Cover: Wu Tang Clan by Greg Giannukos
There’s a hilarious trend that exists across most of Texas: No matter the circumstance, any scenario or event that could be classified as even remotely out of the ordinary is almost always met with an overblown reaction of some kind. It’s not an exact science, but if it was, it’d be the most exact science of all time. Everything is exaggerated. Even the seemingly benign reactions are dramatically benign. When it snows an inch over the course of three hours, schools close for two days. When high school senior girls go to prom, they receive an “up-do” that necessitates a new standard door frame height requirement. You get the idea.
It’s no surprise, then, that after an overnight storm cell drenched the Greater Austin area and dropped the average temperature to around 61 degrees Fahrenheit, Fun Fun Fun Fest issued a door delay by 30 minutes. This didn’t really affect much on paper—every artist performed at their regularly scheduled time—but it did affect how prepared I was to take on an entire festival day. For the record: I made it. I’m still here. But my feet were soaked.
THINGS I LEARNED ON SATURDAY:
2:45 p.m. I walk into the festival grounds and am immediately met by a gust of wind that almost knocks me over. I decide that now’s as good a time as any to change out of my rain poncho and into a warmer option. I’m meeting Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo in fewer than five minutes, so any move I can make to appear cooler or more intellectually stout is a move I need to make.
2:51 p.m. Alan and I sit down for 20 minutes to talk. Interview to come.
3:14 p.m. SURPRISE ALERT: I meet up with my friends Katie and Sabrina to catch The Charlatans, a band I hadn’t ever consciously heard of, but their combination of subtle shoegaze, indie jam and Gallagher-esque aloofness won me over in no time flat. I watched more than two songs and discovered a handful of songs I definitely heard in 1996.
3:35 p.m. I leave The Charlatans’ main-stage set to catch Joey Badass at the Blue Stage. I have to say this because until I’m seeing it happen in front of me, I didn’t know this: Joey Badass tours with Statik Selektah, a trap-oriented DJ who probably belongs on his own tour. Don’t get me wrong: Badass is good. He’s more than capable of handling even the most technical bars for infinite periods of time, but Selektah is the kind of producer who breathes truly unique, uncompromised life into a hip-hop track. These two together are phenomenal. I expected big things from Badass today, but I’m elated by the outcome here.
5 p.m. This time slot comes with good news and bad news. The bad news is that German destructo-DJ and possible angel of death Gesaffelstein has asked for a last-minute rain check due to illness. This is a tough pill to swallow given that Gesaffelstein is one of my more highly anticipated shows to catch. But honestly, it’s probably best that he canceled. Austin isn’t quite ready for the Apocalypse.
5:03 p.m. Like I said, there’s good news. Since the 5 p.m. time slot is now wide open, Giant Noise moves up Marius Lauber’s explosive electro-pop project Roosevelt. Initially slotted at 1:30 p.m., Lauber had decidedly drawn the short straw. This turn of fate, however, is a good look for them. Steady, confident, and bursting at the seams with unheard tracks from his forthcoming debut LP, Roosevelt delivers something strong and smooth to a crowd desperate for a reason to stop complaining about the weather. Later, I’ll chat with Lauber about the anticipation of the record release, heading home for a tour in Europe later this month and his creative process.
5:25 p.m. I leave Roosevelt’s set prematurely to catch up for a few minutes with disco-pop virtuoso Shamir. We dish about LP Ratchet,the pressures of being a road newcomer, and why “thot,” is an actual term that actual people actually use.
5:49 p.m. SUPER UGH FANBOY ALERT: The designated area where media are allotted interview time with artists is located over a very thin partition bordering the main stage. I walk out of my chat with Shamir and am clobbered in the face by “Honestly?”, one of the most iconic tracks in American Football’s catalog. When I was a freshman in college, I listened to Mike Kinsella more than I listened to any other artist or band. Granted: Kinsella’s footprint is a little larger than most, spanning from American Football to even-more-obscure emo predecessors Cap’n Jazz, Owen and Joan of Arc. But this was a big fucking moment for me. And as expected, Kinsella and crew deliver a superbly heartfelt performance—one not to have been missed.
6:45 p.m. Neon Indian drop the first notes of “Dear Skorpio Magazine”, as though they’re live-action sound-tracking an Oscar-caliber 70’s detective porn. At around that same time, I drop a beer that I literally had just bought for no reason whatsoever. In hindsight, these two events are likely related.
6:51 p.m. Another beer is purchased—precisely $7 and six minutes I won’t ever get back.
6:54 p.m. I take this second to recognize how great of a showman Alan Palomo is. Via his interview, he’s a seriously professional, seriously intelligent guy who relishes the concept of precision. But on-stage, he projects a much more visceral but equally affable disposition. It’s fantastic.
7:20 p.m. I’m meeting Roosevelt’s Marius Lauber for a drink to talk about stuff.
7:55 p.m. Shortly after saying goodbye to Lauber, I wander out just past the media area and catch the last few minutes of British shoegaze frontrunners Ride. Though only seeing half of one song, it was more than enough for me to instantly wish their set had only just started. They’re incredible.
8:02 p.m. At this moment, I have a fleeting compulsion to bail out of Fun Fun Fun Fest now and head home to Dallas. This wasn’t completely unfounded; by this point in the evening, the sun has stopped warming the ground enough for it to stay solid. There’s mud formulating everywhere, my shoes were soaked, it’s cold, the wind is blowing and I know I sound like a child but it’s miserable, okay?
8:05 p.m. I’m jarred out of my hissy fit by a seismic bass drop that is audible from well beyond the festival grounds. I recognize this particular drop immediately; it’s “Go”.
8:06 p.m. After soft-jogging what seems like 8 miles, I’m finally witnessing Grimes lay absolute waste to the Blue Stage crowd. “Go”, is ripping the speakers to shreds, and everyone is losing their fucking minds. I will never forget what I’m currently witnessing. Claire Boucher moves her entire body like she’s propelled by her own tracks, and her live voice is slender and sharp. It’s truly impressive how beautiful Art Angels sounds live.
8:25 p.m. I run into five longtime college friends of mine. This was so great.
8:45 p.m. As it turns out, Wu-Tang Clan really ain’t nothin’ to fuck with. I’ve said this about 12 times already this week, but I am impressed by FFF Fest’s hip-hop offering this year. I loved everything. Also it’s worth noting that Wu still has it. Each and every one of those guys still possesses the snarl and the fervor that made the Clan so revolutionary in the first place. After a touching homage to late Wu-Tang member ODB, every one of them began performing “I Like It Raw”, in unison. It was like nothing I had ever seen.
9:30 p.m. Since Wu-Tang Clan is wrapping up and Jane’s Addiction is commandeering the attention of most surrounding the main stage, my friends and I decide now is as good a time as any to bail out of the grounds and head to Empire Control Room for Snakehips’ late-night set.
10:40 p.m. Austin’s infrastructure is typically designed to handle big events like a three-day music festival with relative ease. They host Austin City Limits every year for two weekends in a row with relatively no newsworthy setbacks. This particular weekend, though, sort of ran off its tracks because of the weather. It takes us almost an hour to travel a mile and a half north. We exit our Uber exhausted by what just happened.
10:42 p.m. New venue. New beer. New act. British production duo Snakehips are going off on Empire Control Room’s outdoor stage, pulverizing passers-by on Austin’s bustling 7 St.
10:59 p.m. God. “All My Friends,” is such an anthemic jam. It’s definitely targeted to a younger demographic, but I. Can. Relate to this shit. Tinashe and Chance, The Rapper, meanwhile, have never sounded finer.
11:35 p.m. Following Snakehips’ badass 45-minute set, Joey Badass takes ECR’s Outdoor Stage for his second performance of the day.
11:50 p.m. Now, granted: I saw this guy twice today. But honestly, Badass’s live performance is fucking great. He’s raw and honest, and he’s incredibly gracious to his fans. Way to keep it pro, dude.
12:21 a.m. I’ve had enough. I’m tapping (and tabbing) out and saying a heartfelt goodbye to my dear, long-lost friends. It’s been a wonderful two days of music that has capped off in the best way possible.
Just FYI, due to extraneous circumstances out of my control, I was unable to attend Day Three of the festival. This hereby concludes my findings. Thanks for following along.