Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014 has come and gone. Now that we’ve all had a chance to, you know, launder our black t-shirts, take a nap and process it all we’re still buzzing from the great sounds we heard at Auditorium Shores. Here are our team’s highlights.
DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH
Nas. The hip-hop legend delivered a rousing performance of his visionary debut album, a reminder of everything hip-hop can and should represent.
Courtney Barnett. She might be one of the wittiest lyricist you’ve heard in years, but the 26-year-old Australian spent her FFF performance proving first and foremost she’s a rocker. Expect her to get very big, very fast.
Foxygen. No beating around the bush, there’s a good chance singer Sam France is actually insane. But with a nine-piece band including three frenetically dancing backing vocalists to carry the melodic structure of the music — some sort of deranged revisionist doo wop — watching him unleash mayhem was utterly captivating.
The musically adventurous programming on the Blue stage on Sunday. Sultry trip hop soul from Digital Wild. Monstrous bass playing from Thundercat. Hard-driving, lyrical gangsta rap from Freddie Gibbs and Madlib. Complex electronic compositions that explore of the meaning of life and death from Flying Lotus. A good 80 percent of the acts on that stage were artists who ignore safe choices, opting instead to dig deep within themselves to find their own voices. In doing so they push their genres forward. Seeing them all on the same stage on the same day was pure magic.
Afternoons at the Black Stage
For the uninitiated and those without tattoos, piercings and a closet full of sleeveless denim jackets, the hard rock-focused Black Stage can be a scary place. There’s loud music, moshing and stage diving — the kind of stuff FFF fans concerned about their physical well-being might pass up for a safer set of indie folk or a bit of comedy. They don’t know what they missed.
The most entertaining frontmen, the friendliest and most engaged audiences, and the most capital “F” to the power of three fun I witnessed all weekend came from a couple of stellar stretches on the schedule at the Black Stage. Saturday it was dramatic Danish punks Iceage and Canadian hardcore trio Metz, who had the rowdiest crowd I saw at FFF9 (in sharp contrast to the masses doin’ the stand still over at the Orange Stage later that night for Modest Mouse). Sunday it was a one-two kick to the eardrums from masterful metal-makers Deafheaven and nasty noise rockers Pissed Jeans. Pissed Jeans’ singer Matt Korvette takes the prize for most hilarious banter and antics, including poking fun at press photographers, harassing and attempting to distract the other members of his band while they performed and tossing up his mic and successfully nailing it mid-air with a roundhouse kick.
Run the Jewels
Fresh off the release of their second LP as Run the Jewels, the dude-ly rap duo of Killer Mike and El-P drew the first real crowd I saw Friday afternoon with a hard-hitting hip-hop set that included a cameo from DJ Z-Trip. Jaime and Mikey’s best-bud chemistry on stage was half the fun, and their scheduling opposite Sun Kil Moon on the nearby Orange Stage served as fuel for a memorable moment from El-P, who jokingly led the crowd in a chant of “Suck my [expletive], Sun Kil Moon” — a playful jab at the singer-songwriter’s recent (mostly one-sided) feud with The War on Drugs and the resulting NSFW-titled diss track.
Sohn’s Friday afternoon set started late, but boy was it worth the wait. What the producer and singer lacked in punctuality, he made up for with polish and power of performance. With future-facing indie R&B synths and a sexy, soulful high-flying voice worthy of being filed alongside Justin Timberlake, James Blake and Active Child, Sohn put on a stunning live show.
Deafheaven may have been the best band of Sunday. While their layered black metal may not seem like a good fit for a Sunday afternoon, they owned the stage. In particular, singer George Clarke used every opportunity to get the front row salivating
Judas Priest They were leagues ahead of the bands that came before them on the Black Stage, not just in material, but in spectacle. Rob Halford did not opt for a dramatic entrance, but him just walking out on stage created a louder applause than most bands’ whole performances. He exudes toughness, grace, and respect without any one of those clashing.
King Diamond Judas Priest may be more of the household name, but King Diamond was by far the most hotly anticipated of the Black Stage at Fun Fun Fun Fest. His performance Saturday night validated years of anticipation from his fans.
Negative Approach at Red 7 They come from one of the toughest cities in America, and they sound like it. Negative Approach didn’t bother to introduce themselves, simply plugging in and letting the kids beat themselves up on their own accord. Negative Approach’s directness is too brutal for a huge stage; they needed the intimacy brought be people blazingly disobeying Red 7’s no-stagediving rule.
New Pornographers When Dan Bejar walked out during the set and they launched into “Myriad Harbour.” The sun was going down, the harmonies coming off the stage were mind-blowing and it was an unexpected choice for the setlist.