Words by Sheyna Webster, photos by Phil DeSimone
Reverend Run doesn’t just ask anyone how their doing, and when he asks a crowd as big as the on awaiting his performance at Fun Fun Fun Fest how they’re doing, your response better be “real good.” More than 10 years after the still unsolved murder of their DJ “Jam-Master”Jay Mizell, Fun Fun Fun Fest was thanked on stage by Run for bringing back together the dynamic stylings of Run-DMC, the hip-hop trio that made strides in the industry when they first started out. And it looks like they have no plans to stop trying now. Though Jay was missed on stage- many tributes to his memory were made throughout the set- his presence was not lost. Jay’s sons, Jason Jr and TJ Mizell, joined the duo on stage as their DJs as the surprise moment of the night. They were given time to play their own original tracks, which were actually huge crowd pleasers, for a mass of people that stretched all the way to the exit, and even played the UT Longhorns fight song with their “hook’em’s” in the air. After crowd favorites like “It’s Tricky” and ending with “Walk This Way,” the big show was everything an old fan could ask for (minus an encore that didn’t happen, despite a screaming audience’s best efforts), and probably exactly what Run-DMC expected it to be- a tribute to an old friend and a new beginning for the young talent he left behind.
Earlier in the night, Santi White, AKA Santigold, brought everything from schoolgirl cheerleader (pom-poms included) dancers to a white horse on the stage. A mic issue during the first song left the crowd waiting for more, but as soon as the problem was managed, everyone was successfully riled up by Santigold’s big voice and even bigger performance. Dainty motions combined with outbursts of booty-shakin’ right alongside her dancers and biggest fans carried the crowd until they were too tired to move over for Run-DMC’s performance next door. A quick costume change into something much more comfortable and easier to shake in, Santi welcomed her front row fans onto the stage for her hit “Creator,” making sure to say “don’t touch my ladies,” but encouraging the massive dance party that ensued. The crowd may have been satisfied with that ending, but there’s no stopping the endearing weirdness that Santigold promises to bring on stage- including a two-person horse costume galloping while the audience first stared silently, then erupted into cheers for one of most confusing but appropriate acts I’ve ever seen. Because that’s exactly how an electronic princess ends a show.
The sun beginning to set on a hot, dusty mass of festival goers, Seattle indie rockers Minus the Bear graced the stage in front of fans clad in furry bear hats (Coincidence? I doubt it) and jammed some melodic beats that everybody was glad to hear. Their big sound commanded a ridiculously large stage set on the always-expanding backdrop of downtown Austin. Not too far to the side of the stage, fans hula hooped and danced along with hit songs like “Steel and Blood” and “Diamond Lighting.” Synth player and vocalist Alex Rose seemed relieved when the Texas sun decided to fall, commenting to the crowd, “It’s nicer now that the sun went down over those things over there,” prompting a quick “those are trees, Alex,” from his bandmates and a riot of laughter and heckles from an audience that was just happy to bob along to some sweet tunes before kicking off the night to hip hop beats.
Darkness falls but Gregg Gillis, better known as the DJ mash-up genius Girl Talk, turns up his lights and beats to take over the night. Demolishing the orange stage as Saturday’s headliner, Girl Talk opened his performance to a mass of ready-to-rage fans as they danced around him for the entire set. From behind Girl Talk’s chaotic performance, the massive crowd looked even crazier, whiter, and more off-beat than those of us rocking on stage. Tissue paper rained down on the crowd, glow sticks flew through the air, right onto the heads of ravers everywhere, and confetti boomed from side stage, swept away quickly (and thus ending up to be pretty anti-climactic) by the wind along with the giant bags of balloons thrown to the crowd, but that didn’t stop anyone from singing, screaming, dancing, and jumping to the mash of hits like “Jessie’s Girl,” “Drop it Like it’s Hot,” and “Rolling in the Deep.” Ending on a high note and running off stage before any fans could grab him, Girl Talk left the crowd successfully sweaty and impressed, and probably a little sore, but I’m not complaining.
Indie-folk rockers The Head and The Heart took over a big crowd of expectant fans with far reaching vocals and some impressive guitar work. The audience swayed to big hits like “Lost in my Mind,” and seemed just as enticed by every other song- lead singer Josiah Johnson’s haunting lyrics leaving them hanging on every word. The six piece hopefuls made their debut on Conan last year and opened for big timers Vampire Weekend and Dave Matthews. Now headlining their own shows, the folky, campfire kids have gathered quite the fan base that waited for them outside the orange stage, including parents with their children on their shoulders and couples holding hands while bobbing to the sleep-inducing (in that comfy, good way) melodies. Clapping along to songs like “Sounds like Hallelujah” kept everyone entertained and left the crowd impressed, once again, under the stars of downtown.
Oakland hip-hop travesty Kreayshawn “twerked” on stage and brought some munchies for a crowd of her people. After working her audience up an appetite and playing her song “Left Ey3,” she asked who wanted some tacos. Not literally expecting her to pull out foil-wrapped Torchy’s Tacos (though, there were cannons shooting these things at people at the festival), Kreayshawn chucked them into the crowd and probably onto people’s faces, continued with the show, and busted out rhymes that were not only ironically awful, but seriously entertaining. Despite the slap in the face she gave to hip-hop music, Kreayshawn practically creates a style of her own, and you couldn’t help but bob and dance along as she ran all over stage, almost quite literally kicking ass and taking names. The crowd was obviously waiting for her end note “Gucci Gucci,” and when her hype man started with “one big room…” the masses threw their hands in the air, jolted toward the stage, and sung right along- “I got the swag and it’s pumping out my ovaries.” Yikes, really? But I’ll take it.
Taking the stage without Run, DMC brought a little more rock and roll to the daytime stage, and kept the sons of the late Jam-Master Jay Mizell behind him spinning tracks. After a moment of silence for Jay, the party began in front of a sizeable crowd, probably fans from the night before catching a second glimpse, or hopefuls that missed the exciting Run-DMC reunion. DMC kept the beats flowing while making a political stance in front of the Austin crowd- claiming “there is no generation gap, there’s a information gap,” and that “music succeeds when politics and religion fails.” Explosive hoots and hollers from the crowd emphasized his point, and the famed rapper moved on to crowd favorites like “Black Betty”- claiming Betty White was the most powerful woman in the industry right now, not Beyonce or Nicki Minaj. And we’re going to have to agree with that.
Instrumental deities Explosions in the Sky not only had big expectations as native Austinites, but they succeeded in getting the entire crowd on their feet shouting and hosted a light show that probably induced more than one fainting spell that night. The emotion behind the narrative-like guitar sets and symphonic beats were felt by everyone on the grass, on the ledge, and probably through downtown- there’s no way a sound like that didn’t carry through the city. Couples kissed during pivotal sound moments and long-time local fans smiled as they swayed to new album favorites like “Last Known Surroundings.” Explosions has a good time every show they get to perform where they started, and this year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest was no different. Everyone turned away pleased as Explosions finished with a bang, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes took stage left to finish off the impressive last night.
Long Island hip-hop trio De La Soul graced the blue stage fashionably late, attitude at the ready. After playing a few hits and really getting the masses dancing along, a dramatic pause was necessary. Hands rose up out of the crowd when David Jolicoeur, known as just Dave, called for it, sans a few- the photographers in the pit. After harassing them about putting their cameras down and enjoying the music, De La Soul started playing again to massive cheers- only to cut it short to heckle the one lone photographer still keeping his finger on the shutter button. With a few laughs from the crowd and I’m sure one embarrassed photographer, De La Soul continued their set and proved that they’re still fresh and funky, with plenty of bass to get you moving. There was nothing that crowd wanted more than to move around to some jazzy hits taking us back to when the guys were at their peak, and they definitely brought that to the stage- and a few laughs and a little arrogance never hurt a performance.
Louisiana indie pop group Givers played in front of an appreciative crowd right in the middle of the hot afternoon. The sun blazing on their faces, vocalists Tiffany Lamson and Taylor Guarisco managed to still keep their eyes on the crowd and their voices soaring. Old and young and somewhere in between were entertained by the energetic and multi-talented band- they played each song with just as much fervor as the last, keeping up tempo and belting out favorites like “Meantime” and “Saw You First,” both of which many fans in the grass sung along to. Reminiscent of bands like Of Monsters and Men and Grouplove on the radio today, Givers are sure to make their mark in the chaotic indie scene, and their presence on stage isn’t one to disappoint.
Laying back in the soft grass and waiting for the next band to start, then having to wonder “is that an accordion?” and realizing, hell yeah it is, has to be one of the best feelings ever. Singer Howe Gelb of jam band Giant Giant Sand (previously just Giant Sand) has a voice reminiscent of Johnny Cash, and the little girl in front of me danced with her mom in a tutu to his raspy recounts of soulful lyrics and upbeat tunes. The multi-instrumental Arizona country band serenaded a lounging crowd as the sun went down and the half napping, half swaying attendees appreciated the rhythms, and I appreciated the creativity of the set. Sometimes reminiscent of an old West standoff, the twangy beats and fun vocals made for a relaxing evening, especially when trumpeter Jon Villa surprised everyone and took over lead vocals in Spanish for a while.