Fun Fun Fun Fest Auditorium Shores Friday, November 2-Sunday, November 4
In its seventh year, Fun Fun Fun Fest has settled into a very curious meta place. Standing in a crowd at any one of the four stages, you were often watching a show via someone's iPhone or iPad. That Terrence Malick has been filming his latest movie at the fest for the past two years says more about FFF's story within a story, and the sight of Val Kilmer cutting his hair on stage with the Black Lips was one of those instantly meme-able moments that blurred the line between entertainment and gimmick and fueled our society's burgeoning hash tag economy.
And that's fine. We don't want to feel isolated at a festival, and there's a definite shared experience to Fun Fun Fun Fest, which took place for the second year at Auditorium Shores in Austin. Another one of those meta moments: Darryl "DMC" McDaniels wearing a Nirvana t-shirt on stage. Run-D.M.C.'s Friday night set proved even more surreal when deceased member Jam-Master Jay's son came on stage a few songs in, and cleaved the set in half with a 20-minute dubstep DJ set. It leveled the flow of the show, and when "Walk This Way" appeared eventually, the momentum had been lost.
But that's another aspect of a fest like this: With all the reunited acts FFF brings to Austin, we, the audience, are collectively experiencing the possible flame-out of a reunion show in real time. Run-D.M.C.'s set was an example of that, but across the park on the Black Stage, X ripped through Los Angeles with ease, then continued playing past their set time because, as Exene said, no one else was playing after them.
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Saturday's Public Image Ltd set was one of the best-sounding ones of the day, as the quartet skated through songs from their new album, This Is PiL, which sounded decidedly better live. The rhythm section, always the linchpin for PiL material, contoured John Lydon's vocals nicely, especially on "Albatross," and though the rough edges of his persona have softened a bit, Lydon continues to engage more like an actor than a musician.
Over on the Blue Stage, touring trio A$AP Rocky, Danny Brown and Schoolboy Q gave us a notepad worth of soundbites. Q, shirtless and wearing his trademark hat, shouted out the crowd then said, "I gotta use my own shirt to wipe myself down?" Brown was his usual cartoonish self, espousing the joys of pussy-eating, and Rocky inquired as to where "all his Dallas ladies at?" A few songs in, he stood on stage, silent, as did his DJ, until the crowd started chanting for him to continue. His set was heavy on the dirty South, purple-everything, trunk music vibe, but that one moment was notable for his command of the crowd, even if he thought maybe he was still in Dallas.
Sunday, the day we historically start losing the charge on our festival battery, was full of little surprises, like the dense mid-day pulse of Canadian synth duo Trust, and NOLA bounce artist Nicky Da B. Japandroids confirmed that they have fans that know the words to every song, their set loud and fast, though it may have fared better away from the expansive Black Stage. Underwhelming trade-off of the night: Rakim being replaced by Omar Rodrigez-Lopez.
As evening came on Sunday and clouds of dust hung over the park, that feeling that we're all in the same story within a story hit. We were all extras, wearing bandanas and scarves to ward off the dust, along with our favorite band's t-shirts. We were all documenting the document, in one way or another, even if we won't remember the performances a few months from now. We all want to be part of the final cut, which is why that collective desire for some sort of mark that won't wash off easily -- whether a bruise or a hand stamp -- is important to the story.