Off the Record
OTR attends Fun Fun Fun Fest, packs things, and moves to the Cloud
Fun Fun Fun: Farewell
"Men are simple – very, very simple," mused Henry Rollins during yet another first for Fun Fun Fun Fest on Sunday: the exchanging of wedding vows.
The sixth annual fall frenzy proved a world-class assortment of such oddities: members of Odd Future getting bucked from the mechanical bull, then going buck wild on the Blue stage; California's Ceremony leading a hardcore romp after hours Saturday on the nearby Lamar Pedestrian Bridge; and the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne wandering the grounds on Friday quite simply because there was no better place to be than Auditorium Shores last weekend.
The exception to Rollins' rule of thumb, unfortunately, was Glenn Danzig. After an hour of delays and a list of demands (including French onion soup, stage heaters, and an on-site doctor) more notable than the midconcert Samhain set, Danzig Legacy ended with a faux riot of absurdity and disappointment that not even Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein could salvage (see "Fun Fun Fun Shots").
In true FFFF spirit, even that negative ultimately turned into a positive selling point, becoming a running gag for the Damned's blitzkrieg punk revue, which peaked with the Stooges' "1970" and sneering "Smash It Up," as well as Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, who proved better than the real thing with a costumed minisuite of Misfits classics including the otherwise absent "Skulls."
Aside from Rakim's last-minute cancellation and the development of a chest pain OTR coined "Black Stage Lung," the rest of the fest went off without a hitch. NOLA bounce queen Big Freedia and Spank Rock made azzez throw fits and tantrums, respectively, not unlike the dancehall throb of Diplo/Major Lazer's split personality. Likewise, Reggie Watts' beatboxing vocal contortions found a subtler complement in Tune-Yards' tangled pleas of love and violence.
There were too many highlights to fully list (Public Enemy, Hot Snakes, Girls, Lykke Li, and M83, for starters), but perhaps most impressive were the rare imports: Syrian street-folk artist Omar Souleyman on Friday; Tuareg guitar tribe Tinarewin's windswept desert blues early Saturday; and the heavy tailspin-psych of Japan's Boris bringing it all home on Sunday. Then came Slayer, whose titanium thrash reigned with such relentless authority that all contesting headliners were rendered entirely negligible. On that high note, it's only fitting this column be retired.
In July 2007, approximately 250 editions and upwards of 250,000 words ago, OTR debuted by introducing Transmission Entertainment, an indie promotion enterprise wanting "people outside of Austin to be able to experience what it's like here," as co-founder Chris Butler said then. In short order, OTR was cursed by booker Graham Williams, blackballed by Charles Attal at C3 Presents, and personally banned from all Direct Events venues by owner Tim O'Connor. And only one of those with good reason.
Such is the inherent nature of this column, a demanding and consuming job whose rewards by necessity come through the memories and friendships forged herein. This post has only been held by four others over the past three decades: Margaret Moser's initial cheerleading in "In One Ear," Michael Corcoran's cantankerous "Don't You Start Me Talking," Ken Lieck's hallucinatory "Dancing About Architecture," and Chris "TCB" Gray, currently recovering after suffering a heart attack the week before FFFF.
The latter noted in his final report that during his tenure he lost "a girlfriend, good credit, a decent bank-account balance, a clean driving record, and a relatively healthy liver." The same held true for OTR, except that I'll be moving soon to Portland, Ore., to join my longtime girlfriend, Kari Reitan, who's attending law school at Lewis & Clark.
Of course, I'll continue to keep close tabs on the local scene, both as a contributor here and as the new music supervisor for PBS' The Daytripper, the Emmy award-winning Texas travel program with host Chet Garner. On that note, congrats to Brazos, Dale Watson, Whiskey Shivers, and James Hand, all of whom will be featured in season three's Smithville episode, which premieres at 8:30pm tonight (Thursday, Nov. 10).
The trajectory between columns can be traced in The Austin Chronicle Music Anthology, a 30-year greatest hits collection co-edited by yours truly and my best friend Doug Freeman that, in its own weird way, captures the inseparable growth of both the city and the paper. Personally, the book was meant as a tribute, not just to the writers, photographers, and staff past and present who worked to make this weekly – and "Off the Record" by extension – a local staple, but also to the innumerable bands, label owners, publicists, and venue managers to whom I owe my most sincere gratitude. I'm especially indebted to my mentor/editor Raoul Hernandez, photographers John Anderson and Sandy Carson, and Creative Director Jason Stout.
Looking back, this has been a time of rapid growth and expansion for the scene and city that's resulted in even the most iconic local institutions – Emo's, the Cactus Cafe, Austin City Limits – receiving new-millennial upgrades, a transition that will only be heightened by the Waller Creek Tunnel Project on Red River. Three years after the well-publicized Live Music Task Force, however, what do we really have to show for it? A few surveys and a computer lab. As always, it's time for the city to find real ways to support musicians outside of mayoral proclamations, starting with designated parking Downtown.
In a larger sense, OTR's term also correlated with the industry's paradigm shift into the Digital Age. For some, this transition represents a daunting end to a golden era, for others an unprecedented opportunity for DIY engagement and collaboration, one where entire music catalogs are mere clicks away on Spotify. In lieu of traditional record labels, bands are crowdsourcing studio and tour support via Kickstarter. CD releases are being replaced with pay-what-you-want downloads on Bandcamp. And YouTube views and Twitter fandom have come to hold more Klout than Pollstar stats.
In nearly every regard, Fun Fun Fun Fest seized that progressive potential. Transmission announ-ced the lineup in online DJ chat room Turntable.fm; booker Graham Williams' epic day-in-Danzig report went viral on Facebook; and Pitchfork live-streamed nearly the entire festival, allowing OTR to nurse a hangover with Crooks' barbed country and the fiery neuroticism of Le Butcherettes from the comfort of home. There was even a Tumblr account documenting Ryan Gosling at Fun Fun Fun Fest, picked up by Gawker.
The point is that the sense of community found at FFFF – and in Austin at large – no longer has to be limited to strict geographic destinations. With every tweet and tag, like and share, e-vite and check-in, we further define ourselves by curated online experiences – the Storify of our lives.
Starting this week at the Daily Dot, "The Hometown Newspaper of the World Wide Web," I'll be reporting from these new front lines, serving as a contributing editor and helping share the stories and events that shape online communities. It's a crazy experiment in open-source journalism, but I believe strongly in the underlying goal: Staying connected.