festival to attend - I know what I'm getting into is special. While the festival has grown to host some big name acts (some who have played the larger festival circuits years earlier), the intimacy of the festival is worth noting in its identity. Crowds aren't ridiculous, stages are set to a sort of "genre specific" line-up and even with a barricade, you feel close. Sure, there's always going to be some minor problems and climate issues, but what festival doesn't have those. This is certainly the biggest year for the festival, but they still have proved there's something special in the vein of Pitchfork or FYF. My third year in a row, and I will be returning next year because I have confidence each year will be a blast. I look forward to SXSW because the amount of friends in the industry I get to see at one time. I look forward more to Fun Fun Fun Fest because the amount of amazing music stacked in a similar three day execution.|
Saturday's Fun Fun Fun Fest looked like a scene from a Southern version of Mad Max filled with crust punks, hipsters, cops and every style under the sun wearing bandanas. Due to the lack of moisture from this summer and a cold front moving in this weekend, the wind kept the open sky's Sun cooler, but it also stirred up the ground for many of us attendees. Considering Friday's Danzig debacle, it didn't put many in a good mood, but most of us - myself included - made sure to make the best of it. I tied my LSU 'chief up in anticipation of the "Game of Field Goals" and walked around looking like I was ready for the pit most of the day.
After starting my day with a couple of songs form Austin's Thieves, I sat down for an interview with Cave In for a project I'm working on and then headed to Touche Amore. (side story: I was suffering three straight days of lack of sleep, during the interview, I reached back to grab my water bottle and lost balance out of the crappy chair I was sitting on and fell straight over. *facepalm*) I caught the last couple of songs as Jeremy Bohlm acceded the stage and screamed out the final words of the band's set without a mic - trying to shout over an even louder crowd shouting back in unison. It proved that Touche Amore is not only one of the best up and coming hardcore bands, they're also the biggest one at the moment.
B L A C K I E was moved to from the blue stage to the black stage on Saturday, and was a quite a show right before seeing Deathgrips. The Houston based rapper came out donning only his boxers and screamed his way through one of the most interesting sets of the weekend. It was like if hip-hop and harsh noise had this ridiculous love child. Then Deathgrips took the stage and was as good as I would have expected it to be. Finally seeing Zach Hill's drumming in person was amazing. Hill is the real deal, and his beats sat behind the fury and energy of MC Ride and it was awesome to be right up front for it.
After some lunch, I caught the end of The Joy Formidable's set, and it was the walk-up surprise of the weekend. It was powerful and the band's sound filled out from the stage all the way to the back of the hill where I was standing waiting for tUnE-yArDs - completely lush and full. The next time they're in town, I'm going to go catch the full show.
tUnE-yArDs released one of my favorite albums this year, considering I wasn't a big fan of Merrill Garbus' last album under the moniker. Out in the height of Saturday's sun, with the wind finally calming down and the dust settling for a bit, Garbus stole my heart with perfect rhythm. The set had a few minor sound difficulties toward the beginning, but once those were resolved, the set was strong - and I'm happy it ended with "My Country," one of my favorite songs this year.
Now that I had quite a smile on my face, I was ready to grow it even bigger and add a few laughs. I headed to catch Turquoise Jeep. For those of you scratching your heads about this, just watch this. Now, a joke's a joke and I'm sure I should have been watching some other more "hip and important" band, but Turquoise Jeep was one of the best sets of the weekend. They didn't just come out and half-ass it. The group put on a show worthy of any real hip-hop act. In fact, I'm selling them short by even saying that.
I caught the end of Paint It Black's powerful set. Dan Yemin was intense, as he stood against the barricade while swarms of people were shouting along with him with an intense pit going on behind them. With acts such as Ceremony and Trash Talk proving how powerful hardcore can be once again, Paint it Black showed they can still be as powerful ten years later.
I ended my Saturday in loud fashion. One of my most anticipated acts of the weekend, I finally got to see Cave In, and it didn't disappoint. I went as far as getting close and not wearing my earplugs. (How badass, right?) The band tore through mostly White Silence's heavy hitters - a complaint that could be heard after the set from some kids standing next to me - but they still killed it and lived up to my expectations. White Silence sits second to Until Your Heart Stops personally and is one of my favorite albums this year. Color me thankful for being able to see those songs live since Cave In doesn't tour so much.
I didn't know what to expect from Hot Snakes, besides the fact that I heard they crank it up to eleven. The angular punk band (reminiscent of a louder Gang of Four) drove their guitars through their entire catalog and did not disappoint the crowd or myself. Hot Snakes' hooks were (and always have been) subtle and layered under their grander garage sound coming from the stage. I'm glad I got a chance to see the show.
I caught about 30 minutes of Spoon's set. Great performance and even better choices of songs. After seeing Cave In back-to-back with Hot Snakes, it just didn't hold my attention (which is saying a lot, because I love Spoon). I headed downtown to meet up with Pianos Become the Teeth to head to an aftershow. After finishing watching the "game of the century," we headed to Red 7 for Boris, Tera Melos and Russian Circles.
I think I should leave my thoughts on Boris to what my friend said to me: "I really like this. This is the best thrash I've heard in some time." Boris brings the heavy, and being as it was only my second time seeing them, they still held my attention and kept me rocking my head back and forth throughout their set. I still haven't sat down with the my advance of New Album yet, but I'm sure it'll be as heavy as the back catalog the packed venue was waiting for on Saturday night.
It was the first time seeing Tera Melos as a three piece, and they made it work. I also love the fact that the guys not only mix their sets up, but they also change-up the execution of each song every time I see them play. Tera Melos is one of the most interesting bands out there right now on tape, but they're even more interesting and fun to follow live. One of my favorite acts to catch every time.
Russian Circles melted my face yet again. Albeit, it was the same set from the night before, but it goes to show just how good the band is seeing live. Like I said in Friday's review, this is the strongest I've seen them yet and will definitely be catching them every time they come through.
After becoming deaf and rocking hard through the night, it was time for some sleep and quite a Sunday ahead….
all photos courtesy Sara Strick
B L A C K I E
tUnE - yArDs
Paint it Black
Sunday's forecast called for rain. After the dust storm of the day before, I would willingly let it pour down upon me. Plus, how cool would it be if Slayer started shredding in the pouring down rain to end the weekend! But alas, only a slight shower (if you can even call it that) happened all day. In an unfortunate turn of events though, the day started with Pianos Become the Teeth getting their van broken into at my apartment complex while they were staying with me for the weekend. Luckily none of their gear or merch was stolen and just replaceable electronics (except a camera Michael York's grandfather passed down to him), so please support the guys and go see them while they're out on tour with Touche Amore and Seahaven right now.
I happened to get that news while starting my day with Lemuria. A good set and a band worth checking out, but nothing really grabbed me otherwise. Up next Le Butcherettes took to the stage (Omar Rodriguez Lopez playing bass) and got the energy flowing in me. Every time I see Teresa Suaréz (Teri Gender Bender), I melt. While the set Sunday was the tamest I've ever seen her, she still brought a lot of energy and turned a lot of heads in the way she exorcises feelings buried in her music. Le Butcherettes is a band that you have to experience beyond headphones and car stereos.
After lunch, I caught Ceremony's amazing set. I don't listen to Ceremony on a regular basis, but I like what they've done and as the second time seeing them this year, I will say this: bands like Ceremony are necessary in hardcore. There is a force, a way about the band - this charisma - that you don't see in a lot of hardcore today. There's this anger but at the same time it's very playful and inclusive to whoever is around. There's not enough good things I can say about a Ceremony set. Just go see this band if you get the chance.
After an interview with Russian Circles, I went and caught my friend Doug Mellard perform on the yellow stage. One of Mellard's things for the day was stage-diving and crowdsurfing while he told one-liners. It was pretty funny, and some of his new jokes were gold. If you get a chance to check out his stand-up - even online - do it.
After that it was time for the man himself: Ted Leo! If there's a person in the "punk" scene (for which I think he even transcends that in some way) that never disappoints me in the swagger of his stage show, his tweets and thoughts on rock and roll and politics and just one of those guys you wish was your cool uncle - it's this guy. All day, tweets were coming in from the festival and Leo supposedly had a surprise for everyone. After an already great set, Leo made one more Danzig joke and walked off stage to change into the Dark Lord himself. The band gave the crowd what they had come for on Friday night: The Misfits. Though it wasn't the real thing, it may have been better, and the best performance of the weekend. Leo was even modest about his surprise set on twitter saying that they played those songs because they loved those songs. Bravo Ted. Bravo.
I caught about half of Del the Funky Homosapien's set. It might have been the best hip-hop set I saw all weekend, though my friend said Childish Gambino was amazing - I was at Cave In. I then headed over to see HUM. Next to Cave In, this was highly anticipated. Though the band didn't play "Isle of the Cheetah" (my favorite HUM track), they were still loud, lush and beautiful against the cloudy sky and backdrop of downtown. There could be no other perfect mood to see what I saw that night. Though I may never get a chance to see the band again, the set well met my expectations.
I got to catch the last 30 minutes of Henry Rollins' stand-up. I was bummed I didn't get to meet him all weekend, but his set was both inspiring and hilarious. To me, Rollins is the epitome of how you should always take the open-mindedness of punk rock with you and never close off your sense of humor that only will grow with it. I ended up missing Trash Talk which bummed me out (the new EP is killer), but Slayer was all I expected it to be. It was theatrical. It was loud. It was fast. It was angry. God bless the dad that had his kid on his shoulders holding out the devil horns! Father of the year!
Til next year...
all photos courtesy of Sara Strick
Ted Leo and the Pharmacist
Ted Leo and his band performing some Misfits songs to make up for Friday night
Architecture in Helsinki