Other than battling dust devils and a short Misfits set, Austin’s sixth annual Fun Fun Fun Fest lived up to its name in the variety of activities it offered to patrons. Local acts to artists from across the world graced four stages catering to a variety of music styles. Rap, metal, electronic, funk, punk were just a few of the genres covered. Those with narrow musical tastes benefited best due to the long walks between stages, especially from the entrance to the Black Stage that hosted most of the heavy acts.
While the music of Fun Fun Fun Fest took center stage, those who wanted to rest their ears could watch comedy and wrestling at the Yellow Stage. The festival’s layout resembled a carnival with tents and trailers serving up the best of local cuisine. Even though few wore the traditional Texas-cowboy garb, bar the handkerchiefs for dust relief, one could experience a simulated rodeo experience on the back of a mechanical bull. Other tents were a gateway to video games. The PIP and Media areas were a maze of mesh walls and tents that offered smaller beer and rest room lines. The media tent featured special interview areas containing an influx of celebrities. Bewildered continence graced the faces of those witnessing film crews follow around celebrities in the creation of who-knows-what type of productions. Academy Award nominee Ryan Gosling made camera-hawked, back-stage appearances.
Friday’s lineup offered little in the way of metal, so I spent much of this day exploring the festival and hanging out in the media tent. Blake Anderson, the long, curly-haired slacker on Comedy Central’s “Workaholics” approached the tent with a lover of some sort. I directed the two towards the Heineken beer tent. Decked out in a fake mullet and mustache, Sergio “The Sexy Sax Man” Flores also frequented the media tent. He was scheduled to serenade a wedding at the festival. Even though his sax only produces the romantic notes of George Michael, he confessed his love for metal. He told me a story bringing the brass to death metal when he joined his friends The Faceless on stage. He dove into the crowd, creating fireplace harmonies before accidentally falling and cracking his head on the floor.
I found my greatest interest in the Yellow Stage where I caught local wrestling promotion, Anarchy Championship Wrestling and comedy acts by the Altercation Comedy Hour, FFF Dating Game and the Upright Citizens Brigade. High-flying, technical wrestling were the norm for the colorful characters of Anarchy Wrestling. The Upright Citizens Brigade formerly aired their sketch comedies on the Comedy Central show of the same name. Now, the group is a traveling troupe of performers who even teach young comedians. Their comedy was crude and funny, but a bit of a letdown compared to the TV show.
The Yellow Stage kept me enthralled from the time I entered around 2 PM until about 6:30 when I made the marathon journey to the Black Stage, located at the far end of the festival, to catch Russian Circles. The instrumental act resembled former tour mates Pelican. Instrumental artists can be a bit drab; especially a forty-five-minute set, but Russian Circles maintained an interesting presentation. Their energetic performance translated well upon the crowd, as did their churning riffs and spacey effects.
Sub-Pop recording artist, Murder City Devils took the stage next. Hailing from Seattle, Washington, the garage rock band emerged in 1996, right after the Seattle Grunge explosion. Murder City Devils exuded an air of fun (maybe not times three) playing heavy rock outlined by keyboards. I enjoyed that aspect of their set, but they weren’t heavy enough to spur a further investigation.
Danzig was slated to go on at 8:15 on the same stage. Rap legends Public Enemy were listed as starting fifteen-minutes later on the Blue stage. I planned on catching Danzig’s opening songs and then heading over to see Public Enemy, but with no Danzig Legacy cast in sight around 8:45, it was clear my plans would change, so I headed over to the Blue stage and caught Public Enemy’s first four songs. I came back to the Black Stage around 9 PM to hear Danzig howl “Twist of Cain.” I missed his opening tracks, “Skin Carver” and “Hammer of the Gods.”
Billed as Danzig Legacy, Danzig pushed through a set of classic solo material before tackling sets of Samhain and Misfits material. I came into the set that showcased the evolution of Danzig’s early material. “Devil’s Plaything” and “Her Black Wings” represented the “Lucifuge” album while “Dirty Black Summer” and the title track ushered in songs from the “How the Gods Kill” album. He finished his set with the genital-nailing (watch the uncensored video) “It’s Coming Down” from his “Thrall-Demonsweatlive” EP. As he has often done in past concerts, he screamed into the mic, sang half verses and let the crowd do half the work for him. Glenn presented his best singing voice during the melodic passages of “How the Gods Kill,” but overall, he sang wretchedly.
Danzig’s set of Samhain material marked his most remarkable performance. Halloween-friendly noises of the “Initium” intro set the vibe as the backdrop changed to the fiery skulls of the “November-Coming-Fire,’ a backdrop perfect for a “Samhain” sacrifice. London May joined fellow Samhain alumni Glenn Danzig and Steve Zing, a monumental, first appearance for most of the crowd.
Again, Danzig followed a chronicle order, starting with “Horror Biz” from “Initium” (originally from Misfits), “Unholy Passion” from the album of the same name and then into “November-Coming-Fire” album. The Misfits song received the best response, but the third-album material sounded best and underlined the sound he would take in his solo band. “To Walk the Night,” “Mother of Mercy” and “To Walk the Night” validated the greatness of Samhain—a group hidden in the shadow of Danzig and Misfits.
Donning his trademark Devil Lock hair, Misfits guitarist and brother of Misfit’s bassist Jerry Only, Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein took the stage in a kaleidoscope of stage lightning. The crowd roared its applause as he twisted his guitar strings in namesake monster movie fashion before breaking out one of the group’s fastest tunes, “Death Comes Ripping.” The pit widened as did the volume from the crowd. This is what the hybrid of punks and metal heads came to see. Unfortunately, Danzig announced he wanted to do more songs, but he was being threatened with having the power shut off.
He then stated how they were only playing four “motherfuckin’ cities, so whoever is in charge, wherever the fuck you are, why don’t you come out here and tell these people that you want to close in five minutes…Have you ever heard of a thing called a riot before?” Then, he played “Vampira” and ended his set. The crowd cheered and chanted “bull shit” for nearly ten minutes, but to no avail. No riot ensued.
The city of Austin has a curfew for outdoor shows that venues have to follow rigidly. If the festival had allowed more time, they would have been finned. Danzig came on late and blamed the festival, while the booker (read the news story) claimed it was Danzig’s fault. Also, there was a mishap with one of the banners, which nobody claimed responsibility for. Danzig’s voice stank, possibly due to the illness the booker alleged, and the crowd that mainly came to hear Misfits only heard two songs. This fiasco combined with the assailing sand storms, ushered in a rocky start for Fun Fun Fun Fest. I left wishing I had watched more Public Enemy.
Check back in tomorrow to see if things smooth out when Slayer, Cannibal Corpse and several other heavy acts performed.
Darren Cowan has written for several heavy metal publications. He has been a metal head for twenty years and has attended concerts throughout several regions of the U.S.