At around the same time I departed Dallas en route to Austin for the tenth-annual Fun Fun Fun Fest, I got a text message from my Mom. “Weather’s supposed to be crap all weekend in Austin,” she said. “Pack a jacket. You never pack a jacket.” She’s right; I’m horrible at packing, especially in the face of adverse weather conditions, and she knows that. I tend to treat every trip similarly, which means I almost never check my destination’s five-day forecast, rendering me miserable by my own shitty design. I’m no good to myself.
In this particular situation, though, I over-planned. The week prior to my departure, I checked the forecast twice per day. I included enough clothing for a five-day trip despite only being in Austin for two. I booked a hotel that was within walking distance to the festival grounds because I didn’t want to be mired by some stupid thing like parking (which, by the way, was ridiculous; see my conversation with Sarah Jaffe). Oh, and I packed like eight koozies. Because you can never have enough of those things ever.
Anyway, I felt confident going into the weekend. That said, nothing could have prepared me for the amount of high-quality shit I learned. Below is a chronological account of my findings at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015.
THINGS I LEARNED ON FRIDAY:
2:40 p.m. I’ve arrived. I’m in the gates, and I didn’t have to take anything out of my daypack during my security check. Initial impressions: LOL @ Security. Also, good on FFF for placing a beer tent right next to check-in.
2:43 p.m. I hauled ass from my hotel to the grounds to catch as much of Mikal Cronin’s set as I could, and that commitment paid off. Cronin has a voice made for a live performance, and his backing band is tight and talented. Also, he’s the kind of guy who appears to love playing Austin because he’s surrounded by people who look just like him. It works out nice.
3:05 p.m. I locate my friend Heather just in time for Bomba Estereo to take the Blue Stage. Apparently frontwoman Liliana Saumet relished her pre-performance shower for a little too long, because she emerged with damp hair and her best of pair of Nike sweats.
3:12 p.m. Bomba Estereo is fantastic. They have that “play live music like no one is watching,” kind of vibe, which works well for a South American band who delivers Diplo-esque drops around almost every corner.
3:41 p.m. Due to a handful of unforeseen circumstances that no one—not even American Airlines, who is whole-heartedly to blame for pretty much everything bad that happens on tour and in life—could predict or prevent, Viet Cong were forced to play a stripped-down version of a Viet Cong set using other musicians’ instruments. Surprisingly, they sounded wonderful, despite AA’s attempt at screwing that up.
4:02 p.m. SURPRISE ALERT. I had never planned on catching Slow Magic, but retrospectively, it was a top five show of the entire weekend. I also like writing about Slow Magic, because since no one really knows anything about him, all I have to do to maintain the artist’s wishes is to keep my mouth shut. I mean, he does melodic house-inspired downtempo better than just about any live artist I’ve caught, and he adds ambience by performing syncopated inclusions on these two giant transparent drums. It’s dope. Highly recommended.
4:10 p.m. For those who don’t know, Slow Magic wears a mask. He’s an anonymous DJ who wears a vibrant, wolf-like mask thing that lights up. There are artists I respect who do this kind of thing (SBTRKT) and there are artists I don’t respect who do this kind of thing (Deadmau5), which leaves me in a volatile position to exact an opinion regarding live show masks. This is hard.
4:17 p.m. OMFG BAAAHAHAHAHAHA! Midway through Slow Magic’s performance, his decision to perform a track in the middle of the crowd came back to bite him in the ass. He finished the track and hopped back on stage just before disappearing for six minutes due to a mask malfunction. All of a sudden, I’m no longer conflicted. I hate masks. They’re occupational hazards.
4:40 p.m. Heather and I leave Slow Magic in time to catch every second of Toro Y Moi’s powerhouse set. Chaz Bundick and team have become one of my favorite live acts over the past two years, and though this one was semi-rushed (Bundick’s flight into Austin was delayed to the minute), everything was cohesive and groovy by the third track. And fuck, Chaz Bundick is cool. Also I’m eating a burrito and it is divine.
5:40 p.m. Finally: A chance to stop and decompress. I’ve lost Heather completely, but I’m five minutes into TOPS’ fantastic Yellow Tent set. Jane Penny is a mesmerizing talent. That’s it.
6:15 p.m. I assumed that Hudson Mohawk’s highly anticipated Friday night set would draw a sizeable crowd, so I decided to head his way a little early to secure a decent spot. I was right. It was packed with teenagers and Jesus, put your hula hoops away!
6:35 p.m. Holy Shit. So, HudMo is over here dropping TNGHT tunes. I only set aside a few minutes on my drive down to wonder if he would do this, especially since TNGHT co-producer and frequent collaborator Lunice made his FFF Fest debut just last year, but I moved on. The odds were astronomically low, for whatever reason. As you can imagine, hearing that iconic “Ohhh” swan-dive into “Goooo”’s liquid bass line, and watching the crowd go absolutely apeshit in response, was a top three moment of the entire weekend.
7 p.m. I have just now discovered that I can only handle about 30 minutes of Hudson Mohawk live. His sets are big and loud and incredibly dynamic and I am out of beer.
7:25 p.m. Miraculously, I’m able to snag my exact same spot from 15 minutes prior! Granted: HudMo had just finished up and there was a rush to exit the stage, but I’m right where I need to be. Because in ten minutes, this entire area is about to succumb to the enthusiasm of two Atlanta teenagers who ain’t got no type.
7:35 p.m. This isn’t exactly uncommon anymore, but I love how Rae Sremmurd commits to performing an entire track. So often, hip-hop artists tend to bail out after the first verse of a live-performed track in order to—I don’t know—preserver their stamina? Not blow their entire load in the first three songs? I don’t know the answer, but I just really appreciate that it’s not even a question with these guys.
7:44 p.m. I just caught myself screaming all the words to “My X.” I’m 31 years old, and I’m surrounded by teenagers who are looking at me like a grandparent who just came out of a coma. I have to get out of here.
8:06 p.m. Fun Fun Fun Fest’s format is unlike any other big-ticket festival, in that more than half the festival’s performances take place away from the grounds later at night. That way, you can catch Snakehips do a DJ set at a dance club on 6 Street for free when presenting your festival wristband at the door of whatever club they’re playing (in this case, it was Vulcan Gas Company). For this reason, I’m meeting Sarah Jaffe at Empire Control Room about an hour prior to her late-night performance to talk about, well, tons of things—mainly, her most recent album, Don’t Disconnect, her excitement for being back on the road and why John Congleton is her definition of cool. My interview with Sarah runs 20 minutes longer than it should have. Stay tuned for it. You’ll like it.
10:35 p.m. The other great thing about these late-night shows is that every venue participating is within walking distance to every other participating venue! I leave Empire Control Room and head to Vulcan Gas Company to catch Chaz Bundick perform a DJ set as Les Sins.
11:05 p.m. Due to a last-minute cancelation, Bundick takes the DJ booth 25 minutes early, which is great news for me because this venue is insufferable and the clientele who have seemingly wandered in here are just the worst.
11:40 p.m. Okay, so Les Sins is no joke. Michael was a truly terrific record, but seeing this go down in a live setting brings so much more verve to each track. It’s like experiencing all of it for the first time.
11:55 p.m. Enough of this. I’m en route back to Empire Control Room to catch Shamir’s set. A scheduling conflict on Saturday will inevitably impede my ability to catch his set that afternoon, so I do what I can with what I have. Oh and by the way, Shamir Bailey is a beast on the stage. It’s nothing you can predict because he’s still so new to the live show format, but God. This looks like something he’s been doing his entire life.
12:25 a.m. I’m tired. I’m going home.