It's the festival for the rest of us. The weirder, nerdier, but cooler in its own way and definitely owns it rock/hip hop/metal/electronic/comedy/punk/a tiny bit of jazz if you're looking for it festival at Auditorium Shores that's smaller than Austin City Limits and practically perfect in every way—Fun Fun Fun Fest. This year's bill is can't miss, as usual, and packed to the gills of artists of all sorts that'll rattle around in your head until next year's FFF.
Friday, November 7
1:10pm - Black Stage - Peelander-Z
Peelander-Z puts on the most insane show possible. The Japanese punk band is renown for this and have been for fifteen years now. Thus, the anything goes ideals are ratcheted up even more with this group that may have changed personnel over the years, but they never changed their flavor of crazy. This is one of those bucket list sets, one of those acts you need to see at least once in life or feel some hole in your soul until you do so. Best get on that.
4:15pm - Blue Stage - Run the Jewels
The duo of El-P and Killer Mike released the most talked about hip-hop album of the year about a week ago, Run the Jewels 2
(the previous title holder was Freddie Gibbs & Madlib's Piñata
which, would you look at that, the pair are featuring Sunday at 4:50pm at Blue Stage). Everybody's talking about it. It's dominated all the social networks and music blogs. It's already being remixed into a cat version. This set is sure to be one of those super cool, kinda buzzy because attendance is practically mandatory for 2014 music nerd cred, but totally worth it kind of sets.
4:00pm - Yellow Stage - John Waters
If you have the chance to hear John Waters speak, do so. If he's talking in a tent at Auditorium Shores that is certain to fill up quickly and get funky with body heat, you be there. If you see some thin man with an interestingly shaped eyes as though they were inherited from Don Knotts hitchhiking on the side of the road, as he is prone to do and certainly did last summer
, you give that man a ride and listen to whatever he says. If the famous counter-cultural figure/writer/director/humorist is anywhere on television randomly, you're best served to tune in. So do yourself a favor and save yourself a patch of grass at the Yellow Stage tent Friday afternoon.
6:35pm - Black Stage - Death from Above 1979
When this dance-punk duo last played Austin during 2011's SXSW, they were reuniting for the first time in a half decade. They packed the old Beauty Bar and a riot broke out. Now they're back for sure with a new album, The Physical World. They're touring in earnest. There are fewer riots now. They're still pretty epic, though there could be a little overstatement in there (I mean, the chance of riots at their Friday evening Black Stage set is much lower, accuracy has to count for something).
8:30pm - Orange Stage - Alt-J
Alt-J doesn't sound like other bands. Their lead singer, Joe Newman, has a voice like an overly insistent, braying songbird on a hungover Saturday morning. Their compositions turn at weird corners in regard to chords and time. They sound just plain weird. They're also masters at wielding their weirdness into a pop sensibility that has served them well in their English homeland and is doing the same here. 2012's An Awesome Wave
was all over many end-of-year favorite album lists and their latest album, This is All Yours
, keeps in the same pocket and digs its heels in. Hey, the braying songbird on a hungover Saturday morning can sound pretty cool if you're more in the "still drunk" column than the "hungover" column.
Saturday, November 8
12:10pm - Blue Stage - Zorch
Austin's own Zorch has been making freak-out psychedelic electronic amazingness for years now. The duo of Zac Treager and Shmu has exhibited a madcap grooving giganticness in their sound and the praise they've been getting recently has been heartwarming. They're on the new Flaming Lips Sgt. Peppers tribute album, they kicked Marijuana Deathsquads’ work up a notch, they're one of those bands in Austin who impress immediately and who you should see whenever the opportunity arises.
2:30pm - Yellow Stage - W. Kamau Bell
W. Kamau Bell is witty, earnest, attentive, and an outsider. His comedy, particularly his short-lived but frequently poignant FX (because Bell was not yet an established enough name to function as the flagship to an entirely new channel in an ever-saturated cable market) late night show, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell
, often deals with race in America in that its a factor in life like many other factors. Bell's scrutinizing spotlight on that and other pressing issues provides a fascinating glimpse at a critical mind and just how much laughing at it all can help.
3:00pm - Black Stage - METZ
This band is loud. Like, Spinal Tap turning the amps up to 11 loud. Their self-titled release of 2012 was ear-shattering brilliance with a raucous compositional energy to match the decibel count. They're so loud and intense, one could hardly call them Canadian. Such boldness seems downright uncharacteristic. Nevertheless, if decorum is defined by the crowd determining what is or is not polite, perhaps blowing out the eardrums of everyone at Black Stage would seem like the most kind thing to do.
5:15pm - Black Stage - The Black Lips
Atlanta's Black Lips always bring the party. Their twangy, bluesy sound are just plain fun to listen to, whether live with all the fanfare and rambunctiousness that TBL shows are known to have, or recorded, like on their latest album, Underneath the Rainbow. They make an atmosphere conducive to singalongs and heavy drunken swaying. Act accordingly.
8:30pm - Orange Stage - Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse hasn't released a collection of work since the EP they released back in 2009. Their last proper album was back in 2007—We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
—and still, it's kinda exciting seeing these guys on the bill, isn't it? Their work has always brought a rollicking good time throughout the late '90s and '00s. Even their occasional festival dates over the last five or so years have reportedly pretty fun. Modest Mouse on the Orange Stage at FFF seems like it was some sort of event concocted in a lab when you think about it.
Sunday, November 9
12:10pm - Black Stage - The Bots
Brothers Mikaiah and Anaiah Lei, 21 and 17-years-old respectively, rock harder than you. You could dispute that, and it'd be an interesting debate, but it'd probably be a safe bet to say The Bots, who've been rocking faces off as their Afropunk/garage duo for the last half decade, are practically veterans at this. By now, the pair seem old enough to not look all that unnatural on stage, but they've had a lot of practice at it. They've played practically all their lives and have family friend Bad Brains' HR giving them tips along the way throughout their very impressive career. They're genetically and environmentally predisposed to rock harder than you.
1:15pm - Yellow Stage - Jake Flores
The San Antonio native comic rose through the ranks in Austin before doing what probably makes some semblance of sense for forward movement in a comedy career: moving to Brooklyn. Flores' work, best grasped in his latest album, Humours
(with cover art from erstwhile Current contributor Mitch Clem), has all the humor one could pull from Texas-borne poverty, with the ability to wring the most bittersweet laughs from your very soul. Catch his short 15 minute Yellow Stage set for his Austin return, but he's totally worth checking out Friday night for his hour set Friday night at The New Movement. He moved to New York. He's on posters and stuff. He's gonna make it (in between bartending shifts).
2:00pm - Blue Stage - Thundercat
You've heard Thundercat already. He's all over the last few Flying Lotus albums (you'll want to catch FlyLo's mind-blowing set here at 7:25, too), Kimbra's, Kendrick Lamarr's, Wiz Khalifa's, Childish Gambino's. He's a bass assassin with a voice smooth as the late George Duke with an adventurousness to match (if not surpass). His last two albums, 2013's Apocalypse
and 2011's The Golden Age of Apocalypse
, established Steven "Thundercat" Bruner as a distinct voice with ability to rip minds open, irrespective to genre. You've heard him before a ton and marveled and that crazy bass every time, now see what he can do front and center.
3:35pm - Orange Stage - Foxygen
Their SXSW meltdown is now story of legend, buckling under the heat, pressure, and constant slog of shows that even the steadiest of countenances would at least blanche at from the gargantuan festival. Their new double album ...And Star Power
is a bit of a clusterfuck in some pretty cool and some totally nonsensical ways. Essentially, this group comes with baggage, but watching them unpack it all in their typical freak out fashion should certainly be a hell of a show.
8:30pm - Orange Stage - Neutral Milk Hotel
You have to see Jeff Mangum & co.'s Sunday night closing set because In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
. You have to see this set because it's one of those rare FFF sets that the folks at Transmission Entertainment always seems to make this festival for. You need to see this set because your friend sophomore year, like so many friends that year, hipped you to Neutral Milk Hotel and the weirdo horns, wailing voice, and artful use of the Theremin forever changed how your ears work. You have to see this set because you're not sure if after this run of tour dates, Jeff Mangum won't turn into a raven and fly away again for a decade, or forever. Seems like a big risk.