Fun Fun Fun Fest 2009
FunFunFun Fest prides itself on being the "Un-Festival" and Transmission Entertainment does not disappoint, transforming Waterloo Park in downtown Austin into a mecca for independent bands and fans. With four stages to choose from (and a lot less ground to cover than Zilker), fans were spoiled with choices all day. Les Savy Fav or Face to Face? Jesus Lizard or Ratatat? But with decisions like that to make, it seemed a good thing. And it was. Fans enjoyed the performances, food was good, lines relatively short, media access outstanding and hospitality areas well thought out. Even the weather in Austin cooperated, with unseasonably warm temperatures for November.
After catching a bit of Times New Viking from the Orange Stage shortly after our arrival to Waterloo Park, Examiner headed over to the Black Stage where Night Marchers were crunching through a particularly heavy set of Texas cow-punk-metal. But the buzz in front of the stage was reserved for Russian Circles from Chicago. The Black and Orange stages actually had two set-ups side by side to facilitate quicker change overs to the next act. Which was great for the fans crowding up to see the Chicago trio do their thing.
Russian Circles are one of the premier post-rock bands to emerge from the vibrant Chicago scene that has seen post-rock band, Pelican grow in popularity. They have also toured with Japan's Mono who had a recent tour stop in Austin. While Mono is approaches the genre from a progressive, indie-rock sound, RC has a harder more metal-influenced sound that fit well with the punk acts scheduled for the Black stage.
Guitarist, Mike Sullivan produces a layered guitar part with harmonics coming in underneath some impressive fretting while his drummer, Dave Truncrantz furiously bangs on his kit and bassist, Brian Cook lays down the rythmn. Apart from Sullivan having some technical issues with his pedals, the set was thought provoking such that Examiner was ready for something lighter when RC finished up to rousing applause. Time for MC Chris over at the Blue Stage.
For those not in the know (that includes Examiner), MC Chris is an actor (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) who has a rap show that is both entertaining and humorous. The perfect balance to the heavy music coming in at the other end of Waterloo Park. With Chris crackin' jokes about the crowd singing with him. "Ok, on three . . . .make the loudest of the three noises!" during the obligatory hip-hop sing-a-long. From the side of the stage, one could see MC Chris' act has some polish to it. This guy is a seasoned performer with a little bit of talent, some know-how and lot of balls. Love 'em!
Next on tap was Melt Banana, a punk act from Japan with a female lead vocalist that sings like a banshee on steroids. Highly entertaining. So was the mosh pit which featured the usual collection of upside down Chuck Taylors sticking up out of the pit in front of the stage. Yasuko Onuki, the founding lead singer of MB is attended university in Toyko where she teamed up with guitarist Ichiru Agata. They found a drummer and ten albums later, brought their brand of "new-wave grindcore" to Austin.
Their intense, driving fast style left the crowd breathless between songs, recovering just enough to launch themselves into the next at the same frenetic pace. Onuki implored to crowd to check out the mechanical bull and skate ramp at the festival too. But with all that was going on onstage, not sure anyone even noticed the skate ramp until the set was over. Wow.
By this time, it was necessary to pit-stop at the media tent to re-charge the mobile (which was being worked furiously to upload pics) and make notes on the shows seen thus far. After regouping, refilling at the bar it was time to head over to the Orange stage where Examiner took the opportunity to relax on the huge bean bag chairs in the covered lounge area next to the stage. While Yeasayer was good, it was time to get in position for Face to Face over at the Black stage.
Face to Face is a Southern California punk band that broke up and recently re-formed to the joy of hard-core So Cal punk fans. Their early 90's hit, Disconnected established FTF as one of the premier punk acts of the time, being mentioned in the same breath as Offspring, No Use for a Name, Green Day, The Vandals, NOFX, et al. In 2004 the band broke up and in 2008 they reunited at the Glass House in Pomona, CA and have been touring and writing new music since. With the resurgence of early 90's rock influences, FTF is back in the driver's seat with a new hit song.
Lead singer and sole founding member Trever Keith showed the Austin crowd how true professionals perform. Flawlessly. And with an energy and happiness that spread across the crowd and engulfed the south side of Waterloo Park. As Keith lead his band through seminal hits, crowd singing along, a sense of community seemed to descend on the park. Wild moshing in front of the stage, fans pogoing up and down, people getting crazy. After an rousing encore cover of the Descendants, Bikeage the set was over complete with sweaty, exhausted fans.
After a bit of debate with Jesus Lizard, Pharcyde and Ratatat all scheduled concurrently, it was time to scoot over to the Orange stage for Montreal's Ratatat. With strange visuals of black men jumping into the air behind them on a portable film screen, Ratatat played an instrumental, spacey show that seemed the ideal antidote to the craziness left behind at the Black stage. It was also a fitting end to the night as visions of FunFunFun Fest's spectacle flashed through consciousness. The air was soft and warm. The lights were glowing. Once again Austin was making music magic. Again. (fan FB Austin Concerts Examiner page for more pics, videos and music downloads below)