File this under better late than never. Correspondent Elijah Watson, a UT Austin student from El Paso, attended the seventh Fun Fun Fun Fest over the Nov. 2-4 weekend. He filed his review last week, but, due to some distractions on my part, I didn't get it posted and damn near forgot about it. Sorry! So, better late than never, here's what he had to say.
By Elijah Watson
AUSTIN — Dust rose from the ground as energized teenagers ran rapidly in a circle, in time to dissonant guitars and screamed, guttural vocals. In the distance a taco cannon (yes, a taco cannon) projected bandana-wrapped tacos into the crowd. Some manage to catch one, holding it in the air proudly like a touchdown pass before unwrapping and eating the contents.
This was Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012, one of, if not the most anarchic and rebellious music festivals this music city has to offer.
Music lovers ventured through Auditorium Shores park in search of great live music. With four stages, each one catering to a specific genre, attendees had a variety of performers to choose from.
This year's big name act was none other than hip-hop legends Run-DMC. Unfortunately, the two remaining members of the group (original DJ Jason "Jam-Master Jay" Mizell was murdered in 2002) have lost their fervor throughout the years.
It pains me to say that, but as I watched an aged Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons and Darryl "DMC" McDaniels perform a 30-45 minute medley of their greatest hits, a feeling of ambivalence came over me. Yes, I was witnessing history — this was Run-DMC's first performance in over a decade. And, yes, they played the hits: "Walk This Way," "My Adidas," "It's Tricky" and "Run's House."
But I felt unfulfilled, and sad, that their performance felt so short and lackluster. I believe most of the audience felt the same way. 20 minutes after the duo left the stage, we waited patiently, denying the obvious. Run-DMC would not be returning. It was only when the festival's house music broke our cheers for an encore we realized the group was done. The check was signed, they played the hits, the deal was done.
The remaining acts I saw made up for it. I danced onstage with new-wave princess Santigold, crowd-surfed during A$AP Rocky and sweated profusely to Franki Chan's DJ set.
El Paso's own Omar Rodriguez Lopez had the best performance of FFF, in my opinion. At first it seemed the guitar virtuoso would not be able to perform. His van broke down early Friday, prior to his performance that same day. Fortunately, he rescheduled for Sunday on the blue stage, replacing hip-hop icon Rakim.
Under the name Bosnian Rainbows, Rodriguez Lopez, the Mars Volta drummer Deantoni Parks, Le Butcherettes singer-guitarist Teri Gender Bender and a keyboardist whose name I didn't catch took the stage. At center stage, Bender stared into the night sky, providing indecipherable gibberish that accompanied Rodriguez Lopez's powerful guitar sound.
The group immediately went through an hour-long set, with Rodriguez Lopez stopping only to say thank you or clarify that Bosnian Rainbows was his latest musical endeavor. With anything Rodriguez Lopez-affiliated, I tend to be extremely naive and biased. But seeing how minimal the band's setup was, and the fact that another afro-bearing man was not onstage, I was skeptical.
But Bosnian Rainbows quickly obliterated that. The band is basically a hybrid of At the Drive-In and the Mars Volta, his other two bands, with more of an emphasis on the latter. Dark, new wave synths blended with Rodriguez Lopez's riff-heavy guitar, creating a sound that is rejuvenating and hard to not enjoy.
The best part of his performance was that he actually looked like he enjoyed playing. It was blatantly obvious during his At The Drive-In reunion that Rodriguez Lopez did not enjoying himself. Bosnian Rainbows harkens back to the days when he was a teenager. His head bobbed wildly, sweat drippingfrom his puffed-out hair, his guitar flying in every direction — vintage Omar Rodriguez-Lopez.
Indie pop group Givers also put on an incredible set. Performing on the orange stage, the band had fans dancing and clapping throughout their entire set. Givers are great in that they know how to write catchy and intricate songs. Some boom with tribal rhythms that lend themselves to upbeat dance circles. Others are more slow, encouraging listeners to sway and just move effortlessly with the music.
The group's vocal harmonies add to their already impressive repertoire. Frontman Taylor Guarisco and co-vocalist Tiffany Lamson flawlessly pulled off vocal parts that were absolutely beautiful.
FFF also had a few surprising performances. I was wary of Kreayshawn going in, but the young female rapper delivered. She's hip-hop's Jigglypuff — sweet and adorable, but a mischief-maker when given the opportunity. Her music is so much better live. The party-time production and laugh-out-loud lyrics are perfect for a crowd just wanting to dance or yell expletives for no specific reason.
Nite Jewel caught me off guard. Fronted by the lovely Ramona Gonzalez, Nite Jewel thumps with luscious chord progressions and soulful vocals. Gonzalez may be petite, but she can sing. Her voice shifted and transformed as she sang about love, hardship and sadness. Nite Jewel was FFF's underrated treasure.
Not everything was great. Aside from multiple sound problems — each stage had at least one sound problem each day — groups like Class Actress, AraabMuzik and STRFKR put on decent performances.
AraabMuzik, a musical madman known for being a master of the MPC drum machine, was nothing like the DJ I witnessed at Nocturnal Wonderland Music Festival earlier this year. This AraabMuzik was complacent, remixing dubstep song after dubstep song. This is not entirely bad; the guy can still utilize an MPC like none other. But his reliance on dubstep tracks made his set redundant. There was a time when AraabMuzik balanced out his sets with hip-hop-laced trance and dubstep. Now it's just the latter, and it got old very quickly.
Overall, FFF was, well ... fun. Unlike South By Southwest or Austin City Limits, FFF seems adamant about being Austin's "anti" music festival.