By: Emily Gibson
I don’t really like big crowds and I don’t really like paying $7 for beer, so it might seem like music festivals are my absolute worst nightmare. But, alas, this weekend I grabbed the flannel-clad, beer-soaked bull by its horns and rode it down to Auditorium Shores for Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest. In a crowd of rain-soaked millenials under a graying sky, I spent the weekend traipsing from stage to stage and trying to soak (literally) in as many acts as I could.
Despite the rain and the sudden appearance of the chilly Austin fall, Fun Fun Fun Fest was one of the best weekends I’ve spent in Austin. Here are the top five acts I saw.
5. together PANGEA
Seeing together PANGEA was an accident, and not one I was particularly excited about. The FFF Nites show we had gone downtown to see on Saturday night, Alvvays and Future Islands, had a line full of angry and confused John Gourleys wrapping around the building –so, shivering, we decided to seek solace in the closest venue. The closest venue was Cheer Up Charlie’s, where The Growlers were just finishing their set, and too many bodies were packing into the indoor stage. Behind me in the sardine-esque crowd, a girl was excitedly talking about how she loves to mosh – “well shit,” I thought, taking off my glasses and stuffing them in my pocket for protection, “what band is about to play?” A short 20 minutes later, I was front row at a PANGEA show, at the very front of the mosh pit, getting attacked by a bunch of other sweaty youths.
In many respects, the band reminds me of FIDLAR – they are a screamy rock band from Los Angeles that sings about feeling pathetic and being young and confused. They acknowledge these parallels, because mid-way through their set, bassist Danny Bengston said, “Alright, FIDLAR plays next,” and singer William Keegan said, “hey, fuck you, man” to a crowd member’s request that they play “Cheap Beer.” A lyric of theirs stood out as particularly beautiful and real: "And if you have a kiss / for me, and only me / I'll take it."
What I’m saying is this: the band I didn’t even want to see ended up being one of my favorites of the weekend, and they’re the band I’ve currently got on repeat. What a stereotype.
4. American Football
I was talking to a friend about the American Football show, and what we decided was this: it was silent. But a good kind of silent. It wasn’t the “what the hell is this? I’m going to cross my arms and brood” type of quiet, but the quiet that comes from the complete captivation of the crowd. Even though the band plays relatively soft music, the sounds from the bands playing on the other stages seemed muted. During a trumpet solo, the silence was so thick it almost felt like you could grab it. “No one was talking because if they talked during that set, they’d just be a dick,” my friend said. He was right. No one wanted to be that guy who tried to speak over American Football.
The only interruption I remember during the show was when a fan beside me screamed, “Why are you so sad?” A few people laughed. But then the crowd quickly regained its focus on the sad dads on stage. It was almost refreshing to be in such an enthralled crowd – I didn’t even see one cellphone pulled out during the entire set. Everyone was just into it. I was into it. And for a minute, to the slow and simmering backtrack of “I’ll See You When We’re Not Both So Emotional” and “The Summer Ends,” it felt like we had stepped out of Auditorium Shores and into a chill and relaxing world where it is eternally winter.
3. Andrew Jackson Jihad
“Your parasympathetic nervous system – I know that’s wrong! – reacts, and you’re in flight or fight mode.” That was the first moment that I threw my head back laughing during AJJ’s set, because I had obnoxiously pointed out for years that the lyric credited the wrong nervous system (it is the sympathetic nervous system that controls flight or fight mode.) I was giddy throughout the brief 40-minute set because, like so many other acts this weekend, I had waited years to see this band.
The trio that makes up the “folk punk” band Andrew Jackson Jihad knows how to perform, but Sean Bonnette ranks as one of the most captivating front men I’ve seen in a minute. My friend (Mary, she co-founded this magazine, you know her), said this weekend that majority of opinions on a band depends solely on the power of the singer. If that’s true, I can’t see anyone ever disliking Andrew Jackson Jihad. Not only is he funny and smart on stage (in both persona and lyrics), but his voice is absolutely killer. I could have watched them play for another hour. Or two.
2. Tig Notaro
I know: the number 2 act I saw this weekend wasn’t music. But it was really, really great.
I was gutted on Friday when I learned that Tig’s Friday performance at the festival and her FFF Nites show were cancelled because of a flight delay, so when they rescheduled her set to Saturday, I felt like the universe was telling me I had to take my chance to see her. It ended up being just as funny as I’d hoped. She knew exactly what would appeal to the Fun Fun Fun crowd, and she delivered it so well that I did my embarrassing “laughing more than I usually laugh” laugh, which sounds like a strange, asthmatic animal. Her humor is subtle and almost awkward, but her deadpan delivery entices the entire crowd, and made me love her even more. She even gracefully handled running out of time before she could finish a particularly long bit.
Long live Tig.
1. Gogol Bordello
Gogol Bordello was another moment where I felt like I had waited years to see a band that subsequently ruined my life in the best way possible. I went to see them because I felt like I had to, after being so into them in eighth grade, forgetting about them, then getting really into them again when I saw them on the festival’s lineup. There was a moment I considered going to see Chromeo instead but it was fleeting, because my heart belonged to the Black Stage that night.
The crowd was a mixed bag of excited hipsters, middle-aged punkers and even a bro-core boy or two peppered in for taste. By the end of the show, it didn’t matter who was who, who came with who, who was dancing with who: we were just all dancing. At one point, I scream-sang, “AND THE DOGS WERE BARKING, AND THE GUESTS WERE PARKING,” into the ears of the sweet couple beside me, who both looked like they work for Google. This was definitely one of the most fun crowds of the weekend, which is only fitting for a band was weird and upbeat as Gogol.
When the lights went purple before the band played their most famous hit, “Start Wearing Purple,” the guy beside me shook his head and said, “Oh shit, I’m going to kill someone during this song.” When it began, he took off into the crowd in front of us and I didn’t see him again.
That was pretty fitting.
It was a place where you could fall in love with the stranger beside you during Parquet Courts, then down a beer and watch Toro Y Moi (that happened.) It was a place where you could watch one of the girls from Joanna Gruesome crowd surf to Title Fight (that also happened, and it was awesome.)
So, yeah, maybe music festivals are my worst nightmare, but Fun Fun Fun is different. It was a place where you could fall in love with the stranger beside you during Parquet Courts, then down a beer and watch Toro Y Moi (that happened.) It was a place where you could watch one of the girls from Joanna Gruesome crowd surf to Title Fight (that also happened, and it was awesome.) So despite the rain, the $7 beer, the cold and the crowds, Fun Fun Fun fest was a dream, not a nightmare.
Until next year.