I overslept Saturday morning. Anna having been at work and unable to attend "Weird Al" festivities, we went out Friday night to get a her a weekend dose of music at a house party featuring Half Mile Fox Fur, Planets, and The Creamers. We saw 40-odd barely-legal kids shoved into a living room hardly bigger than our own. No stands being present, a microphone hung from a ceiling fan. The bottled-up kids got rowdy to the fast, loud, inaccurate music. It rocked pretty hard, possibly as hard as Fun Fun Fun Fest. Just wanted to remind you again that other music options are always present in Austin.
After some morning hand-wringing I was after all able to arrive at the park before any music even began, just a few minutes after twelve. Having announced my intention to cover principally local music to the authorities who approved my press credential, I felt obligated all three days to get to Fun Fun Fun promptly. Every Austin band that played was either first on its stage or damn near it. I ran in between stages Blue, Orange, and Black early Saturday to distribute my attention between Royal Forest, Butcher Bear and Charlie, Woven Bones, The League of Extraordinary Gz, Nick Nack, and Hatred Surge. All six acts were done before 2 PM Saturday.
Nick Nack combined original material and DJ stuff in his set and was employing brand new technology. It was only his second time playing original material live, after Exploded Drawing, and by his own admission he rushed through it. Knowing more now about the scene for electronic producers in Austin, I hope he gets a lot more chances to do his own stuff. Royal Forest split their very melodic, hopeful verses up with some engagingly loose instrumental rambles. I don't think they really know how to use their pedal steel. Hatred Surge were hardcore of appropriate volume and tastelessness level for the Black Stage environment, but I felt they weren't brutal enough for their name -- they sounded more like a mere dislike surge. League of Extraordinary Gz brought a live drummer, a mascot, and a whole lot of rappers to their early set time. Their song subjects are the usual -- being cool, smoking weed, where they're from -- but their local pride and their nice assortment of different rhyme styles are winning. I've seen Butcher Bear spin before and I've gotten used to seeing his red-costumed self all over the place, but this was my first time seeing him with his duo partner Charlie. Their set was kind of long on covers and short on melody, lacking the energy that many of the other Blue Stage acts had that day. I don't know if 1:30 in the afternoon is their peak performance time.
Woven Bones are a band I know a thing or two about, although I haven't completely formed an opinion of them. I saw them for a vanishingly short time in January. Their recordings while intriguing are deliberately obscure-sounding. A lot of local musicians I like have, to put it mildly, skeptical views of them. I wish for all these reasons that I'd been able to stay for every second of their set Saturday, because I was really enjoying what I was hearing the first several songs. Their songs have simple parts but the changes come quickly and there sure are hooks. The way the drums, guitar, and bass all kind of sit in a slightly different place rhythmically is soulful. I dislike that they only have one style, but I'm kind of at a loss for what other style they would do. I liked that they made an effort to look alive even though they surely deserved a bigger crowd.
After 2 it was time for me to go meet up with bands for interviews, which went off both days almost entirely without a hitch. For that I have a few managers and mostly the musicians themselves to thank for being totally on the ball and enthusiastic about the opportunity. Nick Nack, The League of Extraordinary Gz, Eagle Claw, and Royal Forest were all very welcoming towards me and I appreciate that a lot. Interviews aren't the most natural thing for me to do, but I need to do them, for Fun Fun Fun Fest and otherwise. Even I get tired of hearing only my own voice all of the time.
Because the Blue Stage was right by the artist tent, I saw at least a little of most of Saturday's hip-hop artists there. Devin the Dude was putting on a show appropriate to his reputation, and sadly it seems like Slick Rick's once-melodious voice has left him. Rick sounded hoarse and out of sorts. Female rappers Invincible and Dominique held it down but it was Big Freedia who made the biggest impression, maybe of the whole day. The transgender New Orleans sissy bounce queen was absolutely thunderous, from her vocal proclamations to the intensity level of the multi-ethnic ass-throwing that was taking place on stage. After dark, Delorean were one of my favorite rock bands of the whole weekend, although they fit on just fine on the dance stage. Their powerful drummer combined with live bass and balanced keyboards for a sound that's of-the-moment but doesn't sacrifice the importance of songs.
Most of the Orange alternatives I saw paled in comparison. Antlers really captivated me when I came across them, but sadly it was at the very end of their set. Wavves were predictably bland and off-key; the new trend of dysfunctional kids becoming famous through their laptops without ever having to learn how to play with or arrange for a rock band needs to stop, right now. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti made no impression, and Os Mutantes were done in by questionable sound and an apathetic audience. Cap'n Jazz were a bright spot. I was always more a fan of their numerous splinter groups -- Promise Ring, American Football, Joan of Arc -- but it was nice to see the complete lineup of the band presenting a pretty dead-on impression of what they must have been like in their brief heyday. Including, of course, rambling pseudo-intellectual gibberish between songs from the inspired but insufferable Tim Kinsella. No one cares about what you think about the problems modern society faces with regard to pronouns, Tim. Please never change. Dirty Projectors seemed to me like intolerable noodling, and bigger fans of their work than I told me the sound for their set was awry as well. I am unmoved by MGMT on record and now having seen them live, I remain so. I give them some props for deliberately following up their hit debut with a super-weird album that has no singles and nobody likes. However, they would have to be at least one-tenth as good as Beck to keep adhering to his career path so closely, and I say that they are not. See also: Wavves.
I didn't spend a ton of time at the Black Stage Saturday, and looking back that's my biggest regret of the weekend. Sunday Anna C. and I kept heading back there and we never regretted it. Of the bands I did see Saturday, The Dwarves and The Vandals brought it loud. The Dwarves to me were a band whose record covers have been amusing me since the early 90's -- whose music I had never heard. That is no longer true. There was really no way that it was going to live up to the bizarreness standard of those LP's, but at least it was good, honest dirty fun. The Vandals only retain the drummer from their original lineup, but as long as there are fans left alive who know the words to their classic songs, you figure they will be touring. I liked the way the singer and bassist traded off at the end. Why not? Obviously the guys who are playing in the latter-day Vandals must be the biggest fans in the world of the band they're now in. The Black Stage had a constant theme of musicians and fans who were just as happy as hell to be there.
Finally, I couldn't resist the opportunity to see GWAR again. I've known of them since the very early 1990's, and it's pretty radical that their music and show haven't changed at all in 20 years. Their songs still consist of undifferentiated thrash riffs over which single phrases are shouted repetitively. Blood still spews from inanely fake-looking costumes and props; folks in the pit get messy. It's more pointless to criticize GWAR than possibly any other heavy metal band in history. They are exactly what they are, and still packing them in. Talent and creativity are great, but presentation? In presentation lies a career.