Only during Fun Fun Fun Fest can you find people riding a mechanical bull, skateboarding on a giant ramp, spraying graffiti art across installations or getting a haircut in the middle of Auditorium Shores.
The first day of this year’s fest was an exciting and memorable one, carrying an equal mix of current, hipper bands with older, more nostalgic acts, true to the festival’s mission to bring an odd array of bands to Austin for one weekend.
The early highlight of the day was Canada’s Mac Demarco, whose band tore through solid renditions of all the garage rocker’s best songs before winding down with a highly irreverent and goofy medley of classics by Metallica, The Beatles, The Police and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. The set ended with Demarco crowd-surfing before addressing the crowd with an invitation to come hang out later.
The nostalgia set in as Johnny Marr of The Smiths played a set that mixed in his recent solo material alongside classics like “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” from his legendary `80s band. Folk troubadour Bill Callahan played a mesmerizing set in the small Yellow Tent, opening with a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” as tribute to the late Lou Reed.
But it wasn’t all Fun Fun Fun and games on day one of the festival. Previous years, the festival employed a dual stage set up so that while one band was playing a set on a stage, the next band up would be setting up on the adjacent space. Johnny Marr and Kurt Vile ran late, causing The Walkmen to take the stage amidst sound issues and then be forced off after only 25 minutes to get back on schedule, which visibly frustrated the band. The sound mix was pretty awful, and it was disappointing for the fans.
Another act that disappointed his fans was Lupe Fiasco, who had some sort of a meltdown on stage. Light rain caused a slight delay, and he responded by getting very angry and even cussing out a staffer who ran across the back of the stage. He yelled at the crowd a couple of times, and left the stage after only playing about four or five songs.
The night’s headliners proved that even though Fun Fun Fun Fest brings in contemporary acts, the big draw is to relive the greatest bands of the 80s and 90s that so many people are nostalgic for. Every year, they find great ways to pull it off.