Live Review: Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014 in Austin, TX

Fun Fun Fun Fest
Photo by Chad Cooper

No matter who you are or where you come from, Fun Fun Fun Fest is the music festival that gives you just what you need.

FFF, much like its home city of Austin, keeps it weird. Its curious blend of stages (orange for indie rock, blue for electronic and hip hop, black for metal, and yellow for comedy) does more than just offer something for everyone: it offers everything to everyone. Edgy Austin teenagers in crushed velvet dresses make out on mushrooms next to Mexican middle-aged metalheads gunning for a glimpse of Judas Priest. Beflanneled dads carry toddlers wearing pink protective headphones while watching lanky black skaters twist along the Volcom half pipe. When you come to Fun Fun Fun Fest, your socio-sonic world cracks open, making room for music and people you just learned to love.

Unlike other burgeoning festivals (I’m looking at you, Coachella), FFF remains small, friendly, comfortable, and polite. You can see big acts with minimal stage camping efforts. Drunken yammering and dancing remain at tolerable, if not acceptable levels. If you’re tired, there are bean bag pits to crash in, and the bathrooms are plentiful and uncommonly clean. Shiner Bocks cost a mere six bucks. And that nice gal in line who chatted with me about Leonard Cohen and music documentaries? It turned out to be Lauren Gurgiolo from Okkervil River. Pleasant surprises flowed out in an environment more often known for frustrating inconveniences.

FFF is safe from corporate festival bloat and pretension for now, but it’s hard to say how long that will be the case. Giant Luden’s throat lozenges encroached upon the grounds, tents for Marlboro and blu eCigs tempted smokers into long lines, and Absolut Vodka glow sticks flickered throughout the crowd. The festival’s first day was mired by three-hour waits, a fact that some attendees attributed to swelling attendance, poor organization, and the switch to ACL-esque scannable wristbands. We can only cross our fingers and hope that this festival flies under the radar for a few years longer before all of the jerkwads start to show up.

Some band reviews, in pithy one liners:

Alt-J: Digital hymns for the millennial musical church, inspiring adolescent worshipers with primal percussion, atonal melodies, and a divine light show
Mas Ysa: Smug and drug-addled affectations smeared on otherwise interesting ambient sound
Metz: A pure metal hit full of fuck-worthy chords that inspired a mosh pit so thick that men could stand on it
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Whispering vocals and limp-wristed guitars more suited for an intimate venue
The New Pornographers: Simple precision and quiet passion that fan of these old pros have come to expect — and Neko Case was there!
Girl Talk: A runaway train of ’90s rap and latter-day pop songs made for an explosive and satisfying dance party pastiche
Foxygen: A frenetic melange of ersatz Rolling Stones and cheap stage tricks
Dum Dum Girls: Sultry harmonies and stripped-down guitar incantations made for a bewitching set
Neutral Milk Hotel: Saws and accordions, mandolins and Magnum — a still, sentimental crowd favorite that inspired an old-fashioned lighter salute

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