Lacking a headliner of the Run-DMC caliber, Day 2 of Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest may not have packed the punch of its opener. That said, it proved to be a more consistent bill than Friday, with strong early day sets from Brendan Benson (one half of the Raconteurs, now back to doing his solo thing), Portland indie-pop duo The Helio Sequence, and Appalachian crooner and total oddball Daughn Gibson.
As the afternoon wore on and the day got hotter, several acts seemed to wilt in the heat, Paul Banks of Interpol fame and Florida’s Surfer Blood being notable casualties.
Seeming impervious to any climate inconvenience, Seattle punk-pranksters The Spits easily won out the title of best mid-day. Performing in day-after Halloween sale costumes, the band effectively combined the best of ’77-era Clash and Ramones, providing a rare moment of melodic sensibility on the otherwise brutal Black stage. (The Spits will also be swinging through SA tonight, November 4, to perform at the Korova).
Also worth noting was the prevalence of hip-hop acts throughout the evening, particularly bands of the swag rap variety: The still inexplicable Kreayshawn, the wonderfully weird Danny Brown, the undeniably charismatic A$AP Rocky and the A$AP crew, and deservedly hyped new-comer Schoolboy Q. Needless to say, plenty of air-horn and absurdity ensued.
In similar fashion to Day 1, Saturday was anchored by two legacy shows: former Sex Pistol and founding father of punk John Lydon fronting the recently reinvigorated Public Image Ltd., and Swedish hardcore legends Refused performing perhaps the final leg of their hugely lauded reunion tour.
PiL were first up, with Lydon firmly planted front and center, donned in his most resplendent Napoleonic overcoat and sporting a rather severe lime green Mohawk. Along with him was a reliable if slightly ridiculous band, including a guitarist who looked uncannily like Rasputin (Lu Edmons) and Scott Firth, a bassist who wore a kilt and a PiL shirt (seriously dude, never wear your own band’s shirt). The set leaned heavily on material from the band’s post “This Is Not a Love Song” era, meaning the dancier, late '80s-inflected version of PiL. While the later stuff was likely the better play for the festival setting, I doubt I was alone in wishing Lydon would have dusted off some of the earlier, rowdier PiL material.
Of course none of this seemed to matter the second Refused took to the Black Stage at 8:45. The five-piece didn’t just show up the other big reunion of the Fest (looking at you Run-DMC), they showed everyone the fuck up. Frontman Dennis Lyxzén was a force of nature: jumping, shimmying, stage diving, and mostly, screaming his larynx out. The band rose to his example, especially guitarist Jon Brännström, who seemed increasingly possessed by his instrument as the show built. From the lighting to the ape-shit crazy crowd who ate up every second of it, the show proved one of those moments that make festivals like this worth every possible inconvenience. In one of many warm addresses to the audience, Lyxzén mentioned the FFF Fest show as having been a final tacked on performance at the end of their reunion. So no telling if this was indeed the band’s last hurray, but if so, what a hell of a way to ride into the sunset. — J. D. Swerzenski