Saturday was the second day of Fun Fun Fun Fest X. Auditorium Shores was buzzing with more fest-goers than the previous day. The temperatures hovered in the upper 50’s as crowds of Austinites dressed in their neglected winter garments, pulling them out for what was surely the first time this season. The theme of this year’s FFF Fest was SCIENCE! If you didn’t see the promo video featuring Bill Nye, I demand you go watch it now. Creepy experimentations were conducted on-screen beside each stage. Beakers, petri dishes, and droppers filled with sewer water acted as props in the eerie experiments interluding the days sets.
American Football’s self-titled album from 1999 was the soundtrack to several years of my high school career, so it was easy to understand how excited I was to see a band who had stopped making music together shortly after it’s release. The mellow indie rock was a beautiful accompaniment to evening closing in on the fest grounds. As the sky swirled dark purple and orange, it felt magical to hear an entire crowd of people singing out loud to songs that I had only ever enjoyed privately before. There is something so special and intimate about realizing dozens of people listened to and felt the same enthusiasm for an album I have held so dear to my heart for years. I instantly felt connected to every single person singing along, music is so wonderful in that way, the warm trumpet carried across the lawn. The crowd was so quiet and respectful, listening intently with no loud or obnoxious conversing over American Football’s delicate songs. This is why I Fun Fun Fun Fest is so superior to other fests, the kind of people that attend are just so dedicated to the experience.
Over at the blue stage Neon Indian from Denton, Texas had drawn a huge crowd. To access the media area I had to wait in the only line (besides the bathroom, of course) throughout my entire FFF Fest X experience. Alan Palomo stood in front of a bright neon sign that read “night school” in pink letters. The vibe was energetic and fun, as the audience danced in the cool evening breeze. Palomo played new tracks like “Annie” and “Slumlord” off his latest album Vega Intl. Night School released just last month. The set stayed sexy and slick until Palomo closed with his most popular jam, “Polish Girl.”
I pressed my way as close to the blue stage as possible in anticipation of seeing Grimes for the third time in Austin. Having listened to her new album, Art Angels non-stop since it had dropped the day before, I was beyond eager to see her perform her latest tracks. Classical music took over the speakers, a dancer who looked like FKA twigs appeared on stage, contorting her body in an exaggerated and tribal fashion. After a minute or so she was joined by a doppelganger who took to the other side of the stage, mirroring her crazy dance moves. Finally the beautiful, lithe, cotton-candy-haired pixie that is the one and only Grimes took the stage. The singer, producer, and genius Claire Boucher was the human embodiment of Vanellope von Schweetz. She lept to her keyboards in a short and girly plaid skirt wearing her pink and purple hair up in a pony. Although she had on a walking brace on her right leg, it didn’t stop her from bounding across the stage – her schoolgirl skirt expanding and contracting to occasionally reveal what she swore were not-so-scandalous tights. Grimes stopped in between songs to mention it was her first live performance since her Art Angels dropped and how it was a special moment for her. Grimes then performed “Scream” off the new record but replaced Aristophanes’ Taiwanese parts with some rough Russian and a few growls. The Canadian nymph then performed my two favorite songs from her new album: the incredibly danceable “Venus Fly” and “Kill V. Maim,” which I recently learned she wrote from the perspective of Al Pacino in the Godfather, who also happened to be a gender-bending, space-traveling vampire. I danced the entire time she was on stage. Towards the end of the set, a couple behind me experiencing Grimes for the first time exchanged thoughts. The guy said “I like this, she reminds me of Bjork” to which the girl replied “me too, but I was gonna say Madonna.” I laughed to myself and kept dancing…they were both totally right.
After Grimes’ performance, I was riding pretty high on adrenaline. Waiting for Wu-Tang clan was the tightest I had yet to be packed into a crowd at this year’s FFF Fest. When the hip-hop legends finally appeared, I noticed there were a few members missing. Despite Method Man, Raekwon, and Ghostface Killah being absent on stage, it was still a good time. The rappers took turns on stage instructing the throbbing mob “when I say hip, you say ‘hop’” and then to shout “one love” while raising a finger in the air. The audience interaction continued as they popped bottles of champagne and sprayed them into the crowd. A girl in front of me had her hands perpetually up in a W sign, I could barely contain the excited kid within me whose dreams from the 90’s were coming true. I too threw my hands up along with the rest of the Killa Bee swarm and shouted “ain’t nothin’ to f*ck with!” so loud, I could feel my throat burn.
Check the slide show (below) for more FFF Fest Photos.
Melissa Vega is not one of those people that needs coffee every morning but one of those people that needs music every morning. There’s just something about trumpets sounding while the sun is rising that gets her out of bed every day. She wonders if her love for music will ever be a talent she will actually realize beyond being really excellent at singing in the shower. She can be summed up in a single lyric from Wilco’s “She’s a Jar”: “when I forget how to talk, I sing.”