What’s that? You didn’t realize that Austin had another music festival between last month’s Austin City Limits and March’s South By Southwest? Then you, sir or ma’am, are not Terrance Malick. (More on that later.)
This past weekend, Fun Fun Fun Fest — a three-day event with four stages of college-radio royalty, hip-hop heroes, and your cool older brother’s favorite hardcore bands — took over the sunny Texas capital for the seventh year in a row. And while this newish entry to the festival-industrial complex doesn’t yet have the hashtag ubiquity and Tupac holograms of its more established peers, it is able to rope in a reunited Run-DMC, top-shelf comedy, and enough Ryan Gosling appearances to justify its own Tumblr. Also, there was a taco canon. (None on that later.)
And Music Mix was there too. Forthwith, a day-by-day graded run-down of Fun Fun Fun Fest’s highlights.
Bob Mould The legendary Hüsker Dü and Sugar frontman has an excellent new solo album out this year, but lately he’s been indulging longtime fans with a special treat: a full performance of Copper Blue, the much-beloved (and newly remastered) Sugar album from 1992. And as one might expect, Mould killed the ish out of it. “I like that record,” he announced after finishing up “Man on the Moon,” Copper Blue‘s last track. “It’d probably the last time I’ll ever play that whole record live.” Grade: A
Val Kilmer and Rooney Mara With the Black Lips Yes, that’s right, the star of Batman Forever and the girl with the dragon tattoo in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo shared a stage with Atlanta’s messiest indie-rock outfit. To catch you up to speed: Tree of Life director Terrance Malick is currently in the very long, very strange process of filming a movie about Austin’s renowned music scene. As a result, the likes of Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Christian Bale, Kilmer, and Mara — all stars of the still-untitled project — have become fixtures at the city’s many festivals, which Malick has been using to shoot on-site footage for the movie. And while we’re pretty sure Gosling winked at us during a surreal wait in the line for the port-o-potties, that was nothing compared to the rambling rant delivered by Kilmer, in character as a washed-up rocker named Dwayne, during the Black Lips set. Don’t worry, the whole The Doors thing was addressed too. Watch the spectacle for yourself in the video below:
Superchunk There probably isn’t a week that goes by in which Music Mix doesn’t listen to Superchunk. So we’re just going to go ahead and say Superchunk’s performance was the best of the weekend, because we’re making up the rules here and there’s nothing you can do about it. Probably the only thing better than Superchunk’s Friday show was Superchunk’s Thursday show — a more intimate affair at a festival-adjacent venue called the Mohawk. At either show, though, you got to see Superchunk play “Throwing Things.” To sum things up: Superchunk! Grade: A++
X “Austin and New Orleans beat the s— out of the rest of the country,” shouted Exene Cervenka, the pioneering punk band’s 56-year-old frontwoman. As for the group’s hometown? “L.A.’s a pretty good city too,” she added. Even better is Los Angeles, the seminal 1980 album that the band played in its entirety. Grade: X
Bun B The UGK veteran is one of the pillars of Houston’s highly influential rap scene, so he didn’t have any trouble firing up his Texas-heavy audience. Full of easy rhymes and irresistible beats, Bun B threw one of Fun Fun Fun’s funnest parties. Five years on, and “International Players Anthem” still never fails to delight. Grade: Bun B+
Run-DMC In case you haven’t noticed, the festival’s first day was heavy on nostalgia. So fittingly enough, the day culminated with a special performance by Run-DMC, no doubt the weekend’s most anticipated event. “This is the first show we accepted in thirteen years,” Rev Run mused at the set’s start. (They announced their Fun Fun Fun Fest gig before they were tapped to reunite last September for Jay-Z’s Made in America festival.) Old fans and new listeners alike bounced along to durable hits like “It’s Tricky,” “Rock Box,” and “My Adidas.” Of course, there was one very important pair of Adidas missing from the stage, but, endearingly enough, Jam Master Jay’s absence was made up for by his sons Jason “Jam Master J’Son” Mizell Jr. and T.J. “Dasmatic” Mizell, who stood in for their late father. (Bonus: DMC had a pretty sweet Nirvana t-shirt on.) Grade: A
David Cross As long as his presence here doesn’t mean something’s gone wrong with the Arrested Development revival, we’re pretty sure Cross was our favorite comedian of the weekend. (Hannibal Burress, you were a very close second.) Hopefully he’ll be hitting the road soon, because his amazing riff on the social-networking site Badoo and its questionable ad campaign deserves to be heard everywhere. Grade: B+
Real Estate Relaxed dudes producing relaxed vibes on a relaxed afternoon in a relaxed town. Went well with breakfast tacos and a Bloody Mary. Grade: B
A$AP Rocky Remember when we talked about how influential Bun B and his city’s rap scene is? A$AP was proof positive of that. The world is still waiting for his actual major-label debut, but in the meantime, he’s down to play on every festival bill in sight. But even though this might be the 27th time Music Mix has seen him perform this year, it might be the first where the appearance wasn’t cut short due to brawl-related reasons. His set, in fact, was pretty damn solid. He delivered festival-worthy renditions of “Wassup” and “Peso,” the whole Mob came out for “Coke and White Bitches,” and fellow risers Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q joined the mix for some memorable collaborations. Grade: $+
Public Image Ltd. John Lydon’s post-Pistols outfit released their first album in twenty years this year. It’s pretty solid, but it’s also pretty unexciting, and the same can be said about the show. Unlike also-active post-punk peers like Mission of Burma or Wire, PiL don’t really seem keen on lighting any fuses with making music someone might lose spittle to. Sure, Lydon’s voice was in nice shape, and the band sounded great, but we’re not sure if it was quite worth all those butter adverts. Grade: B
King Tuff Technically, we saw these guys play during “FFF Nites,” the bar-time side events that the festival hosts at actual downtown venues. Good thing, too. The Kyle Thomas-led band was as hugely catchy in an intimate live setting as they are on record (see: the self-titled album they released this year), and they even threw in a deep cut or two from Thomas’ other awesome project, Happy Birthday. Grade: A-
Eugene Mirman Again, comedy acts need to be seen and not read about, so trust us that Mirman nailed it. His set included everything from riffs on the Tea Party, jokes about Facebook ads, and some “killer housing-market humor.” His words. Grade: B+
Titus Andronicus The rollicking New Jersey band’s intense brows were matched by the sweaty, throaty, beardy, everything-y intensity they put forth on the stage. It was a little bit like their “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future” video, but times 10. Grade: A-
…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead The workhorse art-punks have been leaning a little too hard on their proggier side in recent years, but their latest album Lost Songs brings back the ribcage-rattling strikes that made 2002’s Source Tags & Codes so excellent. That was compounded by the Austin-based band’s hometown-heroes status, making their set one of the day’s pleasurably rowdiest. Grade: B+
Honorable Mentions: We hear Edward Sharpe, Japandroids, and De La Soul put on great Sunday sets as well, but Music Mix had to miss them due to airplane-related reasons. Alas! Maybe we’ll catch them all at whatever the next Austin festival is. It shouldn’t be a long wait.
Reader, were you there? Give us your take in the comments below.