Five bands you either know or don’t know about (FXFF Day Two)

Listening Parties
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photo / Kristin Hillery Hisssss! 

Day two of Fun on Repeat Fest kept up Saturday’s momentum, even making a few improvements like the switchover of Stage Two from hardcore to old-skool punk and a mysterious, new, replenishing tray of meat, cheese, olives, and grapes backstage. Rock ’n’ roll!

So to tell you things I liked about the festival again would be a waste of everyone’s time. Instead I want to point you towards some bands that merit checking out. Of course Cat Power played. So did Battles. And Ted Leo and Mates of State and Diplo and MC Chris and Car Stereo (Wars) and Riverboat Gamblers and Against Me! and the reunited Murder City Devils. That last one’s important and I’m sure is worth writing about somewhere. In fact, every band I just listed made a strong showing at the Fest. But those bands have received a decent amount of hype as it stands. What defined Sunday for me was five slightly lesser-known bands who really kicked some Fun into the Fest.

Mothfight

Stage Three: If Mothfight’s only release to date weren’t a 7” record holding exactly two songs, I’d tell you that you need to be listening to them right now. I spent a good chunk of this weekend listening to some of Austin’s finest rock outfits, and they’re entertaining of course, but they don’t come close to the striking originality this band exudes.

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photo / Chad Hanna 

Let me emphasize that I’m talking specifically about originality in Austin’s music scene. If you look at Mothfight in a broader context, you could place their music somewhere between the spazzier side of Animal Collective and the orchestragasms of Arcade Fire (doesn’t Mothfight’s name kind of evoke both of those bands, too?), but the music never sounds derivative. It’s joyous, unpredictable, interesting and a whole lot of fun.

When people review my performances in Fishboy, they always include a list of instruments I played, and that gets kind of annoying, but I’m about to do the same thing – so forgive me, gods of rock writing. Within the bounds of 45 minutes, the band managed to pull out guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, saxophone, toy percussion, violin, banjo, singing saw, glockenspiel, samples, and a host of electronic this-and-thats. And with seven people on stage to man those instruments, while simultaneously freaking out, clapping, screaming, and generally finding ways to make you shit your pants, there’s something to be said for the band’s texture.

And it’s thoughtful music. The songs are frenetic but not haphazard – you know that every screech is deliberate. (That being said, the band was having some non-deliberate sound problems at the Fest, but those kinks weren’t enough to detract from the performance as a whole.) Mothfight is a taste of a kind of music we don’t get so often in this city but that we really should be exploring. For a town that’s allegedly keeping itself weird, we have an awful lot of bands that just sound like The National.

Cave Singers

Stage One: OK, so I only caught the last song of their set because they were playing at the same time as Mothfight, but I saw the lead singer playing a washboard with a maraca and singing like a weird Bob Dylan who learned folk music by listening to Clinic. Enough for me to recommend this Seattle band. If their other stuff is boring, I ain’t liable.

Celebration

Stage One: If you want an explanation of what this Baltimore band is about, visit their MySpace page. There’s a lot of discussion about the Dionysian mysteries, which… I dunno…

But! Celebration (good band, dumb-if-symbolically loaded name) is good, old female-fronted, organ-driven psychedelia. And the lead singer, Katrina Ford, has this floor tom sitting next to her that she randomly smacks around. I’m never gonna say no to random floor tom.

Ocote Soul Sounds

Stage Three: By their third song, Ocote (oh-COAT-eh) Soul Sounds had told us to take a moment to think about trees, because “once you cut them down, they’re gone. Take a moment to marvel at nature’s majesty and wonder.” Then they launched into a song about the border patrol and immigration issues.

If this sounds heavy handed, that’s because it is. But the music itself is mostly instrumental, and the lyrics that do appear are in Spanish, so that makes all the preaching workable in its way. Aside from that it’s really groovy Latin funk fronted by the flutist who brought you the Antibalas collective and plays on TV on the Radio albums. Somehow being a hipster with a political agenda just seems more acceptable when you’re playing Latin funk.

Clap!Clap!

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photo / Kristin Hillery Clap!Clap! 

Stage Three: Judging from the size of the crowd, chances are you already know something about Clap!Clap! Don’t bother listening to their MySpace; you’re missing the point. What I witnessed was eight people bouncing around, clapping (of course), sometimes not even playing any instruments, and just having a huge dance party. It was wildly entertaining. They’re supposed to sound like the Feint or the Rapture, and I guess they do, but namedropping isn’t gonna help here. What you need to know about this band is that they’re gonna bring a killer dance party to the stage, and it is infectious.

Stage Three was today’s winner for variety and innovation, which are key parts of what make the Fest so Fun. Nobody half-asses it at Fun Fun Fun Fest, the smaller bands especially, because there’s more at stake. The Fest is intimate. It’s homegrown. It’s a great way to actually be exposed to new bands (without having to make a 20-minute trek across Zilker in the September heat).

I’m intentionally romanticizing, here – our lungs got their piss taken out by dust clouds, the food selections were kind of dull, and hipsters are douches, but there’s still a lot of good that can be said. And the Fest was a positive experience for me, so that’s what I thought I’d share. So if you haven’t given these bands a listen, try ‘em out. And if you haven’t given Fun Fun Fun Fest a chance, start making your arrangements for next year. You’ll thank yourself later.

Comments

Chris Trew's picture
TOP staff

I heard that Clap Clap was breaking up. Fuck!

JM's picture

They are! But they’re playing one more show in December… the 8th I think.