November 10, 2008
The crowd for Fun Fun Fun Fest comedy headliners Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show was pretty firmly divided into two camps: fans who reveled in every absurd second of the performance, and curious newcomers who gradually came to understand less and less why the tiny stage had drawn such a large crowd.
To kick off the show, the Cartoon Network Adult Swim heroes burst onstage wearing gray spandex and singing “Diarrhea!” to carnival music for a good five minutes before a booming voice came over the speakers, proclaiming, “Tim and Eric are the winners of the Fun Fun Fun Fest’s ‘Best Comedy Sketch’ award for ‘Diarrhea’!”
A mock award ceremony ensued, and as the duo left the stage to prepare for the next skit, the elusive but hilarious punch line dawned on some audience members—the comedians weren’t asking whether their antics were funny, but rather how funny it would be if a diarrhea dance were actually the best comedy bit of the festival. Some attendees left in search of music.
Other sketches were universally well received. The final act, in which Heidecker played a red belt karate “master” giving a spiritual self-help seminar with the silver spandex-clad Wareheim as his sidekick, elicited plenty of laughs throughout, and the audience’s reaction to their friendship-affirming kiss at the end of the bit was palpable.
If you’re not well versed in their comedic style, it can be hard to feel grounded during a Tim and Eric performance, but if you can tap into their rhythm, the payoff is hilarious.
November 10, 2008
The cool exteriors of Seattle-based Minus the Bear’s angularly constructed guitar anthems betray just the right amount of adrenaline bubbling beneath the surface. They’re perfect for smooth highway drives through brightly lit cities or, as was the case on Sunday, the dark and windy setting that was the main stage at Fun Fun Fun Fest.
Though it was less prominent in the newer songs, guitarist Dave Knudson’s two-handed tapping technique created a visual and auditory spectacle that surely boggled the minds of experienced and inexperienced guitarists alike. While his left hand floated over rhythmic riffs on the low end of the fret board, his right punched perfectly timed phrases higher up, transforming his lead work into a mesmerizing dance.
“Houston We Have Uh Oh” and “Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse,” two fan favorites from the Bear back catalogue, used this technique the most, but they also showed how much tighter and more comfortable Minus the Bear has become since their earliest days.
Two-thirds through the set, Knudson and singer/guitarist Jake Snider grabbed acoustic guitars to perform “Pachuca Sunrise” and the new “Guns and Ammo” from their recent acoustic EP. Many listeners began to file out of the crowd, and one even proclaimed, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m walking away.”
But as the band showed earlier in the set with songs like “When We Escape,” they are masters of emphasizing the rises and falls in their music, so it was only natural that their set would work the same way. After the brief mellow interlude, frantic closers like “Drilling” hit all the harder.
November 10, 2008
As the second day of Fun Fun Fun Fest was coming to a close, a few attendees took a couple minutes to weigh in on their favorite acts of the weekend.
Though Bad Brains hadn’t yet played, it seemed that the punk legends were going to win out.
“We’re definitely excited for Bad Brains,” said Jessie Ledi, who drove from Houston for the festival with friend Jonathan Racine.
“We liked DOA, Municipal Waste, and Leftover Crack,” Racine said.
Anthony Bollato of Houston and Aaron Drake of College Station, who stayed around the punk stage for the majority of the festival, were also getting ready for Bad Brains, but they had some other favorites as well.
“I’d already heard most of these bands, but Integrity was pretty cool,” Drake said.
“I liked Black Angels,” Bollato said. “They just got done.”
Eric Lemm of Madison, Wis., flew into Austin to check out the city and distribute demos of his music, and ended up checking out the festival as well.
“I’m definitely going to check out Bad Brains,” he said.
November 10, 2008
Though this year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest is a paradise for fans of punk from decades past, one of Saturday’s most energetic performances came from YACHT, the young electronic duo that played the tiny stage by the festival’s entrance as the sun began to set.
The performance began with the blast of spliced drumbeats and computerized blips characteristic of so many electronic acts. But atop the music were the youthful voices of Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans chanting lines like “You can live any way you want” and “Be careful with the downloading and protect your eyes.”
The duo was barely still for the 45-minute set. Sometimes they danced in sync, other times they danced in free-flowing movements. In one song, they sang, “Will we go to heaven? ‘Cause it’s not understanding,” while Bechtolt kneeled down and Evans placed her hand on his head to push him back, as if to rid him of some plaguing illness in a swift, miraculous act.
At first, the audience moved awkwardly to the music, and most listeners seemed reluctant to dance. But in the third song, when Bechtolt took off his gray-collared overshirt to reveal a white T-shirt boasting an extraterrestrial-eyed Sarah Palin with the word “Palien” written underneath, all inhibition was gone. Listeners began jumping, dancing and waving their hands in the air.
Acts on the electronic stage might not be the main appeal of Fun Fun Fun Fest for many listeners, but as YACHT proved, they certainly have a lot to offer.
November 10, 2008
Just like Vampire Weekend, the indie-pop playing Ivy League alums in Bishop Allen don’t look much like rockers. The clean cut five-piece took Fun Fun Fun Fest’s main stage on Saturday dressed in polos, flannel and a white dress shirt tucked into dark jeans.
The music was mild-tempered as well. The hook-centered pop songs were primarily driven by an acoustic rhythm guitar and an electric lead.
But they were nothing less than spectacular. Tightly held together by forward-driving drumbeats, Bishop Allen moved in a controlled yet energetic manner through a set of pop perfection that drew cues from new wave melodies and, in some instances, the guitar lines on Paul Simon’s “Graceland.”
For the most part, the band gave the crowd a preview of cuts from their forthcoming album, due in February. Beneath tales of heartache and plenty of harmonized “ba ba’s” and “doo doo’s,” the drums galloped while the band danced along.
The only downside to playing so many new songs was that the audience wasn’t familiar with them. Still, Bishop Allen played some older, more familiar numbers, and the performance as a whole was a nice preview of the album to come.
November 10, 2008
For a pair of darkly dressed songwriters with shoulder length hair, Pall Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel of Black Heart Procession play some surprisingly delicate songs. And on gloomy afternoons or in dimly lit bars, they work perfectly.
But against Fun Fun Fun Fest’s sunny, mild-weathered backdrop, the five-piece’s dreary piano and guitar-driven numbers nearly fell flat. A violin accompanied songs about tears filling oceans and letters being carried through winter, and on the fringes of the dedicated cluster of fans that crowded the stage, many listeners began striking up conversations. Farther back, others napped on blankets.
The band’s stage presence didn’t help much. The members barely spoke more than two sentences between songs, and they stayed firmly planted in their respective spots on the stage.
When the Procession hit its stride, however, ears noticeably perked up. On “Tropics of Love,” syncopated Latin drumbeats backed lively piano rolls, injecting a necessary jolt of energy into the set. “Tangled,” on the other hand, the opener from 2006’s “Spell,” waltzed slowly around haunting piano and string lines, but the song’s dynamic power carried it nonetheless.
The set as a whole was a showcase of tight musicianship. The moments when the violin and guitar lines followed each other were particularly engaging. But sometimes there’s just something to be said for playing the right songs in the right place.
November 5, 2008
Comedy, haircuts, shopping and plenty of food are just part of the other attractions at festival in Waterloo Park
Music won’t make all the fun at Fun Fun Fun Fest this weekend. In addition to new green initiatives, this year’s festival will offer food, art and more from local vendors, as well as comedy and other attractions.
Most of the nonmusic offerings at the festival were purposefully chosen by the organizers to showcase Austin’s unique establishments.
“You don’t fly in from out of state, come to Fun Fun Fun Fest, and get a Starbucks,” festival organizer James Moody said. “We’d rather you fly in from out of state, come to Fun Fun Fun Fest and get some food from the Whip-In or Parlor Pizza, which are places you’d have to live here to figure out.”
Food and beverage
Other food vendors at the festival will include Ruby’s Barbeque, Starlite, Best Wurst, Boomerang’s and the Woodland, which will serve pulled pork shoulders stewed in various spices.
On the beverage side, Daily Juice will offer watermelon juice and fruit smoothies, while Spider House will have iced coffee and other caffeinated beverages on hand.
Fun Fun Fun also will have an array of local retail booths.
Toy Joy will be on-site with a selection, including instruments, rocket balloons, sunglasses, quirky accessories and glow and light-up toys, catered to musically minded fest-goers.
Brave New Books will offer a sampling of their literature on suppressed information, government conspiracies, alternative medicine, media studies, cultural critique and more.
Birds Barbershop will groom fest-goers for free, and donations will go to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.
“We can’t do everything in the shop, but last year we did a lot of mohawks, neck trims and bang trims,” Marisela Mayo of Birds said.
This year, Birds has partnered with Misprint Magazine, which will provide a reading area for those waiting for a trim.
In addition to decorating backstage VIP lounges, Prototype Vintage will have a selection of housewares, apparel, furniture and lighting for sale. Room Service Vintage and Big Rig Vintage will also be at the festival.
Art and jewelry
The festival will also host booths for Austin artists like Luster Creations, Jah Seed and Leighelena Jewelry, which specializes in colorful pieces created by fusing metal and glass.
One of the biggest differences between this and past years is the inclusion of comedy acts.
As the owner of the Mohawk, which sometimes showcases comedy acts, Moody has recognized a significant connection between progressive music and progressive comedy.
“You read interviews with musicians and you see how linked in they are to the creative comedy world, and comedians recently are getting back on tour and playing music clubs,” he said. “We decided to integrate them even further this year.”
To accommodate this new group of performers, festival organizers developed a fourth stage, which will feature solo musicians interspersed with comedians. The acts include Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Neil Hamburger, Dragonboy Suede and Matt Bearden.
Though organizers have encouraged fest-goers to bicycle and carpool to the event, they will also set up solar panels to power the vendor tents. In addition, they will have recycling bins next to the trash cans.
Between performances, fest-goers can strap on sumo suits and wrestle, or try their hand at the mechanical bull.
“A mechanical bull is something you could see in Fort Worth no problem,” said Moody. “But this is the polar opposite of that traditional Texas crowd, so we thought it would be hilarious.”
Instead of sifting through pre-made festival T-shirts, on-site screen printing will allow fest-goers to come up with their own designs.
The Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Austinist will host a pre-festival Blogger Panel on Friday at Club de Ville to educate the public about blogs, blog etiquette and the blog community. The event will feature bloggers from Spin, Gorilla vs Bear, Brooklyn Vegan, MOKB and Aquarium Drunkard, and will be followed by the Austinist’s “Local Music is Sexy” party at the Mohawk.
Originally published in the Austin American-Statesman 6 November 2008.