fun fun fun fest: reunions


Special to Mixtapes|Heartbreaks, Chelsea Sutton reports on the fest.
Cap'n Jazz


Highly-anticipated reunions dominated the lineup at Austin, Texas’s Fun Fun Fun Fest this year, putting the young festival on the map and lining it up for comparison with Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival or Brooklyn’s Siren Music Festival.

Marking their second stop through the central-Texas city since reuniting, Brazil’s 1960s psychedelic pop group Os Mutantes filled Saturday’s late afternoon with a mixture of new and classic songs.  Before performing one of their oldest and most recognizable hits, vocalist Sergio Diaz, who could easily fit the bill as a Fred Armisen character in an SNL sketch, assured the crowd it was an “oldie but goldlie” and continued to show the young crowd exactly why their influence is so strong in current indie rock.

Immediately following the colorful Os Mutantes on the Orange Stage Saturday was Midwest favorites Cap’n Jazz.  Local poet-celebrity Thax Douglas, formerly a Chicago music scene fixture, pulled a poem from his Sunny Day Real Estate tote bag and recited it for the crowd anxiously awaiting the final show for the reunited Cap’n Jazz.  The legendary Jade Tree band, whose influence stretches wide in the Midwest emo uprising of the late ‘90s, broke up in 1995 and only reunited for a string of shows in 2010.  Vocalist Tim Kinsella noted this was their last show and then debated the validity of that statement, arguing that they aren’t a real band.  Highlights of their final performance included Kinsella climbing out into the crowd, a debate on the overuse of the word “we,” and their high-energy cover of A-Ha’s “Take on Me.” Those needing a further fix of Tim Kinsella were able to catch Joan of Arc playing a set of almost entirely new material at The Mohawk later Saturday night for an official Fun Fun Fun Fest after party.

Satiating the need to scream, crowd surf, and potentially receive a black-eye, Buffalo’s Snapcase took to the Black Stage on Sunday, nestled between LA’s powerhouse The Bronx and  Oakland’s High On Fire.  Disbanded in 2005, Snapcase had been rumored to have avoided Austin in their final years of touring due to the poor promotion of one of their shows.  Their return to the city was unexpected and raucously received.  Matching the excitement of the crowd, frontman Daryl Taberski filled the area with energy and enthusiasm while continuing to be relatable, sympathizing that they themselves had day jobs to return to this week.  They closed out their set with “Caboose” as an ambulance pulled up to attend to casualties of the mosh pit.

The main attraction of this year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest was the Sunday night reunion of The Descendents, filling the headliner spot vacated by Devo due to Bob Mothersbaugh’s recent hand injury.  The reunion sparked the widespread tagline “Milo Goes to Austin,” which was even featured on merchandise available for purchase at the festival.  With buildup so big, jokes were frequent – the singer of Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s playfully introduced themselves at their 1:25 time slot as the much-anticipated headliners.  In the moments before The Descendents took the stage, The Hold Steady vocalist Craig Finn entertained the crowd with a personal anecdote, explaining he was present for the 1987 Descendents show at First Avenue in Minneapolis during the “FinALL” tour, which was later released as the record Liveage.  There was a sense of community after a day of anticipation and storytelling.

After all the buildup, The Descendents didn’t disappoint.  Milo Aukerman paced around the stage, leaning into the crowd with familiarity and without missing a beat.  Conversation was kept to a minimum, allowing the maximum coverage from their discography.  The set list hit on punk favorites like “Clean Sheets,” “I’m the One,” “Sour Grapes,” “Pervert,” “Silly Girl,” and “When I Get the Time.”   The crowd was wowed when Aukerman sped through “Coffee Mug” in a rendition that rivaled the original recording.  Things were kept in perspective when the band threw into a version of “When I Get Old,” realizing that the members of The Descendents finally know what their adult future holds and can definitively say that they haven’t burned out or faded away.




now the lightbulb’s gone off

Absolutely no one will be surprised that Spoon put out another fantastic album. No one. So we’ll just get that out of the way right now: the album is great, go listen to it now, please. Now, a bit more analysis for those who are interested in more than the bottom line.

Where Spoon’s last release, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, was ebullient with its horns and straight-up soul, Transference is stifled and intimate and doesn’t show its hand. Opening track “Before Destruction” is almost more of an impression than a song proper, piquing the listener’s curiosity as to where the album is going. The album fleshes out with hypnotic basslines and dance-ready drums, with ebbing guitar and relaxed vocals giving the songs shape.

The album blends both dug-in-the-ground, shit-kicking, Austin pride (“Written in Reverse”, “Trouble”) with outside influences like the harnessed energy of the early-90s alt-rock charts (“Got Nuffin”) and Duran Duran, if they’d been darker club kids instead of Miami Vice extras (“Nobody Gets Me But You”). Though these things may seem disparate, they all come together for a remarkably coherent release.

Transference dropped 01/19/10.
Listen to the album here.

we were born and raised in the street that shot jfk

Summer is always going to be about punk rock for me. Usually it tends to drift more towards the perky strains of pop punk, but there’ll always be that intangible tie between the dirt, grit, and sweat of the day and fists thrown high into the air. Fortuitously, The United Snakes of America’s EP dropped on the warmest day in recent memory, setting the stage for summer to take on the mighty Culebras de los Estados Unidos!.

Starting with “Steedworthy”, the band lays it all on the table. Or, perhaps more accurately, the United Snakes lay it all on the table then shove your face in it. And you love it. The band’s sound falls somewhere between the likes of Queens of the Stone Age and Social Distortion, between the Toadies and the Whigs. The backing vocals on “Holler at White Teeth” make you want to bro down, and the whole album has the feel of kicking back on a friend’s front porch.

“Born and Raised” strikes an excellent balance between punk rock and rock & roll, giving Texas natives something to shout about.

Rounding out the album’s sound is the ever-so-slightly 90s-indie-tinged “Couple’s Skate”. It reminds me of my teen years, and I mean that as a compliment. It evokes the same feelings as when music was everything, everyone wore their heart on their sleeve, and nothing could best a night spent driving around, windows down, singing along at the tops of our lungs.

Culebras de los Estados Unidos! dropped 03/17/09.
To hear the EP, check out the band’s MySpace.