Live Review: Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

We spent a weekend in Texas with Slayer, Russian Circles, Del The Funky Homosapien, Henry Rollins, M83, Spoon & many more.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

Fun Fun Fun Fest has come to a juggernaut-stomping close in Austin, a controversial yet accomplished musical experience off the beaten path of the Summer's ubiquitous cookie-cutter lineups. Aside from the troll-tantrum antics of Danzig and the typical flagrant dickery of Odd Future, the dust-blown three-day event was full of performances that made the trip well worth it.

Sets from Slayer, Public Enemy, Russian Circles, Henry Rollins, Del The Funky Homosapien, M83, Four Tet, Black Joe Lewis and many others drew crowds upwards of 15,000 each day to Auditorium Shores for Fun Fun Fun Fest last weekend, as well as a hearty selection of comedy and ladies wrestling. Yes, ladies wrestling.

Bandanas were a hot commodity once the winds picked up and the dusty grounds of the venue took to the air. But aside from a few moments of gale-force winds and lackluster performances (Danzig's diva breakdown was priceless), fun was most definitely had down in Austin.

Having stepped up their game this year with a larger venue and bigger names, FFFFest has become the number three destination music festival in the very musically oriented Austin – after SXSW and Austin City Limits, of course. Between the event's streaming by Pitchfork to the massive amount of publicity brought on by the Danzig debacle, the festival certainly has reached a new height of awareness.

Del The Funky Homosapien, a longtime frequenter of side stages and awkward set times, delivered a headliner-strength performance that touched on a bit of Hieroglyphics material while dancing through his highest marks on record. "Mistadobalina" was, of course, a power-punch singalong.

M83 was also a strong performance, though the hypnotic wobble-synth electronics didn't quite translate as well in a live setting as one might hope. The entirety of the festival seemed to dissolve into a dance party nonetheless, until Lykke Li came along and bummed everyone out. That girl has got to stop playing festivals if she insists on playing so much downer material.

Spoon delivered a strong performance on Saturday night, opening with “Take a Walk” and “Written In Reverse” and on through the crowd-favorite “I Turn My Camera On". A mini encore set included “The Beast and Dragon, Adored,” as well as an abrasive “My Mathematical Mind,” which sent fans off on a good note to check out The Damned before heading out for the night.

Poking fun at the previous night's closer on the same stage (Danzig), classic British punkers The Damned were dressed to the nines and in upbeat spirits as they ripped through a set that few of the youngsters in the crowd were familiar with. Most were good sports nonetheless, feeding off of frontman Dave Vanian's energy.

Saturday was a windswept and thus fast and loose day of music, with Le Butcherettes spaz-rocking their way into deserved recognition before Asobi Seksu took command of the Orange Stage with precisely the kind of powerfully balanced rock and beauty the festival needed to energize those rediscovering their Summer festival muscles.

With punk icon, former Black Flag frontman and spoken word performer Henry Rollins playing pastor, the nuptials of Dallas-area residents and Fun Fun Fun Fest attendees Steven Hart and Page King took place on Sunday afternoon, after a highly impressive ladies' wrestling match in the Anarchy Championship Wrestling challenge.

A full-scale wrestling ring was erected near the main entrance to the festival grounds, and the nimble-bodied women made mincemeat of one another with high-flying acrobatic moves that reminded me of the days of G.L.O.W. Look it up, kids. Get your minds blown.

After a story-filled and humorous yet relatively mild spoken word set from Henry Rollins, tens of thousands shifted their attention to the thunderous pummeling of Slayer. The mosh pit was a brawling, churning monster before a word was sung, and when the band opened with “World Painted Blood,” it was as if the entire audience were electrocuted.

Thrashing bodies and banging heads were all the eyes could see as Slayer ripped through “Hate Worldwide,” “Psychopathy Red” and, of course, the brutal “Raining Blood”. With nary a word of between-song banter (aside from frontman Tom Araya asking if everyone was having "Fun Fun Fun?"), the band bounded through their considerably deep and legendary catalogue, leading to the set closer “Angel of Death,” which was downright devastating.

An unexpected pre-winter send-off from the outdoor festivals, Fun Fun Fun Fest is the perfect answer to the Autumn blues – with a lineup original enough to make the big-box festivals throw some side-eye. The weather's cooling off, but in Austin you can still catch a bit of that Summer sensation in the first week of November at Auditorium Shores.