Sky Ferreria attempts to conquer her fears with intimate show at The Belmont

Word started to spread via social media early on Sunday afternoon that Sky Ferreria’s 6 p.m. slot on the Blue Stage at Fun Fun Fun Fest was being scrapped due to a flight delay. An alternate set was immediately scheduled for 9:30 tonight at the Belmont. Moved from a festival stage to a much more intimate show, it was a total upgrade for fans.

When the lights went down at 9:30 on the nose, the venue was still only about half full. Sky took the stage in a giant parka, with the hood still up and thanked the audience for coming “despite the change.” Her band started to play “24 Hours,” but a little more than halfway through the song, she stopped them and asked to start over because she was having trouble hearing her in-ear monitor. “I’m gonna fix this show,” she exclaimed before giving the song a second attempt.

There were a few minor stumbling blocks as the show continued, but she soldiered on feeding off the energy of her dedicated fans. The setlist was predominately comprised of tracks from her debut album “Night Time, My Time.” One of last year’s best pop records, she hit the audience with 9 tracks from the record. By the time she finished “Ain’t Your Right,” the evening’s second song, the Belmont had filled in from front to back and Ferreria seemed to find her footing.

As somebody who has recently toured worldwide on an arena tour opening up for Miley Cyrus, it’s a little surprising that she still lacks full confidence in herself on stage. Even with the adoration and screaming of fans, the fact that she never took her giant coat off was a big indicator that she isn’t quite ready to fully commandeer a stage. That said, she never stopped trying and her awkwardness is at least part of what makes her so endearing (“I almost drank the microphone,” she muttered after mistaking which hand her water bottle in).

For each moment where she experienced some shaky live vocals (usually in songs that had no backing track vocals to help guide her), she responded in kind with songs like “Heavy Metal Heart” where she belted out the chorus like her life depended on it, determined to prove that she could she really sing. Another highlight of the set was the single “You’re Not The One,” which found the crowd singing along at the top of their lungs. The only two songs performed that weren’t from her debut full-length were both from her 2012 “Ghost EP: “Lost In My Bedroom” and the epic set closer “Everything Is Embarrassing.”

The show was over almost as quickly as it was set up. Within an hour, she was off the stage and whisked away. The crowd was primed for an encore, but all we got was her keyboard player coming back out and dancing oddly on stage to a remix of “You’re Not The One.” As the house lights rose to indicate that an encore was out of the question, the general feeling was one of relief that the show went on at all.

Ryan Hemsworth’s bedroom grooves take over FFF Fest

24-year-old Canadian producer Ryan Hemsworth has been making a name for himself with his bedroom electro-pop and by dropping cool remixes of tracks by Beyonce, Disclosure and Lana Del Rey. He took to the Blue Stage this afternoon right after Cashmere Cat, an Oslo-based beatmaker who will be doing a FFF Nights show with Hemsworth later this evening.

In the middle of the day there wasn’t much to look at, but there was plenty to groove to. After all, this is music made for a dark, sweaty club. Hemsworth bobbed behind his laptop building a structured tracklisting that began with “Gods,” a single he released earlier this year featuring UV Boi. Initially the crowd was sparse, but it grew as the set built itself up. Portions of the set that were very laid-back R&B were almost overwhelmed by the cacophony of noise brewing from the Black Stage, but the beats eventually took over.

The majority of the songs played were from his brand new album “Alone For The First Time,” which came out earlier this week. Standout songs included “Too Long Here” and the new single “Snow In Newark,” but he did blend his own productions with tracks from QUE, Saint Pepsi and even a little Kanye West. One of my favorite tracks was his remix of Rhye’s “Open,” which absolutely opened up the mellowness of the original to make it ready for the dance floor.

Har Mar Superstar strips down at FFF Fest

Over at the Yellow Stage, Har Mar Superstar is the only person who could have ever confidentially followed up the Air Sex Championships. Taking the stage to the audience chanting his name while “1st Of Tha Month” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony blasted through the speakers, Har Mar (real name: Sean Tillmann) was initially wearing a Mexican blanket around his head and red striped Zubaz pants.

The 10-song set began with “Don’t Make Me Hit You,” a track from his most recent album “Bye Bye 17.” The record was recorded here in Austin with Spoon’s Jim Eno as a co-producer. He mixed in several tracks from that record like “Restless Leg” and “Everywhere I’m Local” with older gems from his catalog like 2004’s “DUI” – a nod to the art of the drunken dial. Over the years he has perfected a style of music that is heavily influenced by 70s-era AM radio R&B and funk, but manages to sound current at the same time.

It’s unlikely that Otis Redding has been resurrected as a thirtysomething man from Minnesota who looks like Ron Jeremy, but it’s hard not to at least want to believe it when you hear Mr. Tillmann sing. Another ode to his home state came with “Power Lunch,” a Prince-inspired jam from his “You Can Feel Me” album that still had The Gossip’s Beth Ditto featured on the backing track.

As the set wore on, he removed several layers of clothing until the pants (“Minnesota pride!” he declared) were all that were left. Wrapping up with “We Don’t Sleep,” he sang the final verse of the track in a headstand. As the stage shifted back to comedians, it was a hard act to follow.

Modest Mouse triumphantly return to Austin

Talk about a happy accident. When it was announced that Death Cab For Cutie were canceling their appearance at Fun Fun Fun Fest, organizers quickly replaced them with Modest Mouse. It was a surprising switcharoo, as the band’s last proper release was an EP in 2009 and they haven’t turned up in Austin to play live since 2011. What they have done this year is reissue 1996’s “The Lonesome Crowded West” and 1997’s “This Is a Long Drive for Someone With Nothing to Think About” and spent a lot of time hitting the festival circuit.

The crowd at Fun Fun Fun Fest was certainly enthusiastic, packing in around the Orange Stage for last night’s performance. Isaac Brock emerged on stage with his bandmates, his head covered by a red knit hat that telegraphed his roots in the Pacific Northwest, to a crescendo of noise that culminated in “The World At Large.” A sea of cell phone screens filled the air as attendees leaped to capture the opening moments from a band they’d been missing dearly.

All of the other performances of the day had been broadcast on a giant video screen to the right of the stage, but Modest Mouse was not. It’s unclear if that was because of a malfunction or by the request of the band, but it made the crowd crush feel more palpable as people continued trying to push so that they could be as close as possible. The band sounded better than I’ve ever seen them before and they ran through a setlist that was clearly for hardcore fans.

It’s not as though there weren’t crowd pleasers. Pretty early in the set, they pulled out “Dashboard”, which was a single that had the crowd singing along in unison. Aside from that, one of the only other songs that was immediately recognizable for casual fans was “Float On,” a song that took the band to number one at modern rock radio stations across the country a decade ago. Modest Mouse spent most of their limited set time going beyond the surface of their catalog, mining for deep cuts like “Night On The Sun” (originally only released on a Japanese EP in 1999) and “This Devil’s Work” from “Good News For People Who Love Bad News.”

Brock didn’t waste too much of their 75-minute set on banter, but he did lament that they were playing against King Diamond and, apparently smelling the abundance of skunk weed being smoked by teenagers in the crowd, stopped to ask “Is someone burning a big pile of hair?” Even playing a few minutes over their scheduled time just didn’t feel like enough, but the evening ended on a high note with an extended, jammed out version of “Tiny Cities Made Of Ashes.”  When it became clear that the crowd wasn’t ready to let them leave, the band returned to stage with Brock saying, “In the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, we’ll play one more before curfew.” Quite appropriately to end Day 2 of the festival, they launched into “The Good Times Are Killing Me.”

First Aid Kit adds a little twang to FFF Fest

Two years ago, Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg played a fine set in the middle of the afternoon at Austin City Limits Festival, but a lot has changed since then. Earlier this year, they appeared as guest vocalists on about half the songs of Conor Oberst’s new solo album “Upside Down Mountain” and subsequently released their third full-length album as First Aid Kit entitled “Stay Gold.”

They started off their set with the title track to their previous record, “The Lion’s Roar.” As Johanna emerged from the shadows of the stage, it was clear that she was making the commitment to “stay gold” in a very shiny and sparkly gold jacket. On the keyboards, Klara thrashed her long blonde hair into oblivion while playing. Their music is mostly the exact opposite of head banging material, but somehow it worked.

With the kind of pure blended harmonies that can only come from siblings, they worked their way through a flawless set that included a fair amount of newer tracks like “Waitress Song” and “My Silver Lining.” One of the highlights of their performance was a cover of Jack White’s “Love Interruption.” The duo first performed the track live on Australia’s Triple J Radio and have subsequently started working it into their live sets. While it begins as a very faithful and somewhat stripped down affair, the arrangement quickly turned in to how I imagined it would be if the song was performed on ABC’s “Nashville.” They achieve just the right amount of twang into their work, creating an interesting folk/country/pop hybrid.

While I could slightly hear the beats from Nas’ set across the park gently wafting past my ears, the already packed crowd began to surge. Modest Mouse fans were pushing their way up before First Aid Kid even finished their set with their breakthrough single “Emmylou.” They encouraged the crowd to sing along with their ode to Ms. Harris, a fitting way to wrap up an Austin performance.

New lineup revitalizes The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart at FFF Fest

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart found themselves on the Fun Fun Fun Fest lineup this year in a comfortable position – playing on the Orange Stage in the time slot directly before their current touring partners, The New Pornographers.

The band’s lineup has changed considerably from when they first broke out in 2009 with their self-titled debut record. The only original member in the band now is chief songwriter and vocalist Kip Berman. For the band’s third album “Days Of Abandon,” Kip wrote the entire record alone and, while some of the previous band members were involved in the recording, he’s got an entirely new backing band altogether.

Any concerns about the lineup change simply float away once you watch them in action. The new songs blossom on stage. Set opener “Until The Sun Explodes” recalled the magic of some of The Cure’s best singles. There wasn’t any shyness about incorporating older tracks into the mix as well with “Heart In Your Heartbreak” and “Come Saturday” among the afternoon’s highlights.

Along with his new bandmates, Kip is crafting some of the most glorious jangle-pop you’ll ever hear. It somehow manages to sound nostalgic and timeless simultaneously. His endless enthusiasm shined through on stage, never more charming than when he mentioned they were doing a record signing after their performance, but encouraging the crowd to stay put to watch The New Pornographers instead.

The band played out their signature tune “The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart” (yes, they share a name with a track from their debut album) right as the sun began to fall behind the tree line around the park.

ASTR’s daytime FFF Fest dance party

One of the most consistent things about the bookings on the Blue Stage at Fun Fun Fun Fest is that you get to see a lot of great artists before they break into the mainstream. In previous years, acts like Icona Pop, Big Freedia and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have played to big crowds well at the festival in advance of the outside world getting in on the fun. I predict that New York electro-pop duo ASTR will be one of those artists that we’ll be saying “I saw them play at Fun Fun Fun Fest ages ago.”

As they kicked off their early set, they had the unenviable task of trying to make the crowd dance in broad daylight. It’s not easy to command a crowd at 1 in the afternoon, but vocalist Zoe Silverman gave it her all. “It’s early, but we can move,” she cried out before busting out her best moves in an eighties-inspired crop top emblazoned with the word “NOTHING” in bold red letters.

Even after starting a few minutes late and admitting they were having some issues because they had gear stolen from them on Friday night, they effortlessly blew through tracks from their “Varsity” EP, including “Blue Hawaii”, which joyously incorporates the chorus from Black Box’s 1990 house hit “Everybody Everybody.”

By the time they closed the set a cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” followed by their single “Operate,” the crowd had grown considerably and folks down in front were dancing like nobody was watching. You can’t ask for much more than that before the clock even strikes 2 in the afternoon.