Long live rock, I need it every night

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fun Fun Fun Fest - Part 1

The 2008 Fun Fun Fun Fest - 2 days, 4 stages, and over 60 bands. The music included indie rock, Hip Hop and DJ's, and Punk/Hardcore bands. They was a little something for everyone. Here are some of the bands I opted to see:

Bishop Allen

This clean cut crew plays catchy, literate, unoffensive tunes. The type of stuff your girlfriend likes and that gets played on NPR's All Songs Considered. Listening to their set I was reminded of Death Cab, The Decemberists, and The Shins. Not exactly edgy stuff. Of course, I kind of like those bands so it's not surprising that I enjoyed Bishop Allen. I was on the fence going in but I'm a fan after seeing them live. Sometimes you just want to hear a good pop song and they delivered with "Click, Click, Click", "Rain", and "Middle Management".

One final comment about Bishop Allen. A few songs into the set the lead singer starting doing this odd dance. He was bopping around the stage kicking his heels up towards his ass. It looked like a retard doing Jazzercise. Which is to say that it was awesome. Oh, and he had a huge head so that may have added to the effect. Just thought I'd mention that.

Octopus Project

This was my first time seeing Austin's most experimental band. Primarily an instrumental band, Octopus Project were as entertaining as they were innovative. There was so much going onstage and within each song (odd structures, myriad of instruments and effects) it was easy to forget there were no lyrics (there were vocals in only two songs). At times they were angular and dissonant and other times they were beautifully melodic. They displayed impressive creativity for sure.

A quick example of their showmanship: dancing ghosts. Behind the band there were a series of green and white sheets with funny faces and little ears. They looked to be covering the amps and hanging from the ceiling. Assuming they were just decorations I didn't pay attention to them until 3 or 4 songs into the set when half of them started dancing around. The crowd loved it.

The band isn't all gimmicks though. Their talent was evident as each member played at least two or three instruments. My favorite was Yvonne Lambert on the theremin (the Moog device she controls without touching). It produced lots of eerie sounds as if she was channeling the thoughts of the dancing ghosts behind her.

...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

By the time Trail of Dead took the stage, the festival crowd had grown quite a bit (the will call line was LONG). They had big lineup with two drummers, two guitars, bass, and keyboards which helped create the quiet/load contrast found in many of their songs. The band had a big wall of sound dynamic that worked perfectly in a festival setting.

The group was dressed in all black, as if they were representing the dark side of indie rock, and the music reflected it. Early on they played "The Betrayal of Roger Casement and the Irish Brigade," a searing instrumental from their recent Festival Thyme EP. The set included a nice mix of new tunes along with their standards. Personally, I enjoyed "Caterwaul" of their poorly reviewed Worlds Apart album (underappreciated album IMHO). Listening to the new songs I'm guessing the album due in January will be less produced and more straightforward rock. They even had one song that was pure hardcore punk.

I used to wonder if they were blessed or cursed when Pitchfork gave Source Tags and Codes a 10.0. Answer: probably cursed. Since that review each successive release has been over-scrutinized and a backlash has occurred. There were also label troubles and a general decline of interest in the band (playing a mid-day slot at their hometown festival being one sign of this). However, none of that was reflected in their performance. They put on a blistering show and the crowd was very much into the entire set. I look forward to the new album in 2009. The Trail of Dead is ready for its Lazarus moment.


I'm down with any band that has a sick drummer and Greg Saunier is as bad ass as they come. He's the soul of the band pounding away on his spare drum kit. Not to take away from the rest of the band. The guitarists, Jon Dietrich and Ed Rodriguez, are incredible musicians, and Satomi Matsuzaka is one of the most unique front women in indie rock. All combined they produce sloppy brilliance that keeps you guessing where they'll go next (musically that is).

The band has a reputation for inspiring live shows and this was no exception. Admittedly, it wasn't as good as the past shows I've seen but it was solid nonetheless. They played a series of favorites from their last five albums. I was happy the set wasn't too heavy on the new album (Offend Maggie) because frankly, I'm just not that into it. Although I must say "Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back" is better live than on record.

I hope Deerhoof makes another Austin visit soon. I prefer seeing bands in smaller venues instead of at festivals. I tried to get close to the stage but had to leave the mob after about 10 minutes. My old man back was acting up and there were some seriously drunk people around me. One dude passed in front of me holding his hand over his mouth as puke ran down his shirt. Nice.

In the second recap I'll cover The Dead Milkmen, Dan Deacon, Frightened Rabbit, The Spinto Band, and Annuals. I'll also lament the many bands I failed to see (due to either scheduling conflicts or my nasty cold).

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