For three mostly rainy days, Austin, Texas, was taken over by Fun Fun Fun Fest, which offers greater genre diversity than most music festivals. There’s more underground rap and heavy metal than you’ll find at the average Coachella, not to mention indie-wrestling and a comedy stage that doubles as a venue for Andrew W.K. to give motivational free-form lectures.
Here are some of the best acts we saw.
My favorite moment of the entire festival — maybe my favorite moment of any festival, ever — was between songs during American Football’s twilight set, when someone in the audience yelled, “Why are you always so sad?”
It’s emblematic of the emo icons, who reunited last year to tour behind their vastly influential 1999 titular album, for two reasons: a) the band’s songs are really sad, and b) it was quiet enough in the vast crowd that a single voice could be heard. Such is Football’s following, which could be called “devoted,” but that’s not a strong enough word. Fans, decked out in snug hoodies and sweaters, hung onto every one of Mike Kinsella’s sobering lyrics, while jazzy guitars worked in math-rock harmony with drummer Steve Lamos’ trumpet.
The songs themselves may have been sad, but American Football, and everyone gathered to see them, couldn’t have been happier.
CHVRCHES (read our interview here) have been touring behind Every Open Eye since August. The Austin date was their final scheduled show… until Tuesday, when they play in France. But the Fun Fun Fun Fest gig was their last date in the United States for a time, and it took on the air of a victory lap — not only for releasing a widely acclaimed album, but for the entire arc of the Scottish group. Two years ago, they were one of among thousands of bands at South by Southwest; now they’re closing night one on FFF Fest’s biggest stage. There was twirling, there was headbanging, there was fist-pumping, and that’s just singer Lauren Mayberry. The swampy mix occasionally drowned out her shimmering vocals, but Iain Cook and Martin Doherty ably provided the synthpop beats that had the crowd dancing in approval.
Good things happen to audiences that don’t yell “marry me.”
Drive Like Jehu
Bands that haven’t played together much have a tendency to soften their sound. In the early days of their never-ending reunion, Pixies, for instance, didn’t pack the same alt-rock punch that they used to (still don’t, for that matter). It’s a natural side effect of age, rust, and, occasionally, not giving a sh*t anymore. Not Drive Like Jehu. The post-hardcore band still sounds as vital and tirelessly fierce as ever, launching their way through mini-epics like “Luau” and crowd-pleaser “Here Come the Rome Plows.” Jehu have only played a handful of gigs since getting back together last year. It’d be a shame if they didn’t play a handful more. It’s better to punch some guts than fade away.
There’s a lot of waiting around at music festivals. You’re waiting for food, you’re waiting for beer, you’re waiting for your favorite band, you’re waiting for your least favorite band to get the hell off the stage. All this endless waiting is why F*cked Up should play every festival. Even if you don’t like proficient hardcore punk (you should!), you’ll enjoy watching gravel-voiced singer Damian Abraham climb off the stage and make his way through the crowd. He gives bear hugs, he slaps gift temporary tattoos on his forehead, he picks up members of his punk-rock flock like a shirtless reverend diving from his pulpit into the congregation. All the while, the rest of the Toronto band layers guitars on top of more guitars, weaving together songs from David Comes to Life and 2014’s Glass Boys, making a beautifully deafening roar. Next time you see F*cked Up on a festival bill, don’t f*ck up; see them.
At the same time as Grimes’ triumphantly loud set (she, in a sense, opened for a bastardized version of Wu-Tang Clan; missing were Method Man, Ghostface Killah, and Raekwon) was an even more thunderous sound explosion: Ride. The shoegaze legends got back together last year, and they’ve been on the road, rupturing eardrums ever since. Imagine running into a wall of heavy distortion. That was Ride’s set, from the double-digit-length “Leave Them All Behind” to woozy closer “Drive Blind.” My hearing still hasn’t recovered.
Honorable mentions: Speedy Ortiz, L7, and Venom. Also, the taco cannon.
All photos taken by Nadia Chaudhury