I met the last day of Fun Fun Fun Fest with mixed feelings. I was excited to see the one-and-only Ms. Hill close out the fest, but between the perfect weather, the new people I was meeting, and all the dancing I was doing…it was was difficult to think about saying goodbye. The sun came out for the first time the entire weekend, and Auditorium Shores was buzzing with activity. From people taking photos in the porta-potty photobooth to girls hula-hooping in the grass.
Lead singer Brooks Nielsen looked so much like Benicio Del Toro circa the movie Basquiat, with a voice that sounded like a mix of Tom Waits and a boozy lounge singer. He lazily held a bent arm at his side like a drunken T-rex, and kept the mic close to his mouth as he sang their self-proclaimed “Beach Goth” in the evening air. As I watched Nielsen float around the stage, thinking to myself how he looked so like an old man and a little boy all at once, a friend leaned over to tell me his vocals reminded her of the Delta Spirit. I agreed, although perhaps more relaxed and casual. I easily nodded my head and tapped my feet to “Drinkin’ the Juice Blues” as it quickly became my favorite song of the set.
Chromeo has always been one of those bands I enjoy listening to, but never really connected with in a meaningful way. On the last day of FFF Fest however, it didn’t matter because I was still in a dancing mood and I knew their funky, synth-heavy jams would satiate my need to move. They did not disappoint. The duo took the stage behind their keyboards held up by sexy, lady legs and quickly invigorated the fest-goers with their energetic electro beats. Dave 1 jumped off stage, sang into the mic with the audience, as the other half of Chromeo, P-Thugg manipulated his voice to sound like an underwater space robot. “Jealous” and “Over Your Shoulder” were stand outs and overall, the set was a party.
The feeling of anticipation was heavy, the crowd barely spoke as the dedicated Lauryn Hill fans waited 45 minutes for the former Fugee to appear on stage. The setup crew laid down a rug, an oversized lounge chair, sat out bar stools, and lit candles. Soon a DJ appeared and began playing hip-hop on a couple of turntables behind the newly furnished stage. He amped up the audience, and asked if they were ready for Lauryn Hill in between getting the crowd dancing to hits from DMX and House of Pain like we were at a house party in the year 2000. Eventually the crowd had enough and settled back into wait-mode. A trio of gorgeous backup singers in matching dresses appeared on stage. A saxophone, trumpet and trombone wearing all black joined them on the opposite side of the stage. The lead guitar, drums, and bass were last to arrive just before Ms. Hill herself finally appeared in flowy pants and a felt hat. The crowd went nuts cheering. For the next hour she commanded her band through the most popular songs from her legendary album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill set to slightly familiar but definitely different instrumentation. The new treatment of the songs was met with mixed feelings from the audience. This left some perpetuating the rumors that Hill no longer owns the rights to any of the original music from her magnum opus due to copyright issues with Sony. Not to worry, still all rumors. Personally, I felt the new music took Hill’s powerful lyrics to a whole new and wonderful place. The songs were still easily recognizable enough to sing along to, as everyone around me did, but it kept the performance from ever becoming dull. When she finally performed “Doo Wop (That Thing)”, the entire crowd and I were jumping and sing-shouting the words back at Hill and her band. I never thought I would get a chance to see Lauryn Hill perform songs I’ve loved since I was 13. So much about my worldviews were shaped from her iconic album, and it made me appreciate her with a teenage-like fascination that invigorated me for the entire week that followed.
Check the slide show (below) for more FFF Fest Photos.