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Fun Fun Fun Fest reels off some greatest hits and more

By Kevin Curtin, Fri., July 12, 2013

Mane man: Slayer's Tom Araya at FFF6 in 2011
Mane man: Slayer's Tom Araya at FFF6 in 2011
Photo by Gary Miller

Fun Fun Fun Fest 8: Cradle to the Grave

Fun Fun Fun Fest announced most of the lineup for the eighth annual music festival Tuesday night, confirming its success and rising national popularity by bringing back some of its own greatest hits. Most obvious among those remains Slayer, which headlined FFF6 at Auditorium Shores two years ago. Given that the Los Angeles thrash metal institution lost founding member and guitarist Jeff Hanneman to liver failure in May, and that the infamous, Eighties-vintage quartet made a best-of showing here with his replacement in 2011, Exodus mainstay Gary Holt, the timing seems perfect.

Another big return deals veteran SoCal nerd punks the Descendents, who filled in for Devo in 2010, plus notable indie faves MGMT, Thee Oh Sees, and Death Grips. Other big gets are seminal proto-punks Television and Sparks, riot grrrl Kathleen Hanna's new band the Julie Ruin, and UK legends in Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and the Subhumans performing 1983 sophomore LP From the Cradle to the Grave. Reunions boast Black Flag all-stars FLAG (aka Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, Bill Stevenson, and Stephen Egerton), post-hardcore cultists Quicksand, and noiseniks the Locust.

One advantage of occurring late in the year is FFF's ability to cherry-pick the best of the fests, like South by Southwest headliner Snoop Dogg and Psych Fest's Deerhunter to name two. First time bookings M.I.A., Jurassic 5, and the previously announced Ice-T (also playing with hard rock "Cop Killer(s)" Body Count) cement a hip-hop class that includes Lupe Fiasco, Action Bronson, and femme C Dessa. Punks will be pleased to see NYC hardcores the Cro-Mags, metal heads can get their bang on to French metallurgists Gojira, EDM fans should spin their wheels for Simian Mobile Disco and Bonobo, and indie hippies are sure to welcome Kurt Vile & the Violators.

Local acts include Daniel Johnston, Bill Callahan, Ola Podrida, Spray Paint, Wild Child, and Frank Smith. Still no word where the fest will land next year in light of the proposed renovation of Auditorium Shores, with partner James Moody saying only that FFF promoter Transmission Events continues "working closely with parks and the city," but that won't impact this November 8-10 edition. A complete lineup – minus the comedy talent, which arrives August 3 at Transmission's Aqua Olympics – can be viewed on our Earache! blog or at www.funfunfunfest.com.

35 Denton

While it's not time to shovel dirt on 35 Denton just yet, the recent shake-up of the music festival's core staff and financial backing have cast a grim outlook for its future.

After the Dallas Observer implied the college town's biggest music event might be history, a rebuttal from the 35 Denton Facebook page simply read, "Not Dead. Under Maintenance." Kyle LaValley, who effectively ran the festival with a small volunteer staff and recently resigned to open a giant venue called the Hive, tells Playback that her position of creative director has been filled by festival founder Chris Flemmons.

"There's a reorganization effort on the behalf of the remaining investors and Flemmons to pursue a festival in the future," confirmed LaValley by email. "It's my sincere hope that it continues with the same commitment to sonic quality, with perhaps a more focused emphasis on the scale of the event."

Flemmons, currently on tour with his band the Baptist Generals, wouldn't comment.

35 Denton, once called NX35 and 35 Conferette, began as a South by Southwest day party in 2005 and, four years later, began bringing hundreds of bands to Denton's downtown corridor the week before SXSW. This year, the fest hosted copious local acts including Roky Erickson, Scott H. Biram, OBN III's, Dana Falconberry, the Well, and Zorch. Ryan Darbonne, absurdist MC with alt-rap crew Space Camp Death Squad, once lived in Denton and considers his band's performance at 35 Denton this past March their best show ever.

"35 Denton feels personal in a way SXSW can't be," he says. "It would be sad to see the festival get downsized, but there's such an insane amount of talent in Denton that the music scene there will grow regardless."

Neal Pollack's Second Invasion

Pollack
Pollack
Photo by John Anderson

As a guest on The Daily Show in 2003, satirist Neal Pollack hocked his new book, Never Mind the Pollacks, and its accompanying CD, bragging that it'd already recorded a whopping 56 sales on SoundScan, to which unimpressed host Jon Stewart replied, "Wow, if you keep that up you will never make another album."

"I will make another album," guaranteed Pollack.

So far, he's wrong.

"I'm not a musician in that I don't know how to play music, I don't know how to read music, and I don't even really like to listen to music," the self-proclaimed "world's greatest living writer" told me last weekend at an overcrowded coffee shop in North Austin, where he lives. "But I was seized by the idea that, as a promotional tool for the book, I'd form a band and take it on tour to experience rock & roll first hand."

That 2003 Neal Pollack Invasion tour was a success, if you don't count him singing from a wheelchair after injuring his knee, the band's record company folding mid-tour, or that the novel has ended up being his worst-selling.

Pollack's not giving me any reason to read the book, which he describes as an unsophisticated rip on rock criticism. Never Mind the Pollack, on the other hand, stands the test of time, its author having crafted a winningly offensive lampoon of the Seventies New York scene, in which he apes the Ramones, calls Andy Warhol and CBGB "a pile of shit," and flips Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" to be about juggling dildos.

Ten years after its namesake's foray into music, local label Chicken Ranch has reissued Never Mind the Pollacks on vinyl with a scholarly new track called "Beer and Weed." Pollock celebrates the re-release by joining up with original Invasion member Dakota Smith and personnel from Austin's bouge-punks the Yuppie Pricks at Red 7 on Friday.

Brazos At Its Best

They say a change will do you good, and when you look at the Austin musicians that recently found greater success after moving to New York City – among them Kat Edmonson, Okkervil River's Will Sheff, and Suzanna Choffel – it's hard to argue with anyone wanting to try their luck in the Big Apple.

The cross-country move worked for the poetic songwriter behind indie trio Brazos, Martin Crane, who left town in 2011 after releasing the well-received Phosphorescent Blues. Since moving, he's built a new lineup, signed to respected indie label Dead Oceans, and composed the critically-heralded Saltwater, an LP with astounding lyrical density over ambient guitar pop grooves.

"[Austin] was the perfect place for me to hang out in my post-college honeymoon and figure out what I was about, because there was no ambition and no critical eye on me," reflects Crane. "But, for whatever reason, I became complacent and stopped learning about music and art."

New York, you might say, kicked him in the ass.

"Everything's much harder here, and it makes your time more valuable. The energy here is, 'C'mon dude, get your shit together, figure it out.' There's no time to not bring your best."

Brazos hits South Austin record paradise End of An Ear for a free in-store performance at 5pm on Saturday, before joining beach pop serenaders Cayucas at Red 7 that night.

Half Notes

› There's little doubt that Bob Dylan has a musical man-crush on local guitarist Charlie Sexton, who rejoined the Never Ending Tour on July 2, replacing the Bard's latest lead axeman Duke Robillard. When Sexton called Playback on Friday, he wouldn't say whether the gig was permanent, only confirming that he'd be onstage that night in Indiana. This marks his third stint in Dylan's band, gigging 1999-2002 and 2009-2012 when he displaced another Austin great, Denny Freeman.

› Organ wiz Mike Flanigin jetted to Switzerland to join ZZ Top at the Montreux Jazz Festival on Wednesday. "They're bringing me out for a part of their show where they're playing jazzy/blues songs to pay tribute to festival founder Claude Nobs, who was a good friend of theirs," reported Flanigin before the trip. Nobs, who died in January, famously booked an unsigned Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble in 1982, which despite initial booing became a breakthrough performance.

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