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09:27 AM on 11/03/12
Adam Pfleider
wait. what were we talking about?
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Adam PfleiderIt's that time of year again. Remember when Ace Ventura says, "SUUPE PER BOWL TIME!" in part of his dialogue? Replace that with "Fun Fun Fun Fest," and that's how I feel about the seventh annual festival here in Austin. This is my Austin City Limits. The festival, albeit for larger acts like last night's RUN DMC reunion and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros closing out Sunday, is not about packing in large acts to sell tickets, Transmission Entertainment has been very vocal about booking who they want to book. Watching Against Me! then a bit of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and then X performing one of punk's staples, Los Angeles, this is about the outer sweet brine of punk, hip-hop, indie and comedic niche audiences - and it works.

We got to the park early to check out Tia Carrera based on Wayne's World alone. (I know, different spelling.) While the gorgeous front woman of Crucial Taunt was not on stage, a three piece, loud jam session was a hell of a way to start the day of heavy acts to follow. I was able to catch Fidlar who impressed me with their sharp style of punk rock. They're not gritty enough for No Idea enthusiast, but have more swagger than the nu-pop punk gambit. Definitely an act many of you on this site should give a listen to. A band that is clearly a sharp, clean cut.

After catching a bit of Mustard Pimp, I thought I was running behind to see Torche, but ended up seeing the tail end of Kvelertak. Swedish metal that sounds like it was put together in the swamps of the South. Torche was next, and didn't disappoint. It's a shame this band isn't bigger. Tight rock and roll with amazing signatures and lush tones. Torche is great on record, and even I admit I should give the band more spins once and a while, but seeing them live is something else, and reminder of the word "underrated."

I'm not sure what I can say about Cursive that I haven't already. Each time I see them, their songs bloom new life. If you've never seen Cursive, go see them. If you've already seen Cursive, still go see them again. I caught the tail end of Napalm Death, but it didn't come close to the poise, technicality and intensity of Converge. It's a band that gives their all, and Jacob Bannon controls the crowd every time I see them. There is a reason Converge has earned their legacy, and if you've seen them live in any capacity, you know why.

I caught a few Tomahawk songs, but headed to meet up with Dustin Harkins and we met up with my other friend who was catching the end of El Ten Eleven. Then, out of nowhere, Val Kilmer, either acting in Doors-esque flashback of drunken swagger or just plain drunk, performed with The Black Lips as a special performance, which was just a filming for the upcoming Terrance Malick project. Entertaining, but the worst Refused reunion set ever.

I ended up missing Earth, which I'm still sitting here bumming about, but I did catch Against Me!. Tight, loud, abrasive and one of the biggest crowds of the day (even more so than the headliner X). Laura Jane Grace's voice towers over the Black Stage attendees, and really shows Against Me!'s music will not slow down anytime soon. My friend wanted to catch Bun B, so we left the set a few songs early and ended up catching the end of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Here's the thing, this is not my cup of tea by a long shot, but for a live show, it was pretty damn good. I didn't stick around for Bun B and headed to X.

I will say this about X's set. Considering how old the band is and the time when Los Angeles came out, they still rocked out those songs and vocalist Exene Cervenk had a ton of energy. The album and performance still held up after all these years. For those who saw Against Me! directly before, I hope you stayed around to see where the blend of punk rock, blues and rockabilly blended to create one of punk's most heralded records.

I will say this about the RUN DMC performance: it was shorter than expected, but still a blast. I got emotional twice last night. Once when Exene Cervenk gave a shoutout to not only Austin, but New Orleans as well, and when it was announced by Rev Run that it was Jam Master Jay's kids on stage spinning the ones and twos. The group played all the hits, everyone had a blast, I even danced a bit to "Tricky," and all and all it was a great time.

Dustin HarkinsThanks to Austin, autumn is by far my favorite time of year. It always involves either Austin City Limits or Fun Fun Fun Fest, both of which are contenders for top festivals of the year in the United States. Austin is always such an awesome environment as well, as anyone who has ever been here for a festival or SXSW can attest to. The people are both wonderful and eccentric, but explaining this is pretty much no good. Austin is definitely a "you have to be here to understand" city.

After the somewhat lengthy drive from Dallas to Austin (although it certainly wasn't lengthy in comparison to the treks a lot in attendance had to make), I was greeted by the horrible news that Omar Rodriguez-Lopez was having van troubles and his set was to be postponed to another day or cancelled. As a fangirl of anything Omar does, I was slightly upset but wish him the best in getting here safely. Having heard this, I headed to witness a bit of Napalm Death with a couple of my friends. Their performance was energetic and on point, although the music itself felt dull and monotonous. Nothing about it was memorable, in quite contrast to the next act of the day, Converge.

Converge is everything that a heavy performer should be. Pulverizing, energetic, melodic enough to break the monotony but not enough to interrupt the energy itself, and most importantly, worth remembering. Frontman Jacob Bannon had complete control over the crowd, as Kurt Ballou and Nate Newton built a trinity of complete chaos with him. Touring off of their new (and yet again critically acclaimed) 8th album, Converge made it absolutely clear they are not new to this, and everyone in the middle of the crowd has the bruises to prove it.

After Converge's set, I met up with Adam for a couple drinks and discussion about the previous Converge set, his Consequential Apathy blog and book chapter (both of which I highly recommend to anyone with a pulse and a brain), and life in general, before walking over to the blue stage for "Special Performance feat. The Black Lips". Aaaaaand out came…none other than Val Kilmer. Mister Batman Forever is either a great actor or horrible at holding his liquor (or both), as he rambled in Mitch Hedberg-esque slurs about "Rock and roll is dead, long live rock and roll!", knocking over amps, and proceeded to cut his hair onstage. You can't make this up. I mean, Keep Austin Weird, am I right?

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took the stage next, hot off the success from their independent collaboration The Heist. Macklemore had an absolutely dominant presence onstage, especially for a new success, and accompanied by a great light show and backing band, created an experience in itself as they ran through various songs from The Heist. After a few songs though, it was necessary to head to the black stage and witness Against Me!. The presence of Laura Jane Grace brought one extra thing to the set: attitude. It felt absolutely punk (pun slightly intended) seeing Grace perform with the energy she had as Tom Gabel, without losing a bit of the sound that made Against Me! successful. Their performance was easily a top moment of the festival (which is hard to say about anything post-Val Kilmer).

I then headed to the orange stage to watch a bit of Santigold before the headliners of the night. She had a very eccentric performance, bringing out a person in a horse suit at one point of the night, as her combination of electronic music and reggae pulsated throughout the main area of Fun Fun Fun Fest. It was very enjoyable, but what was to follow was to be remembered forever…for two reasons.

Run-D.M.C. in the flesh. Rev Run and D.M.C. themselves. The living legends took the stage to perform classics in the most hyped reunion in hip hop this year only to have their set butchered by the sound man. While they themselves performed admirably, especially with the obvious absence of Jam Master Jay, the sound issues were an impossible thing to recover from, and they knew it too, as they left the stage way earlier than intended.

Regardless of this, overall, the day was a definite success. Against Me!, Macklemore, and Converge put on incredible performances, and of course, Val Kilmer's presence was unforgettable. Stay tuned tomorrow for a write-up of what is to come tonight, including Danny Brown, Schoolboy Q, (the shape of crunk to come) and Refused (The Shape Of Punk To Come), written by me (the shape of drunk to come).

tl;dr - Run-D.M.C.'s sound guy was the only guy who didn't get his french onion soup this year.

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