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It's 1PM in Texas and I just tied a bandana around my face before its time to get down to business. I'm not some outlaw out to rob a bank and hop on a speeding stagecoach; With the dry dirt and the hordes of kids in full-on circle-pit/floorpunch mode, a bandana or a surgical mask is a key tool in dealing with the clouds of dust that form around the chaos.
Chaos it was, off-stage that is, as the crowd popped for the likes of Suicidal Tendencies, Snapcase, Dwarves, Municipal Waste, Gwar, Mastodon and others on Fun Fun Fun Fest's Black Stage (where I spent a good bit of my time). Though I wandered to the Orange Stage to catch amazing performances from Cap'n Jazz, The Hold Steady & Descendents (among many others) and the Blue Stage to catch scorching shows from Big Freedia, Pharoahe Monch, Dam-Funk, and A-Trak, but it was the Black Stage where I caught pretty much every single band in action.
And that's a lot! One of the great things about the Black and Orange stages is that they are actually TWO stages each. A band will finish their set, and then on a stage right next to it, another band will line check and play. Times between bands varied (due to set time length and on occasion, technical difficulties), but there were moments when it was as low as 5 minutes between sets. More music and less downtime.
I started out my Saturday (11/6) with Black Congress, whose powerful post-hardcore impressed the early crowd. Hatred Surge followed, and even with a new singer in tow, the brutality has stayed a constant. Power Trip was next, and they do crossover-thrash that is less DRI/ Municipal Waste, and more serious/furious. Bands this good shouldn't play this early.
I'm very picky about sung vocals and punk rock, so it's sort of no surprise that I didn't care for either Bad Religion (who had no guitar in the mix for the first three songs), The Briggs or The Vandals, but I did enjoy what I saw of Strike Anywhere's live set (even though I am not into their recorded output). Dreadlocked singer Thomas Barnett is as energetic a frontman as I would see on the Black Stage all weekend, and really added tremendous power to the band's melodic hardcore.
Muncipal Waste (more here)
Strike Anywhere is from Richmond, and the band got a "Richmond represent" shout out from the great Municipal Waste that day. The band thrashed their way through one of my favorite sets of the afternoon, complete with thrown trash cans, a wall of death, stage diving, and an "execution" courtesy of fellow Richmond band Gwar. Gwar was fun in a kitschy way and delivered a great set later in the day, but the crowd energy and the precision of MW's live show was the most memorable.
Also on the Black stage were Valient Thorr and The Casualties who both delivered energetic sets, with the latter giving a crusty spin on the Ramones classic "Blitzkrieg Bop". The mohawk-ed kids went ape, and a wall of death, which was later faux-mocked by Municipal Waste when they initiated their own wall of death, was called upon by vocalist Jorge Herrera.
On the Orange stage, I managed to catch Woven Bones, The Appleseed Cast, and Jeff The Brotherhood. Jeff The Brotherhood is a staple of the small stage in NYC, so it was a bit odd to hear that guitar tone blaring out of 50 feet of PA speakers. Odd, but no less fun/impressive.
Along with Municipal Waste, Big Freedia was another one of my favorite sets of the day. Her nonsense odes to ass, ass, and ass-clapping were a pure sugar-rush and left 90% of the crowd in hilarious amazement and the other 10% with a big old "WTF" look. The Freedia set was tamer than her usual appearances, but no matter, it was still much fun and much booty-shakin. Dam-Funk would also get the crowd moving on that same stage hours later.
Seeing Big Freedia meant missing a good portion of Cap'n Jazz, who announced on stage that Fun Fun Fun would be their last show. Unbelieveably kinetic and powerful, Cap'n Jazz reminds me that emo is short for "emotional" and not just a psuedonym for pop-crossover. Mesmerizing and awesome.
Sunday (11/7) was a late start for me, so I got to the venue to see the tail end of Junius (who played 2nd, after Eagle Claw on the Black Stage). They're a band I'm very familiar with for their latter-Isis crunch-and-clean vocals steelo. It was surprisingly the next band that really got me going: Peelander-Z. With a large crowd looking on, Peelander-Z delivered an incredible mix of energy, stage presence, audience participation, fun and simple song-craft, and plain old good times. They played from the crowd. They stage dove. They led the audience in a giant game of limbo. They had a footrace. Totally fun.
I have a lot of recent experience seeing OFF!, High on Fire, Kylesa, Floor, Mastodon, and The Bronx, who all played the Black Stage that day. All gave predictably excellent shows though Kylesa in particular seemed a bit more energetic that usual (lots of Laura pogoing). It might have been the fact that FFF marked the end of their US tour with Torche and High on Fire, but they were particularly good on that sweltering Sunday afternoon. Floor was great as usual, though I enjoyed them more at Red 7 later that night... possibly because their music felt like a bookend to a great weekend. Both High on Fire and Mastodon's setlist delved into all of their recorded efforts which, as a long time fan, was comforting.
I'm not particularly scared of anyone, but Human Furnace of Ringworm gives me the shakes. His gravelly voice propels the rest of the Clevo-hardcore band forward and blew my mind that afternoon. They were one of my highlights of the day, and if I had only seen them and Snapcase on Sunday, I would have been content.
If my dad listened to modern music anymore, he would go apeshit for The Hold Steady. The band cranked out a crunchy Springsteen-esque set and sounded better than I have ever heard them before. Though they were killing on the Orange stage, I made the hard decision to bounce to catch the rest of Suicidal Tendencies' set.
Nothing against Mike Muir, but he isn't in the same shape that John Joseph of the Cro-Mags is (Muir and the rest of the known universe). No matter, it doesn't stop him from zigging and zagging back and forth on stage as the rest of Suicidal Tendencies runs through hits like "You Can't Bring Me Down" and "I Saw Your Mommy". High energy stuff; I can't imagine running in circles while trying to recite the words to "Institutionalized". Catch Suicidal and Cro-Mags together at Terminal 5 on November 14th.
If I was to pick two of my favorite sets from Sunday, the winners easily go to Snapcase and Descendents. Snapcase was brutal, technical, confrontational, and totally fun; the crowd gave back every ounce of energy that the band put in. From the opening notes of their third song, "Zombie Transmission" from Progress Through Unlearning, I knew that this was going to be a highlight. We need more shows from Snapcase.
Descendents, who we also need more shows from, are one of the few bands that pass my "no clean vocals in punk rock" test. Their songs are funny without being goofy, melodic without being overtly pop, and driving/hard when they want to be. Classics like "Suburban Home", "Bikeage" and a good portion of Somery, "Everything Sucks" and many of the highlights from that LP, and tons of others all made their way onto the setlist that night. And yes, the band made sure to fit in "All" and "Weinerschnitzel". Too fun, and though I left Mastodon early to catch them, I have no regrets.
As far as pictures go, we already split the fest up into ten other posts, my pictures from Saturday included. This post is number 11 and it includes all my pictures from Sunday (and it is our final set of Fun Fun Fun pics from this year) which continue, below...
High On Fire