Written by Samuel Barker
Nov 08, 2008 at 12:00 PM
When you attend a lot of concerts, there is one thing you normally cannot stand; the outdoor festival concert.

Normally, the outdoor festival concert is set in the middle of the summer as the weather reaches its peak heat levels. It is a scene of miserable faces, medics rushing the latest heat stroke victim to a cooler place and bands completely drained after a mere 30 minute set. It is a setting where, while you get to sample a lot of bands at once, music just does not thrive.

With that, I would like to point out the brilliance of the Fun Fun Fun Fest organizers for putting this festival at the beginning of November. The weather was beautiful and cool, even when standing in the sun. The schedule was perfectly kept and the assortment of bands was great. No matter what you were into, there was something to enjoy for all.

For this review, I will simply report to you how I spent my day at the festival. As someone who has been sure I would die from dehydration at various summer festivals, the time of year alone was enough to praise this festival. However, once you add the selection of bands, both new and old, I was given the best festival experience of my concert attending life.

Now, to the bands:

The first band of the day I saw was Paul Green’s School of Rock, who were the first band on Stage 1. For a few songs, this was a fun set. The first singer of the day, a pudgy red-headed kid who looked like he was maybe 12, blew me away. At such a young age, he sounded like Joe Cocker singing. His voice was strong and his backing band held it down solid.

After the first song, the band shifted with a new lineup of kids. The quality dropped a bit, but man, these were kids bringing a collection of rock n’ roll classics to the audience. Everyone who watched was impressed by the performance; however, I’d like to see the kids bring some songs they wrote rather than being strictly a cover band.

After School of Rock ended, I headed over to Stage 3 for a set by Austin’s very own Yuppie Pricks.

The Yuppie Pricks were an absolute blast. Casting themselves a yuppie, frat kids playing punk rock, The Yuppie Pricks brought a Sarah Palin look-alike to the show as a mascot to let us know they were still rich and it did not matter what happened at the election, as vocalist Trevor Middleton told us “If they take a few more dollars from me, all that means is when I hit the drive thru, that’s 50 cents less in your tip jar with my band’s sticker on it.”

The band tore through tracks like Collars Up, Hummer in my Hummer and Fraternity Day (which saw an audience participation moment involving free Fun Fun Fun Fest 2009 passes for being the receiver of an anal funnel..look it up!) Their set closed with a kick ass cover of the Chumps’ Fuck You, I’m Rich. All in all, a fun way to start the day.

Next up for us was a quick exit down the block for lunch from Stubbs.

After lunch, I headed over to Stage 1 to catch Centro-matic. I have wanted to see this band forever. I caught them backing Anders Parker in Varnaline back in 2002, but was late to the show, thus missing their set. It took 6 years to finally catch them, but for 30 minutes, it was totally worth the wait. The band came out and rocked the audience gathered around the stage. For being a local Texas band, they pulled a strong audience for their set.

I took a short break to run over to Stage 2 to catch a few moments of Walter Schneifel’s acoustic set, as a warm-up for the upcoming Rival Schools set. However, it did not take long before I was heading back over to Stage 1 for the remainder of the Centro-matic set.

By this point, keyboards were in the mix and added a whole new vibe to the sound. One of the best parts of Centro-matic is the dynamic of the music. One moment it is quiet and subdued, and then it bursts into a sea of keys and leads. Definitely a great set to keep the day rolling along perfectly.

After Centro-matic shut it down, I ran over to Stage 3 for Swingin’ Utters. This is another band I have not seen since 2002. The band’s performances have been pretty sparse in that time as the members all have other bands. However, with a new compilation of b-sides out, it was time to make some appearances.

The band impressed me much more this time than they did when I saw them back in 2002. The music was tight, the band was energetic and the audience ate it up. It was also around this time of day that the audience started filling up at Stage 3.

Once Swingin’ Utters called it a day, I made my way back to Stage 1 for a few hours. The beauty of the stage setups were that each stage had two performance areas so you experienced 5 minutes of sound check between each band. It made the day fly by and kept the music flowing nearly unimpeded.

The first band I saw back at Stage 1 was The Black Heart Procession. I’d never heard of this band and expected something pretty hard from them. Instead, I was met with my best surprise of the day. The band was like that of a traveling show or funeral procession. The organ sounds, violin, bumping bass and march-like beat made an entertaining and extremely fun soundtrack for the afternoon.

I was so intrigued and impressed by this band, I ran backstage after the show to thank them for coming to Austin all the way from San Diego. I could go on more about this band, but sometimes you like something so much you really have words to express it. Really, this was the best surprise of the day for me.

After the Black Heart Procession shut it down, Austin’s own …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead hit the stage. For years, I have seen the name but never heard them or really felt all that enthralled to check them out. Overall, the set had its ups and downs, the band truly shined on their instrumental parts where they all jammed out. However, a lot of the songs dragged on and got boring. I can understand why they’ve gotten as popular as they have, but in the end, they were not something I overly enjoyed.

In fact, I took the chance to hit the merch area during their set. While over there, I found one of the best booths I have seen at a concert, the Hit + Run booth where they did custom t-shirt screen-printing for the show. You had a bunch of different screens and could set up your shirt the way you wanted it done. Offering custom t-shirt to the concert audience was a great touch and gathered a pretty good audience. They got my $15.

Finally, it was time for one of the main reasons I made it up to Austin for Fun Fun Fun Fest, Rival Schools.

It has been a long time since Walter Schneifels stopped doing Rival School, which was a letdown after the stellar United by Fate album. He got back out doing Gorilla Biscuits, acoustic shows and the like, thus letting Rival Schools disappear.

Fortunately, this year sees the return of Rival Schools and a new album to be released next year. This was the first set of the day I watch from start to finish, not even leaving to grab some water or hit the restroom. It was great to see the band out here and the audience packed the stage to hear the music. Even new songs like Big Waves kept the audience interested in the set. It was another highlight to an already great day.

The final Stage 1 band I watched was Deerhoof. I’d never listened to the band before, but have quite a few friends who love the band, so I made my way down to watch them. I’ll admit, the set was not anything like I expected. They were easily the most unique band of the day in a totally good way.

For having such poppy hooks, the band rocked out and kept plenty of noise elements in tact. They were wonderfully intelligent when it came to song structure, keeping enough randomness to make the music captivating while being hooky enough to keep the casual listener interested.

Unfortunately, I had to duck out on their set early to make my way over to Stage 3 to catch The Adolescents.

I thought the only way I had heard this band was from Amoeba on a Tony Hawk Pro Skater game. I’m not above admitting that. I was more of an east coast punk fan growing up so I never got too into the OC bands. However, from other friends or elsewhere, I knew a pretty good amount of the set. It was surprising and welcomed.

This set was insane. The band was the most intense of the day to that point and the audience responded accordingly. Kids were climbing on stage and flying off nonstop. People were dancing around and singing along constantly. It was a sight to behold. The difference in the audience from Stage 1 and Stage 3 (the 2 main stages) was cut and dry. Stage 1 was more standing around and watching, while Stage 3 was the entirety of the audience going off the entire time.

After The Adolescents left the stage, ALL kicked into their set.

With Drag the River in town, I was expecting to see Chad Price singing, but instead, it was Scott Reynolds on vocals. Perhaps it was the high energy of The Adolescents or the tired audience, but the set seemed slow and boring for the majority.

The audience came to life on the couple of Descendents songs ALL played. The first, I Wanna Be a Bear, was dedicated to former Descendents guitarist Frank Navetta who died earlier in the week. The next was Coolidge. Both saw the audience sing and dance along.

I had fun with the set, but wished it had been more energetic and bouncy. The odd thing was, I walked away from the set wishing it had been more, but have listen to ALL pretty much nonstop in the car since. So, apparently they did something right.The final band of the night was the main reason I could not wait to make the trip to Austin, The Dead Milkmen.

Having initially broken up in 1994, I always lamented the fact that I would never get to see the band, then the death of Dave Blood made it seem we would never see the band out on the road again. However, the band reunited with Dandrew Stevens on bass for a handful of benefit shows for Dave’s favorite charities, so there was a small chance of something.

When we first heard from a friend that the band was playing Fun Fun Fun Fest, we could not believe it. When we asked another person we knew close to the band we got a simple reply, “I can’t say whether THEY ARE PLAYING or not.” So the countdown was on.

After a brief wait at the conclusion of ALL’s set, it was time. Vocalist/keyboardist Rodney Anonymous came out on stage hooting and hollering for the audience to not let guitarist/vocalist Joe Jack Talcum get in their heads, telling people to find their happy place. For most of us, we were standing in our happy place at that moment.

With that, Talcum kicked into Punk Rock Girl and despite the clean guitars and poppy beat, the audience went insane. People were flying on and off the stage, the audience shifted from side to side, people sang, danced and had the time of their lives for the hour plus the band played.

They spent plenty of time making their comments on the election that took place earlier in the week. Sound clips of Sarah Palin led off Tiny Town, she got a mention in Right Wing Pigeons and the intro to Bitchin’ Camaro was filled with a rant on the members of the audience getting involved in local government and taking from the religious nuts. It was everything I expected from Anonymous and crew.

Classics like If You Love Someone, Set Them on Fire, If I Had a Gun, Lucky and more filled the set along with personal favorites of mine like Two Feet Off the Ground (which ended with Anonymous handing off his keyboard to an audience member) and The Woman Who is Also a Mongoose.

The set was supposed to be around 45 minutes, but nearly doubled that time. Two encores kept the experience going and still left everyone feeling like it was too soon to say goodbye to the Dead Milkmen.

Overall, the festival was an amazing experience, even though I did not get to stay until Sunday for the second day. The 3 hour drive back to Houston flew by as I relived the day in my head as I sped through the dark countryside on 290.

Personally, I cannot wait until next year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest. It was a unique and interesting experience that you cannot help but be drawn to once you have attended it. Here’s to next year!