FFF Fest Day 1 Recap: Johnny Marr, Snoop Dogg and More
On Friday, the first day of Fun Fun Fun Fest 2013, Johnny Marr and his band were the best-dressed bunch in the whole festival and went through tracks from The Messenger (“The Right Thing Right,” “Upstarts,” “Lockdown,” “Generate! Generate!”), the latest solo album buy the former Smiths guitarist, who gently but bitingly chastised the crowd.
“It’s a joke, it’s a joke,” he said. “I don’t take it personal that no one bought the record. The only thing that matters is that we’re all here now.”
And there they were. You could hear the Smiths all over, but you could also hear Johnny Marr. After an in-depth soundcheck to make sure he had the best sound in the Orange stage, he went through his post-Smiths career and surprised everyone with an incredible, dead-on version of the Clash’s take on “I Fought the Law.”
The night’s headliner, Snoop Dogg (also displaying his Snoop Lion reggae alter ego) was running late, of course, but closed the night with the proper party vibe everyone was expecting (demigod of heavens Indra included). While the DJ played old hits, the crowd kept praying for the raindrops to remain light and they got their wish: what they got instead was a shower of beach balls and the party was complete when Snoop took the stage and started with “Here Comes the King”, from his 2013 Reincarnated reggae album. But the sound problems that had started with the Walkmen earlier fell on him with a vengeance, and there was no sound for a few seconds. He kept on as a pro and delivered nearly one solid hour of hits, ranging from his debut to 2003’s “P.I.M.P.”
I could’ve used some more reggae, but at least he closed the show with it. It was a warm night to end a good Day 1 that was getting colder and colder (and wetter) by the minute.
Fun Fun Fun Fest is usually my favorite Austin fest. I love the open spaces and one’s ability to check all the stages and get real close to the action even in big shows (unlike, say, ACL, where you can only see the bigger bands from 10 miles away unless you spend the whole day saving your spot under the scorching sun). Last year, according to figures released by the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, more than 55,000 people attended in the three days (17 percent more than in 2011), pumping $27 million into the city’s economy. This year, though, at least judging by Friday morning (and the amount of tickets still available as I write this on Saturday), the festival started kind of slow. A tad too slow if you ask me, but at night things went back to normal with big crowds in front of each stage. And things didn’t start too well at the 501 Studios shuttle pick up point either.
As opposed to last year, when everything ran smoothly, when I arrived to the (supposedly) shuttle pick up point, the area looked like the Syrian Desert. No signs, nothing. The receptionist at 501 studio had no idea about the shuttle, and there wasn’t a soul at the parking lot. When the bus finally came I had to stop it in the middle of the road because it was making an unusual turn. I asked the driver whether this was FFFF’s shuttle, and he said it was but that he wasn’t sure where to pick people up (there’s was a new fence around the parking lot, but hang in there even if you don’t see anyone: the shuttle will come).
Arriving to the festival grounds, the driver didn’t know where to drop us off. “Let me get out first and ask someone,” he said. He asked the motorcycle cop standing at the entrance, but he also had “no idea” where the shuttle should park. Different festival volunteers I asked inside had no clue either (at night after Snoop Dogg’s set, I decided to take a bicycle riksha instead).
To make matters worse, the “media area” is a complete joke: a tiny room with two tables and only three seating benches, always packed and, at least every time I went to look for a seat, occupied by people chatting instead of working. But that’s OK. It was nothing that a $10 vegan burrito with guacamole and (vegan) cheese couldn’t cure. UPDATE: As of this afternoon, Fun Fun Fun Fest has “moved the media area to a much larger space with ample seating, tables, refreshments, power and wifi,” according to an email sent out by their public relations team at 2:49 p.m.
With FFFF it’s all about the music, and the music delivered. In the following pages see a recap of Day 1 with videos of Immortal Guardian, The Tontons, Title Fight, Mac DeMarco, The Walkmen, and Cut Copy.