AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Two days away from its sixth birthday, Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest is slapping the finishing touches on its new digs.
Organizers decided to take their baby south down San Jacinto from Waterloo Park over to Auditorium Shores, which is estimated to have room for another 5,000 people, bringing the grand capacity to about 15,000.
The annual music festival’s organizers – Austin-based booking agency Transmission Entertainment – have taken their idea of hosting a weekend featuring loosely-bifurcated stages devoted to indie, punk, hardcore, metal, electronic, comedy and hip-hop and stretched it further each year.
In 2006, the festival was largely an Austin-only affair. One only has to take a look at the increasing length and depth of each year’s lineup to see how much that’s changed.
In 2010, the festival introduced a third day. For this year’s entry, it added more room for festivalgoers as well as nighttime programming at seven venues on Red River, which were all – literally – right around the corner from Waterloo Park, the festival’s old home.
Scavenger hunts for free tickets cropped up not only in Austin, but in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. Heavyweight sluggers like Public Enemy, The Damned, Danzig – you know, Moooother – and Slayer headline each night before fans are corralled into the Red River venues.
This is, without a doubt, the festival’s most ambitious outing yet. There’s even a wedding booked, I’m told.
But as the lineup expands – it’s about quadrupled from 26 acts in 2006 to more than 100 in 2011– pupil dilation and a general lack of focus are both common side effects while staring at the three-day schedule.
So use the following 10 acts as a starting point, then fill in around them. Editor’s note: A few of the more obvious acts are left off. Of course you should see Slayer and Public Enemy. But you might overlook G-Side or Omar Souleyman. And that would be a real bummer.
Not able to make the trip to Austin this weekend? Pitchfork’ll be streaming the whole thing – also a first for the not-so-fledgling-anymore music festival. We’ll also have daily coverage and photo slideshows from the fest.
Playing Saturday at 5:35 p.m. on the Orange Stage
Frenchman Anthony Gonzales has built the foundation of his career by one-upping himself.
He’s always had a knack for the theatric – scope the melodrama dripping from “Run Into Flowers,” off 2003’s Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts – but this year’s double-album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming practically redefines that notion.
In the album’s best moments, Gonzales genuinely belts out the vocals for the first time in his catalogue, building a dream-pop, shoegazed landscape fronted by Sting if he watched too many John Hughes flicks in the studio. It’s excellent, immersive pop music that’s huge enough for a festival setting.
Playing Sunday at 6:55 p.m. on the Blue Stage
On the never-ending wave of forward-thinking electronic producers, Flying Lotus – 28-year-old Los Angeles-based weed disciple Steven Ellison – is always able to sneak out in front of the pack.
FlyLo’s music soaks up and integrates genres like a sponge, effortlessly switching between cosmic free-jazz and deep boom-bap hip-hop without isolating the listener. It’s spacey listening for sure, with off-key time signatures that make it difficult for emcees to approach.
But unlike many producers, Ellison doesn’t need someone on the mic to bolster his sound: When all of the elements he uses converge – vocals or not – it’s bliss.
Playing Saturday at 8:45 p.m. on the Black Stage
“Is she really going out with him?”
So begins New Rose, the 1976 single that marked the beginning of the Damned’s legendary run through punk-rock’s heyday. Their music is visceral, fast-paced, romantic and more polished than their American counterparts.
Whether they’re still effective live more than 35 years after their debut may be another story, but the Damned’s barrel-loaded legacy is hard to argue with. It’s a treat that they’re playing in Austin.
Playing Saturday at 7:50 p.m. on the Black Stage
In 2009, Fun Fun Fun snagged the Jesus Lizard for the only reunion show they would play in the state. This year, Hot Snakes look to be that band – they stopped touring in 2003.
San Diego’s pride-and-joy create a sometimes-anthemic brand of fast paced rock. It’s speedy enough to be brought up alongside the pantheons of the hardcore scene, but the Snakes’s disposition is a bit stranger and sunnier than their similarly paced brethren.
This’ll likely be the only chance to experience that live in this state.
Playing Sunday at 3:40 p.m. on the Black Stage
Direct descendants of bands like the Damned and the Dead Boys, Indianapolis’ short-lived Zero Boys brought a frenetic, snotty translation of punk rock that would end up, in hindsight, being a sound that bridged the gap as punk gave way to hardcore.
The group balanced political commentary and teen angst alongside the obligatory 1-2-3-4-GO!’s that helped energize crowds. There’s little doubt that they’ll be able to recreate that atmosphere: There’s ample excitement behind these guys, as this isn’t a band that plays often.
Thee Oh Sees
Playing Friday at 5:45 p.m. on the Black Stage
Emerging out of San Francisco’s exceedingly healthy garage scene, Thee Oh Sees’s prolific brand of ramshackle psychedelia isn’t too far removed from the Nuggets-influenced sound that’s raced over independent rock in recent years.
But the band is remarkably comfortable juggling hypnotic, groove-laden moments of dazed, dark psychedelic rock and smarmy, quick-hit punk. Go no further than “Warm Slime” for proof – it’s all there, in one 13-minute long track.
Playing Friday at 5 p.m. on the Black Stage
Surprise, surprise: Another cheeky punk-rocker out of San Francisco.
But part of the joy of seeing Ty Segall live is not being able to predict what’s coming. And, you know, that goes for his records, too. One of my favorite albums of this year was Ty Rex, wherein Segall applied his lo-fi aesthetic to a handful of T. Rex songs.
Seeing him live, the band false-started “Buick Mackayne” before hurling into a three-song suite covering Credence Clearwater Revival, the Misfits and Black Sabbath. In a time when bands are beholden to crumpled set lists, Ty Segall brings an air of unpredictability to his live show.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt that his original music – which owes much to 1960s and 70s-era punk and classic rock – is none too shabby, either.
Playing Sunday at 2:25 p.m. on the Blue Stage
G-Side are absolutists.
They come from the Rocket City, properly known as Huntsville, Ala. It’s the town slugged for the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, which helped develop the Saturn launch vehicles for the Apollo effort. Maybe you’ve heard of that? It sent humans to the moon for the first time.
The city’s pioneering sensibility is present in their unique brand of southern hip-hop. G-Side’s four albums have launched duo Young Clova and ST Two Lettaz outside of Madison County for the first time. It’s trunk tunes for spaceships, carved out by enterprising Alabama residents for the mass consumption of their neighbors.
But to them, neighbors is a relative term: The young guys up the block are just as worthy as their gaggle of fans in Norway. And G-Side are absolutists, remember? They’re staying put where they’ve lived their whole lives, no matter how enticing spaceship relocation in Atlanta and Houston may sometimes seem.
They grind hard. And all they ask is that you give them a chance to share their piece of Alabama with you.
Playing Friday at 3:30 p.m. on the Blue Stage
Syrian folk-electronica. That’s Omar Souleyman.
He has more than 500 albums to his name, often sold in markets in his home country. Souleyman has found something of a niche in the states; he toured earlier this year and is signed to the Seattle-based outsider label Sublime Frequencies.
It’s music not often heard at American music festivals: Expect nasally Arabic scales complemented by brittle, rapid percussion with bassy electronics and passionate vocals chock full of conviction. It may be the most interesting set of the whole festival.
Playing Sunday at 7:50 p.m. on the Black Stage
For fans, this one’s a no-brainer.
There’s nary a more consistent live band in rock these days than the Black Lips. Their albums can be spotty, but their live show is an exercise in joyous revelry. They’re the godfathers of the current garage movement, and while they pegged Amy Winehouse-producing veteran Mark Ronson to help on a chunk of their last album, they haven’t cleaned up their sound.
They’re professional amateurs, as they told Spin earlier this year, and there’s no better place to see that in action than their live set.