Fun Fun Fun Fest With Sky Ferreira The Belmont, Austin Sunday, November 9, 2014
Sometimes being bad at something isn't the worst thing in the world. Take Sky Ferreira's late-night performance at The Belmont in Austin on Sunday, which helped round off the three-day music celebration that was Fun Fun Fun Fest. To be frank, it wasn't good. In fact, it was pretty bad. And yet, for some reason, it was hard not to like it -- or, at the least, to still like Ferreira. Music is funny that way sometimes.
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For a brief while on Sunday afternoon, it looked like Ferreira wouldn't even be playing. The Angeleno singer had originally been scheduled to play at 6 p.m. on the Blue Stage (the festival's largest stage of the four), but around 3 p.m. it was announced that she had canceled and that Sophie would be taking her place. Within minutes, though, the awesome folks at Fun Fun Fun had announced she would be playing after all, just a late-night show at the nearby Belmont in downtown.
The new setting -- a small courtyard stage outside of the bar -- was probably better anyway. Right from the get-go there were problems. Ferreira and her four band mates kicked things off with one of her biggest hits, "24 Hours," and they made such a hash of it that they decided to play it a second time. It was not a good omen.
The problem, it would seem, was the backing track. Ferreira simply couldn't keep track of it. As the song hit its coda, she either forgot the words or lost her place in the song, a problem that she might have been able to cover for except that the backing track kept going, completely out of synch. To her credit, Ferreira laughed it off and quickly announced she would make up for it by playing the song again.
And so they did. But there were still problems. Namely, the backing track was overpoweringly loud, which meant both she and her band were drowned out. Then, at the end, she got lost again, continuing to sing when the alarm bells went off that were supposed to signal that the had song ended. Her drummer dutifully kept playing as well, which increased the mess but at least didn't leave her hanging. Oops again.
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So yeah, that was how much of the show went. But damned if Ferreira didn't still sing her ass off. Dressed in an oversized Mickey Mouse T-shirt and parka (sorry, Sky, but it wasn't that cold out last night), she spent half the 45-minute set hunched over, reaching deep to hit and hold each note. In between, she would walk up to the edge of the stage and grab the hands of the adoring fans up front, whose enthusiasm never seemed to waver even with all the issues.
The problems weren't all technical though. Ferreira may have given her all to the singing, but the vocals, er, left something to be desired. Clearly the smoothness of in-studio production is her best friend. She frequently proved to be off-key, and while the backing track smoothed things out at times, it somehow sounded better when the track disappeared and Ferreira was left to her own devices. It didn't help that the backing band, drummer aside, weren't particularly good; there were times where it was hard to tell if their instruments were even plugged in.
So why wasn't it just terrible? Well, for one, Ferreira's attitude was amusingly resilient. At one point, after a particularly rough take on "I Blame Myself," which required stronger than normal vocals, she shrugged it off: "Sorry, I get nervous sometimes," she said with breathtaking understatement. At another point, she even referred to the set as a "train wreck," but the audience laughed along with her; when she introduced "I Blame Myself," there was a noticeable titter in the crowd.
And really, who cares? Ferreira has a reputation for lousy live shows, but that doesn't mean Night Time, My Time doesn't still have a handful of killer, catchy pop tunes (and a few other pretty good ones) -- and it didn't stop people from flocking to The Belmont to see her. The whole situation was so bad that it was almost like watching performance art, and Ferreira's ability to shrug it off (as though she'd been through this rodeo before) was strangely endearing.
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Which brings up a second, but equally important point: This was, in its own bizarre way, a quintessentially Fun Fun Fun Fest experience. Had Ferreira played on the Blue Stage, as was originally planned, she likely would've lost the crowd quickly. But with only 100 or 200 people in the courtyard having just seen three days of great music, it all felt difficult to get angry about. We'd mostly gotten what we'd paid for already, so why not top it off with an intimate and, in its own way, unique experience?
Music is inexplicably enjoyable that way and this festival, as much as any other, is the perfect place to be reminded of it. Then again, maybe you just had to be there.
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