The Best & Worst of Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014

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BOYFRIEND New Orleans rapper Boyfriend knows how to command a space, even when that space is a wrestling ring. As she danced, stomped and rolled her way around the space, tossing gifts out in to the audience, occasionally borrowing hats and sunglasses and getting up close to sing to different members of the crowd, I couldn't pull my eyes away from her set.

Her songs are good, though, the good type of repetitive-catchy, but actually seeing her perform -- and the chaos that comes with it -- makes them shine. After the set, I was told it was only a taste of what her shows are like. If you'll excuse me, I'll be kicking myself for missing her set at Fitz last week. CORY GARCIA

THE BLOOD BROTHERS It was a reunion I had only dreamed about. When the Blood Brothers took the stage around 5 p.m. on Friday, I turned to a complete stranger and said, "I can't believe this is really happening." The breakup wasn't exactly amicable, and the directions they took after the band were so different musically that it showed their head space had totally changed that I also feared that even if they ever were to get back together they'd never be able to recapture the magic.

Instead, they exceeded all my expectations. Singers Johnny Whitney and Jordan Blilie came out screaming, sounding for all the world like a day had not passed since the band ended in 2007. Their energy and insanity was fully in tact, and they played a stunning set of hard hitting classics from their career, peaking with the great singalong "Love Rhymes with Hideous Car Wreck." COREY DEITERMAN

KING DIAMOND I knew King Diamond was a theatrical man; you have to be to wear corpse paint, a trenchcoat, and a top hat almost every day of your life. On the other hand, I had no idea what to expect from a festival performance like this. The former Mercyful Fate front man spared no expense here, though, bringing his entire stage show along with him for one of the greatest performances I've ever seen. He ran through MF classics like "Evil" and "Come to the Sabbath," to his own biggest solo hit "Welcome Home," to "Never Ending Hill" from latest effort Give Me Your Soul... Please. Though that record is, in the singer's own words, "only seven or eight years old," he promised that would change soon.

All the while, however, he was accompanied by actors, scenery changes, and, my favorite, a demonic grandma in a rocking chair during "Welcome Home" who started terrorizing fans in the front row. The musical effort was perfect, but the theatrics made it a can't-miss piece of performance art too. COREY DEITERMAN

MAJICAL CLOUDZ This will sound hyperbolic, but know that I've been mulling over this paragraph for 48 hours now and am choosing my words carefully: Majical Cloudz's set on the Yellow Stage was one of the best festival sets I've ever seen. Devon Welsh spent the majority of the show in the crowd, and while that sounds like a gimmick, it was the rare blurring of the line between performer and crowd that actually worked.

Welsh brings an unblinking intensity to his performances, but to do so up close and personal was brave and inspiring. Sometimes crowd and performer all sat down together. Sometimes they were the world's slowest mosh pit. But at all times it was, pardon the pun, magical. CORY GARCIA

GARY NUMAN Although the idea of seeing Gary Numan out in the light of day might seem strange, it worked. Although he was set up on the dance-friendly blue stage, he would have been just as much at home as the heavy-rock black stage with the amount of industrial rock he was throwing down. "Cars" may have been the song that most folks wanted to hear, but everything he played sounded great. Would have been cool, however, if they could have booked him for a Nites set at Elysium; that would have been amazing. CORY GARCIA

Recap continues on the next page.

RUN THE JEWELS El-P and Killer Mike's former collaborative side project is quickly turning into the main focus for both men, and with good reason. Not only is the music some of the best either has ever done, but their popularity is only growing. Though they played an early set at 4:15 p.m. on Friday, the crowd was enormous and engaged while the two rapped their way through all the best cuts from their two self-titled records.

They deftly ran through twisting rhyme schemes like the ones in "Sea Legs" and "Tougher Colder Killer," and seemed to be having just as much fun as the audience was. The most emotional moment may have been a rousing performance of protest song "DDFH," but the most fun was probably seeing Killer Mike dancing like a fool at the end of the show after another job well done. COREY DEITERMAN

LOVELIFE So these guys have been opening for Alt-J, which means they've been playing some pretty big rooms. Although they didn't get to play the fest proper, they made the most of their FFF Fest Nites set, making the small confines of Cheer Up Charlie's patio feel like a big-deal rock-music space. Charming and energetic, they kept the crowd moving from beat one 'til the very end of their set.

The biggest compliment I can give Lovelife is that they could have gotten a slot on the Blue Stage proper, where more people could have gotten a chance to discover them. Keep an eye out for the next time they're on this side of the Atlantic. CORY GARCIA


FRED ARMISEN Everyone knows Fred Armisen has a deep connection to musicians, and is one himself. Despite that, I think we all just expected that he would be performing comedy, given the fact that his set was on the Yellow Stage, host of stand-up and spoken-word performances. Instead, he appeared as Ian Rubbish, playing songs from Saturday Night Live sketches, followed by a straight musical set; neither was particularly exciting. For better or worse, it convinced me I'm happier hearing Armisen tell jokes and perform in sketches than I am listening to him play guitar. COREY DEITERMAN

MODEST MOUSE As someone who loved Modest Mouse growing up, it pains me to call them the worst show I've seen at a festival in ages, but it's the unfortunate truth. They were positioned just a short distance from King Diamond, so I split my time between these two musical polar opposites. It was clear which one works better in the context of an outdoor music festival. While King Diamond was fun and energetic, Modest Mouse's music does not translate to a venue like this.

If that were the only problem, though, I'd forgive them, but it wasn't. Their performance wasn't just out of place, it was a lethargic run through a set of songs that could only be appreciated by the most hardcore of fans. Even when they busted into "Float On" halfway through the set, as if dying to get it over with, their most popular song fell flat thanks to a lazy, half-assed performance that sounded more like a cover band than the real thing. What could have been one of the best singalong moments of the festival instead sounded like a bored band sloppily playing music they couldn't care less about. COREY DEITERMAN

THIS IS NOT THE FESTIVAL EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT I Stand for Fun Fun Fun Fest. I'm one of those people who always talks it up and always tells people how great it is and how it's the best festival in Texas. That said, if this was your first visit, just know that this isn't the festival myself and people like me rave about. The new layout, necessitated by the changes going on to Auditorium Shores, made for a festival that was too small for what the organizers were trying to accomplish and featured massive sound bleedthrough.

Add to that the whole line mess on Friday, and it was clear that although they were trying to make the best of an annoying situation, things could have gone much better. As a fan, I'm going to hope/assume that this was just a one-off off year, and everything will be just fine next year. CORY GARCIA


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