Fun Fun Fun Fest ’15: Day 2 Recap, Pt. 1

by Morgan Davis

Photos by Ashley Bradley and Carlos J. Matos

Fun Fun Fun Fest

The rain that had been threatening to arrive since Thursday finally struck down on day two of Fun Fun Fun Fest, delaying the opening of the gates by an hour and wreaking havoc on the grounds. Getting around on the second day was messier than day one, but by the time the festival started in full, the rain had gone away and it was simply a chilly, misty day. The rain did force a few cancellations, including A Giant Dog, which was unfortunate, but the fear of weather shutting down the festival did not come to fruition (knock on wood).

By the time Kayleigh and I got to Auditorium Shores, Shamir was halfway through his set. A few friends had said that Shamir’s live show is low on energy and disappointing, but I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Backed by a full band, Shamir was clearly enjoying himself as he jaunted through a set of funky uptempo pop. Granted, it was Shamir’s 21st birthday, so he might have been in higher spirits than normal, but it was a beautiful start to the day, especially during the closing song, when the clouds opened up and we all got a brief dose of sun.

That joy carried over to the Black Stage, where I caught epic Toronto hardcore act Fucked Up. Word was that this would be one of Fucked Up’s last shows for a while, and they had one of the biggest crowds I had seen yet at the Black Stage join them. Damian Abraham later confirmed that they were taking it easy for a while, since he just had his third kid and needed to “be responsible” for a while, which added further excitement to the show. The thing about Fucked Up is that they’re a hardcore band that deals in righteous celebration, and their shows are giant parties, where Damian works the crowd by becoming part of it. This was no exception, as he walked around hugging the crowd, smiling at fans, letting them sing and take part. The set was rightfully heavy on David Comes to Life material, and while the complexity of that epic work may not have come across as clearly while Damian had a mic in his mouth as he hula hooped with a fan, it made for a particularly fitting send off. The band seemed overjoyed to have the opportunity to make one of their last shows before their break be at FFF, shouting out Transmission booker Graham Williams for being “the only festival booker who once roadied for Hatebreed” as well as Torchy’s, where Damian had been commanded to go by his wife in order to smuggle their hot sauce back to Canada.

Fucked Up Fun Fun Fun Fest

Photo by Carlos J. Matos

Following Fucked Up was Archers of Loaf, who did a fantastic job filling in for Desaparecidos at the last minute. Like Fucked Up, Archers of Loaf had a devoted, joyful crowd, including two women in front of me who were in their 40’s and told me they had come to Austin from North Carolina specifically to see Archers, a band that had been their favorite in college (they were going home with a newfound Fucked Up appreciation too, which is pretty awesome). I was worried that Archers would put on a shaky and/or cranky set, but they sounded fresh and potent. Bassist Matt Gentling commented a few times on how many other musicians he could see in the crowd, joking about how nice it was to subject them to soundcheck for once, but you could tell that the band truly appreciated the reception they were getting. Archers more than lived up to expectations, sounding as tight as ever and getting ample power from the frequently underwhelming sound of the Black Stage.

I mostly wandered around for a while afterwards, getting lunch and then idly watching a bit of American Football’s set. As much as I love Cap’n Jazz, none of their spin-off bands have resonated with me but I could appreciate the connection the audience had to the band’s reunion set. They put on a solid show that fit the mood of that part of the evening to a tee and looking around I saw a sea of overjoyed faces, happy to experience the band and chill to their textural emo.

American Football

Photo by Ashley Bradley

Textural emo was never really my thing so I left early to see Neon Indian and get in place for Grimes. They didn’t really advertise it, but this year at FFF, people with media wristbands also had access to the Ultimate Smooth Pass sections by the stages, which came in handy for Ovrld’s photographers and for those of us who wanted to sample a band before committing to being their for the whole thing. The USP section at the Blue Stage was a gongshow though, as the security guard who had been placed there was too busy swiping through Tinder to check for wristbands, resulting in a flood of people storming that area to get ready for Grimes. It took a while for other members of the security team to notice but by the time they did it was too late.

That meant that the USP area for Neon Indian was dangerously packed with people who had no interest in their material and were just biding their time. Which is too bad, because Neon Indian ended up as one of the biggest surprises for me at FFF this year. The last time I saw Neon Indian, he was just beginning his transition from a chillwave solo star to a full fledged electro-disco band and I haven’t checked in on him since. Back then, his stage persona was pouty and standoffish, but he has warmed up considerably, cribbing stage moves (and clothes) from Prince while his band channels New Romantic artists as much as it does electro pioneers. I don’t know that Neon Indian’s fragile vocals are quite on the level of the musicianship yet, but the set was incredible nonetheless, even if you wouldn’t know it from watching the aggressively disinterested crowd.

Neon Indian was also a perfect warm up for Grimes, who had a simpler musical set up but managed to play one of the most impressive FFF sets I’ve ever seen. Flanked by dancers in janitorial jumpsuits and surrounded by stage dressing that looked like extras from an alien invasion film, Grimes was a complete sensory experience. Where Neon Indian’s dance moves were sultry and seductive, Grimes sways like an otherworldly creature, keeping up a constant energy that would be exhausting if it wasn’t so unpredictable and transfixing. Grimes’ set was mostly built around material from her brand new album, which I haven’t had the chance to listen to yet, but from the stage show I am certain it is an incredible work and a huge leap up for her. There were similarities between Grimes and Peaches’ sets, from the emphasis on spectacle and choreography to the uniqueness of the performers, but Grimes did a better job bridging the spectacle and the music, with her songs hitting with even more potency than their studio counterparts. It will be difficult for anything on day three to top Grimes.

The rest of the night was honestly kind of a bust. I had no interest in NOFX or Jane’s Addiction and what I heard while wandering near both stages only made me more confident in my hatred of both groups. And from past experience, I knew Wu-Tang Clan would be a disappointment. Because of their sheer size, Wu-Tang Clan shows are always a clusterfuck and it usually ends up sounding like Wu also-rans karaoke-ing the group’s greatest hits. The FFF set was no exception to this, but the crowd loved it any way so what do I know. Still, I can’t complain, day two was pretty consistent on the whole and with the weather clearing up for day three, FFF 2015 is on its way to being a clear success.

Morgan Davis sells bootleg queso on the streets of Austin in order to fund Loser City, the multimedia collective he co-runs. When he isn’t doing that, he gets complimented and/or threatened by Austin’s musical community for stuff he writes at Ovrld, which he is the Managing Editor of.