Your faithful and intrepid protagonists, Van and Andy, once again braved the seasonably-for-Central-Texas warm weather and choking dust of a November weekend in Austin to throw themselves upon the altar built yearly unto the god Fun. Three times is He named, and three days and three nights didst they sacrifice eardrums and livers in His honor. (Well, Van could only sacrifice for two, since he had to work on Friday.) But yea, the god Fun was hungry and the souls of two amongst a throng of thousands were mere drops in an ocean. The struggle was epic; their losses, profound. Sally forth then, good reader, and pay sombre respects for their sins.
Converge still got it. Not that they ever lost it, but they've managed to mellow down about zero percent over the years. How Jake Bannon keeps his throat intact, or how Kurt Ballou manages to sound so organically heavy, or why Nate Newton even bothers with Doomriders, we'll never know. The lack of stagedives was weird, but there was still plenty of rumbling on the ground.
Liturgy. No, seriously. As talented as Greg Fox is – that Guardian Alien LP is really something else – Liturgy might be better off as a drum machine band. Now a duo comprised of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix and Bernard Gann, the pair were freed of the shackles of mere mortal ability and were able to explore all the crazy nooks and crannies in Triple H's bulbous noggin. Andy caught them at the Nites show with Black Tusk, Van caught them during the day on Sunday, but we both left with similar impressions. Each song played like a different vignette, but like Burroughs' Junky, uncomfortably out of order. Shredding, hyperspeed black metal gave way to sleek, almost ambient noise excursions and back again. It was confounding, to say the least, but never once was it boring. A competent stage mix put weight behind what could have been tinny and shrill. No matter your feelings on this self-styled philosopher-cum-metal-musician (and ours are as varied as they are passionate) it's undeniable that Hunt-Hendrix is reaching, Icarus-like, for something brilliant and perhaps a little dangerous.
Black Tusk got the mouth of the south. The Savannah, Ga. trio immediately followed Liturgy's Nites performance, and they were painfully good. We use “painfully” because their recorded self will seemingly never, ever match their buck wild live show. That floor got good and greased from PBR and hesher sweat. As much as we want to create a myth that the floor nearly came down, I can't go that far. Hyperbole is our spice of choice, but it only goes so far. Also, shouts out to Lord Dying's singer for repping the Crowbar life.
12:55 p.m.? Pallbearer can handle that. After all, they did play Rites of Darkness. An early start did not compromise their majesty. No, spitting in the face of their truncated set time, the boys from Arkansas took their time, letting each note unfurl in its own time. Theirs is a sound not to be hurried. A warm, rich mix translated their mournful cries with devastating clarity, surprising for an outdoor festival, which can usually be a dicey proposition for doom bands. If they were on an all-night bender beforehand -- and their wry, if sparse, stage banner certainly alluded to that fact -- you couldn't tell from their renditions of “Foreigner,” “Devoid of Redemption,” and “An Offering of Grief.” Quite frankly, Pallbearer couldn't give less than pure excellence if they tried. Also, it was fun seeing some good ol' American trad doom delivered like a dumptruck to the skulls of a few unwitting pop-punkers who managed to wander over to the Black Stage expecting a late set from Cheap Girls.
No Big Freedia? No problem. Nicky Da B was the bounce representative for Fun Fun Fun this year, and real talk, he may have given the Queen Diva of Bounce a run for her money. The New Orleans rapper got the crowd twerkin' in the middle of the afternoon, when some were just shaking off their hangovers (or, if you went to Black Tusk the night before, bangovers). There was a flood of asses onstage not too long after Nicky Da B set it off, and all dat azz led to some serious energy. Like, “energy crisis solved”-energy. “Express Yourself,” Nicky Da B's breakout single with Diplo, was a torrent of rumps on rumps on rumps. Pallbearer bassist and bounce enthusiast Joespeh Rowland was headbanging right next to Andy. Not surprising, given that they've played together before at Chaos in Tejas' SXSW party at Hotel Vegas.
Torche brought the sunshine. If there is a metal band that is actually appropriate for the daytime, it's this trans-Southern crew. Hooks are bigger than the riffs, and that's cool with us. They picked their brightest cuts from Meanderthal and Harmonicraft to bang out on that Friday afternoon. Towards the end, they got their sludge on with “Charge of the Brown Recluse.” Steve Brooks had, by far, the sunniest swag out of the Black Stage with his orange tropical scenery buttondown. He embraced the fact that this was a vacation for music folks.
Rich Hoak's drum faces. Brutal Truth had a sluggish set – more on that later – but Hoak held it down. Something made that dude go into O-Faces, caveman stares, and pussyhound tongue-wagging. Was Kevin Sharp farting on stage? Did he get trippy with Bun B the night before? Whatever the cause – and mystery ain't always a bad thing – he was an absolute grind-joy to watch.
Can heshers get into Girl Talk? Answer: When Gregg Gillis mashes up Metallica's “One” with Lil' Jon's “Get Low,” the answer is a verifiable Yes. The hour-long, confetti/strobe/sweatband/hotpants/booty-bounce/disco/death-metal/rump-shake/sing-along mashup dance party meltdown -- which, let's face it, is the only fair way to describe a Girl Talk "show" -- was the triumphal end-cap to a pretty fun(x3) Saturday and validated Van and Andy's existence as avid appreciators of both metal and ignorant hip-hop.
Turbonegro may not have Hank, but they've still got it Granted, their set did lean heavily towards Sexual Harassment, their comeback-but-not-really record, but Tony Sylvester, aka The Duke of Nothing, more than filled out the butt-hugging denim recently occupied by long-time singer Hank von Helvete. Dicks planted firmly in cheek, Euroboy, Happy Tom and the other Turbodeviants delivered a hot-n'-heavy load of turgid cock-metal anthems into the gaping maws of every Turojugend member present -- and a whole host of curious peepers and looky-loos, too. Fan-favorites like "I Got Erection," "All My Friends Are Dead" and "Back to Dungaree High" went over like the Second Coming (pun most definitely intended) and had fists in the air like a fascist rally (if the fascists were all eyeing each others packages and licking their lips.) The perfect end to a near-perfect fest, the re-animated Turbonegro put the Lord's Day to bed with a nod and a wink and a playful slap on the ass.
UNITED! FORCES! UNITED! FORCES! UNITED! Billy Milano, best known as the vocalist of S.O.D. and M.O.D., is the owner of Headhunter's (which is now Metal and Lace, as of this writing), the bar everyone in Austin loves to hate. Denizens of the Live Music Capital of the World put aside their personal feelings during Municipal Waste's Friday set, however, as he and former bandmate Danny Lilker teamed up for a cover of the S.O.D. classic “United Forces.” Hey, we were hoping for “Celtic Frosted Flakes” too, but “Forces” was a banger. You bet the circle pit raged on for that. It was a supreme masters-teaching-the-students seminar. Surprisingly -- and thankfully -- Milano didn't have a word to say about the election. Despite all this, Headhunter's, er, Metal and Lace is still a dump. Crustcake Click ain't repping Titty Tuesday.
Har Mar Superstar is the white Prince. OK, that might be pushing it a little, but like the Purple One, Har Mar can flounce his way around a stage, preening and pursing his lips and pushing the mixed-gender crowd into a sex-crazed frenzy. Unlike Prince, Har Mar -- better known to his mother as Sean Tillmann -- is built like a young Ron Jeremy or the human version of Jay Sherman, Jon Lovitz's character on the Critic. But his pipes are impressive, his dance steps nimble, and his song choices impeccable. For the final song, he pulled the entire Yellow Stage audience close to his hairy, sweat-streaked bosom and belted out a note-perfect (and oddly moving) a cappella rendition of the Boyz II Men's classic, "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday." It's those kinds of funny, tucked-away moments that make Fun Fun Fun Fest, well, you know.
AraabMuzik's MPC masterclass. Here's the pitch: One dude, one Akai MPC sampler, 45-minute set. Sounds like a drag, right? Tell you what, go watch any number of the YouTube videos featuring the young, Rhode Island-born DJ/producer live on stage, and get back to us. Boasting freaky-fast finger dexterity and an array of sick beats broken down to their individual elements, AraabMuzik weaves a dizzying number of popular music samples into his break-neck braindrill of hip hop, techno, dubstep and dance beats. His musical cadence and delivery was so fast and technically complex that his hype man was relegated to the wings for most of his set, waving a white towel and barely uttering the occasional "Damn!" or "Oh shit!" The audience, for their part, were driven to either dance their asses off or stare in gawping amazement. Like a 45-minute Yngwie solo for the Millenial Generation, AraabMuzik's set was as electrifying as it was bewildering.
Bun B did H-Town proud. So much so that Andy was able to overlook that he was wearing a Texas Rangers cap. (Even the sports-uneducated should know that the 'Stros closed out last season in the shitter.) Bun B cranked out banger after banger Friday night, including such classic Third Coast anthems as “Get Throwed,” “Sippin' on Some Sizzurp,” “One Day,” and “Big Pimpin'.” Except for a minor DJ sputter at the beginning of the set, all went smoothly. As expected, there were many tributes to fallen Houston legends Pimp C and DJ Screw, most notably by pouring liquor on stage. The purple was strong on Friday evening.
Free Slurpees. It was strange seeing the convenience store behemoths' green-and-orange trucks near the taco trucks and beer tents, but 7-Eleven is one corporate sponsor we might be OK with. It ain't DIY, but when's the last time Ian Mackaye made you a tasty orange Slurpee? Thought so. Now, if they were only spiked...
Napalm Death's drum sound. Was Danny Herrera hitting on paper? Seriously, that kick drum sounded fucked up. Other than that, Napalm Death had an ace Friday afternoon set. Barney Greenway still does his shuffle, children were suffered, and they're still enemies of the music business. What was the closer? Rhymes with “True Stuffer.”
Poor Danny Lilker and his bass. Brutal Truth's Saturday mid-afternoon set was plagued by technical problems, mainly concerning Lilker's equipment. First, they thought the cord was shorting out. Then they had to bring out a new bass, which soon popped an E-string. Turned out it was the head all along. All of this killed Brutal Truth's momentum, which sucks, because Kevin Sharp and Hoak were doing their damn best to turn lemons into limoncello. “Forces” was the highlight of Lilker's weekend, for sure.
Turbonegro are not Lamb of God. An otherwise delirious performance -- and reception -- notwithstanding, the naughty Norwegians have no business attempting a Wall of Death. "Walls of Deathpunk" are just as awkward as their name. This is 2012, not 2005. And Happy Tom claimed to get it from Korn? For shame.
It really is tricky, isn't it? Run DMC were the most hyped act of the festival. They hadn't played Texas in 12 years. There were billboards highlighting their storied return to the Lone Star State rented out around Austin, fer Chris'sakes. But honestly, they were somewhat underwhelming. DMC and the Rev. didn't perform full songs sometimes, and while that's understandable in the case of Bun B and his loss of the great Pimp C, it's not like Jam Master Jay (RIP, for real) had any major verses. Some of the stage banter got sappy, too. They played “It's Tricky” and “King of Rock” early, so Andy bailed to beat the rush to the Fight Amp aftershow. Not bad, just not Nicky Da B.
It's hard to get turnt on $7 cocktails. We should have brought flasks. Security was kinda lax anyway.
Long-ass lines at Kebabalicious. They've been doing the food truck thing long before it was cool, and their food is leagues of many Johnny-come-latelys, so props to them for stacking that paper. Alas, they were one of the only above-average food options at the fest, so nearly everyone hit them up. They needed a second stand, preferably in the homie/media tent. Once again, Lucky J's can FOAD.
Fuck you to the douchebag who kept using his flash during Earth. It's not some primma donna bullshit on Dylan Carlson's part – dude suffers from epileptic seizures. The yellow stage had plenty of lighting too, so there was no real need for flash. Some people just don't fucking listen. At least Earth closed with “Tallahassee.”
Are headbangers really that exotic? Photographers really like headbangers. So much, that whenever a hesher was really windmilling, at least one (probably from-out-of-town) camera darted towards the action. It was weird, to be honest. On one hand (of doom), FUCK YES, headbanging rules and should be documented. On the other, we're not albino tigers. We're human beings. And, as it turns out, Andy was featured in Thrasher's Fun Fun Fun coverage, raising his horns high for Napalm Death.
Nites missed a great metal opportunity. Black metal legends Absu and Inquisition were in Houston on Saturday for the seventh(!) Destroying Texas fest at BFE Rock Club. They couldn't fit in a Friday or Sunday show in Austin, too? Maybe Transmission couldn't get enough Bud Ice for the fest.