Photos by Jeff Turner
Proving that it's a bigger, badder beast this year, Fun Fun Fun Fest officially began the festivities on Friday night. But, to prove they still don't take themselves too seriously, their Friday night headliner was none-other than nerd magnet Weird Al Yankovic.
Apples in Stereo
Kindly blowing off comedian Todd Barry's snarky complaints about their soundcheck, which occurred on the adjoining stage and apparently threw him way, way off his game, the Apples in Stereo issued a brief apology before singer Robert Schneider welcomed the "people of the past" to enjoy the show.
I'd heard that AIS had been edging ever further into Electric Light Orchestra territory, but their set, from their gray Planet Krypton uniforms and sunglasses, to their heavily new-material set, cemented the notion. Schneider's shtick about being some sort of alien from the future further fueled the prog/disco vibe.
Though Schneider is the only remaining original member, AIS' line-up has only expanded since their early '90s roots on Elephant 6. A notable new addition is SA-native John Dufilho, who helped found North Texas' Deathray Davies in the late '90s, and replaced Hilary Sidney on AIS drums in 2006. He and Schneider are joined by four additional multi-instrumentalists, including former Dressy Bessy guitarist John Hill.
In a set heavy on their latest album Travelers in Space and Time, Schneider's vocals, which have always been eerily reminiscent of a teenage girl, mingled with synths and funk beats worthy of a mirror-ball sparkled dance-off. Only when the band got into their older material was it apparent how far the indie pop band has moved from their crunchy beginnings. But, as Schneider noted, they're not too interested in retrospective. "We have come from the future to rock backward," he told the crowd.
They're playing tonight in SA at the Korova with Dulfiho's pals, Buttercup. Dance your blues away.
Weird Al Yankovic
"He who's tired of Weird Al Yankovic is tired of life." -- Homer Simpson.
As a journalist, a lot of times you find yourselves in situations you would have never thought possible. Case in point: me at a Weird Al Yankovic show. It's not that I dislike the guy, or don't know him, I was in his targeted age demographic at one time (at this point, who wasn't?), around the "Amish Paradise" era, though I did have weird twinges of nostalgia during the performance of Weird Al's breakthrough parody songs "I'm Fat" and "Eat It."
Otherwise, I didn't know most of the songs, but I was sincerely shocked at how many people sang along to every damned one. Let's just say that comedian Chris Hardwick's prior set, which included a lengthy homage to old nerds, was the perfect warm-up for this crowd.
As a miner of pop culture, which of late has parodied Top 40 hits with lyrics based on some au courrant phenomenon, like Craigslist and Ebay, Yankovic will likely never go broke. To augment his staying power, I should note he's got his live show down to a precision-tuned process. To hide more costume changes than Lady Gaga (including an impressive fat suit, jowls and all, for "I'm Fat"), Yankovic plays his own videos. Instead of feeling cheated out of performing time, I thought these segments were pretty hilarious. And they helped the nearly two-hour long performance fly by.
Out of the, God, I don't even know how many, songs, my favorite was the newish tribute to Charles Nelson Reilly and an accompanying video a la the White Stripes. You can actually check it out here. Look who posted that link, Chris Hardwick.
I feel like commenting on the musicality of the show would be pretty irrelevant. You can't have a great spoof without displaying some serious talent, and Weird Al's backing band of old dudes laid a good foundation for musical imitation. Most of all, I enjoyed seeing Weird Al bust out his piano accordion, his first love. How hard would it be to get him to headline next year's International Accordion Festival?
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