In the family of Austin music festivals, FunFunFun Fest is the black-sheep little brother. Or possibly the drunk uncle. Or maybe the impossibly cool older sister. Take your pick, because it’s all that and more.
If ACL Fest is the corporate-sponsored, politically-correct, slightly-pretentious, we’ve-got-our-sh*t-together-fest for big name acts, FunFunFun Fest is…none of those. It’s the complete opposite (as evidenced by the 4-hour wait to get in for those who didn’t pick up their wrist bands ahead of time). And you know what? They’re cool with that. So you better be too.
I go to both festivals every year. And while I love ACL, FunFunFun is just more, well…fun. It lives up to its name. It’s where hipster-psych meets death metal, punk meets funk, skateboarders hang with rappers, and everybody has a good time. Not to mention the comics, BMXers, and pro-wrestlers.
This year, we ponied up for the Ultimate Smooth Pass — FFF’s version of a VIP experience. It was worth it. No lines, free snacks, your very own bars, catering-quality food, air conditioned rest rooms, places to chill…the list goes on. Did I mention the front-stage access? I’ll definitely be smoothin’ it again next year.
The lineup had me nerding-out, creating an actual spreadsheet of bands, stages, after-shows and times, trying desperately to fit it all in.
I didn’t. There’s just no way.
Still, we managed to pack in some incredible shows. A few of my favs:
Peelander-Z, New York City, NY
A Japanese Action Comic Punk Band based in NYC, these guys know how to make the crowd part of the show. Most of their lyrics seem to be one word chanted over and over, making audience participation quite easy. Get ready to spend the show a smile on your face.
Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA
What can I say? It’s Jello Biafra. Of the Dead Kennedys. And he still brings it. If you like your punk with a side of politics, no one delivers quite like Jello. Truly one of the best shows all weekend.
Death from Above 1979, Toronto, ON, Canada
As with many GenX-ers, grunge will always hold a special place in my heart. I still miss Kurt Cobain (RIP). If Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Soundgarden are still on your iPod, Death from Above 1979’s modern take on the familiar sound will fit right into your playlists. The fact that two guys can put out so much sound is still beyond me.
Alt-J, Leeds UK
Thanks to a friend with a penchant for British music, I was lucky enough to become familiar with Alt-J long before Left Hand Free hit the airways. But of course, the Austin-filmed video for their hit song fueled my excitement for their Friday closing show. For a relatively young band, their show was amazingly well-polished from lighting to sound. This will likely be the most intimate setting they play for some time.
Courtney Barnett, Melbourne, AUS
Described as “rambling garage pop,” Courtney Barnett’s set was thoroughly enjoyable. Upbeat and just plain likable. I’ll be looking forward to her next tour through town. Her shows are not to be missed.
The New Pornographers, Vancouver, Canada
While Mass Romantic was on my iPod’s repeat for most of 2000 & 2001, this band had fallen off my radar since. Not anymore. The most common question among the crowd was how could such an established band be scheduled so early in the lineup?
First Aid Kit, Stockholm, Sweden
My biggest surprise of the weekend. What my friend told me would be a “Swedish country duo” turned out better than it sounded. Way better. These sisters are stylish, energetic, and know how to put on a good show. And their music is very, very listenable. This was the band everyone downloaded after the show.
Meat Puppets, Austin, TX
Back in 1989, a guy I’d just met asked me out on a date to see the Meat Puppets. The band’s name kind of freaked me out and I ended up bailing. Never quite forgiving myself for standing the poor guy up, I somehow felt seeing the Meat Puppets this time around was a requirement. So much fun both the crowd and the band booed when the clock ran out.
Dum Dum Girls, New York City, NY
An indie pop-rock band with 60s girl-group influences, the Dum Dum Girls were vibrant, fun and put on a great show. Not sure I’d put them on my must-see list, but I’m glad I did while they were here.