It actually rained before the third and final day of the Fun Fun Fun Fest - a rare occurrence these days in drought-stricken Texas - but not enough to keep the dust from flying at Auditorium Shores. Shoot, I knew I should've bought one of those $5 bandanas...
Budos Band, Orange Stage Less than 15 hours after they played the patio stage at Deville, the Budos Band was back onstage, laying down their dirty Afro-soul for a revved-up crowd. Frontman Jared Tankel sounded like he hadn't stopped drinking since the night before, but still managed kick some serious ass.
Austra, Blue Stage Katie Stelmanis' earth-mother vibrato can get to be really irritating after long stretches: like a mix of Judy Collins and Joan Baez, without the sincerity. And, what's with all the hippie chicks on stage? But, just as I was getting ready to leave, she surprised me with the dark, heavy beats of "Beat and the Pulse," and I found myself dancing in spite of myself. Good stuff.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Orange Stage By now, I've lost track of how many times have I seen Ted over the past 20 years: 50? 60? Whatever: Ted is a living testament to the preservative effects of punk rock, so much so that he's outlasted six different lineups of his backing band, the Pharmacists. Together, they tore through an abbreviated set of new and old favorites before Ted ducked backstage, donned a black wig, and proceeded to play a whole other set... as Glenn Danzig.
"Uh, I just want to apologize for what happened on Friday," he said in the low voice of his fellow New Jerseyan. (Ted later Tweeted: "For the record we play those Misfits songs because we LOVE them.") Still, it was friggin' hilarious, and the crowd ate it up.
Del The Funky Homosapien, Blue Stage One of the progenitors (along with Wu-Tang) of progressive hip hop, Del went bonkers on the Blue Stage, at one point offering the crowd a "Funky Back Guarantee." I don't think anyone was about to take him up on it.
Hum, Orange Stage A rare appearance by Chicago's reunited post rockers had a lot of folks in the crowd stoked. Unfortanately, they didn't really do it for me, sounding like a bunch of inert 40-somethings trading on their name. Wow, I've neve heard of anyone doing that before...
Henry Rollins, Yellow Stage As if to put the lie to the thought that 40-somethings can't rock (Rollins actually turned 50 this year) the polymath punk icon did his spoken word thing for over an hour, drawing a massive crowd that jacked the heat under the tent by at least 20 degrees. Henry's rapid fire monologue - which he delivered without any notes, save for a random list of items disallowed at Indian airports - was at turns hilarious and deadly serious, ticking off the many, many things that piss him off: misogyny, homophobia, politicians, people who stand on moving walkways... He also spoke with rapture about the cultures far and wide he's gotten to see as host of his own National Geographic series, encouraging all of us to do the same.
"Life is short," he said. "You need to get out there and get as many of these stories under your belt as you can."
As I sat there mesmerized by Henry's wild, almost boyish energy, I was struck by how intense the experience was - no less so, really, than a Black Flag show would have been in his prime. Armed with nothing but his wits and a trunk full of stories, it's as if Henry's decided to one-up himself from the days of screaming into a microphone, wearing nothing but a pair of athletic shorts.
At the end, he reminded us that this was far more than just a festival: this was where we're going to meet the next Congressmen, the next Senators, the people who are going to do amazing things to help change the world. "Get to know one another," he implored, "and make this world a better place."
Screw Rick Perry: I want Henry for President.
Diplo, Blue Stage The DJ/producer mashed up songs with catchy beats that turned the crowd into a big dance party. Sadly, my legs were like spaghetti by that point, so I couldn't join in.
Slayer, Orange Stage It all came down to this. One of the Big 4 metal bands of the 80's (along with Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth), Fun Fun Fun Fest stepped it up bigtime this year by booking these guys. And, it was well worth whatever the hell they paid: Slayer tore through a 20-song set that lasted nearly two hours, with the huge crowd going absolutely bonkers throughout. (Wisely, festival organizers wisely moved Slayer up to the Orange Stage in order to acommodate everyone.)
It was an absolutely stunning experience: these guys are incredibly tight and virtuosic, playing at a breakneck speed that seems impossible. Tom Araya roared on vocals, singing about everything from suicide to Satanism. Kerry King wailed on guitar with a 40 pound chain strapped to his waist. And Jeff Lombardo was an absolute beast on drums, playing a monster kit including two bass drums. (Guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who is recovering from a blood disorder, was replaced here by the more-than-capabale Gary Holt.) By the time it was finally over, I felt far more drained than these late 40-somethings seemed to be: they sounded like they could easily go for another hour.
"World Painted Blood"
"Spirit In Black"
"Dead Skin Mask"
"Seasons In The Abyss"
"South Of Heaven"
"Angel Of Death"
I can't imagine a more fitting end to a festival whose M.O. - now more than ever - seems to be: give music fans everything they could possibly imagine, and then give them more. Thanks, Graham et.al., for having me. Hope to see you again next year.
More pics on the photo page.