Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011, Part 2: Punk Ruled While Slayer Still Wore Metal's Crown
Band Photo: Slayer (?)
November 5th, 2011—Day two of Fun Fun Fun Fest exemplified Texas’ extreme weather conditions. Rare rains are great for picnics, but eventually raise havoc on the land. The hottest summer in the recorded history of the United States revealed an Auditorium Shores that resembled a Western ghost town rather than the green knolls of a public park.
Dust masks and bandanas veiled the features of the day’s attendees, giving the festival an appearance part Old West and part zombie-virus film. Those in attendance deserve credit for braving such abhorrent conditions. Weather conditions are beyond the control of Fun Fun Fun’s staff, although I can’t help but think something could have been done to curb the dust problem. No matter who was to blame for Friday’s short Misfit’s set, no controversies marred Saturday’s festivities.
A death metal bludgeoning assaulted my ears upon entering the venue. I asked myself, “Why would a comedy stage play host to a death/grind band?” I peeked around the corner to see this group was Captured By Robots. The one-man-several-robots group was part Mystery Science Theater 3K and part Gwar. Eyeballs and intestines protruded from front man JBOT, who carried on silly conversations with jean-jacket clad, double-necked guitar playing robot GTRBOT666. An ensemble of a disembodied, dreadlocked drummer, DRMBOT 0110 with a macabre brass section and “Monkey Shines” percussion kicked out a hilarious mix of punk, metal, grind, Dubstep and pop covers. Two of the more memorable songs include Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot.”
Reunited Texas thrashers Dead Horse relayed a vulgar display of metal power on a day dominated by punk. Said band appeared in fine form, especially considering this was only their second show since a fifteen-year hiatus. Fifteen years is a long time to be away from the music scene, but this Houston band has a strong following in Texas, so many voices were heard cheering on their brand of thrash and grind. Clouds of dust outlined the pit. The group played a set culled from their late eighties/early nineties output. Dead Horse displayed one of the heaviest sets of the weekend.
Negative Approach represented hardcore punk at its best. The Detroit, Michigan act was instrumental in helping form hardcore. Genres gain greater definition as time goes on, but in the case of Negative Approach, first is best. The group looked youthful and spry, especially for a group that started thirty-years ago. The speedy numbers the group produced provided a glimpse into the music that introduced moshing and thrash/crossover to the metal world. Punks, metal heads and skaters (the park set up a skate ramp) showed their pit appreciation for one of the angriest forms of music in the world.
While Negative Approach represented the fury-filled evolution of punk rock, The Damned represented the onset of punk. The Damned was the first UK punk act to release a single. The group also looked quite nimble, boasting an additional five years to Negative Approach’s thirty. Regardless of their legendary status, Dave Vanian stated, jokingly or not, the Damned would have opened for Danzig. There was a sense of theatrics to the goth punks’ look. Wearing a tux shirt, suspenders, gloves and slicked-back hair, front man Dave Vanian appeared part Dracula and part Phantom of the Opera. Not as robust as Glenn Danzig, Vanian possessed a voice that surely influenced the deep, vampiric tones of goth music. Guitarist, Captain Sensible looked entirely early punk, sporting a beret, zebra-print tights and sun glasses. Sensible’s guitar playing was some of the best of the fest, not only in rhythm but in solos as well. Simply put, he ripped shit up!
November 6th, 2011—Darkened, cloud-covered skies, characterized not the weather but the “Rain in Blood” vibe that would follow. The morning rains packed the dust, which resulted in cleaner lungs and eyes. Rappers Odd Future were the lone bastions of controversy, jumping off stage to fight members of the crowd after being pegged with a bottle.
NOLA legends, Eyehategod instilled the festival with a down-tempo perspective that was mostly overlooked. The group masterfully switched between pummeling crusty grind and tar-caked doom. Guitarists Brian Patton and Jimmy Bower often joined together to kick out energy-filled jams. Williams screamed harrowing tales from “Sister Fucker” and “White Nigger,” and “New Orleans is the New Vietnam” gave the crowd a glimpse of the group’s forthcoming album. The group has teased the crowd with this track for a while now, so the anticipation for new material is quite high.
Due to Alex Webster popping out his knee cap, backstage attendees murmured questions about Cannibal Corpse’s playing status. Rabid-tongued George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher told Metal Underground the group would play, and offered Webster a shoulder to lean on to ascend the stage. From the backstage area and the photo pit, Fisher sounded horse and wasn’t hitting the low notes, but others assured me that he was proficient at a distance facing the stage. Rob Barrett and Pat O’Brien played with lop-sided volume levels. Additionally, they opened with new tracks, an ominous sign for classic material.
By the third song, the most brutal band in the world showed why this description is true when they pulled out the “Tombs of the Mutilated” classic “I Cum Blood.” Their set catered to material from the “Tombs” era up to their most recent album, “Evisceration Plague.” Their trademark stop-n-go tempos were highlighted in new classic “Priests of Sodom.” Hair twirled in circular-saw-cutting fashion while the group played latter classics “Sentenced to Burn” and “The Wretched Spawn.” Murder, rape and torture were the theme when the group ended with the classic trio of “Hammer Smashed Face,” “Fucked with a Knife” and “Stripped, Raped and Strangled.” The familiar, repeated pounding beats and lyrics, “They think they know who I am,” brought the crowd to frenzy. Closing with this track is a bit redundant to repeat Cannibal Corpse offenders, but it never gets old!
As a friend mentioned, Cannibal Corpse should have headlined the Black Stage. This honor was bestowed upon art rockers, Blonde Redhead. CC definitely should have played ahead of Boris. Not to take anything away from the Japanese heavy rockers, but Cannibal Corpse is a much bigger name in the States. Boris did rock out, though, opening with some of their fastest songs. The mixture of lights, fog and a gong created a weird vibe. It was like putting a biker club inside a Buddhist temple. Girl rockers are always fun, which was no different with Wata. Takeshi Ohtani added another unusual element to the mix, playing a double necked, bass/guitar combo instrument.
After a couple of tracks, we headed for the Yellow Stage to watch Henry Rollins do spoken word. This was an opportune time to leave, for Boris had switched to a dancy, electronics style. In front of a crowd too big for the Yellow Stage, Henry Rollins told yarns about visiting countries Uncle Sam doesn’t like and meeting Dennis Hopper. We cut out of his set about ten minutes early to catch metal-head comedian, Brian Posehn. He told jokes about handling babies, his abstinence from weed and of course, “fart and wiener” jokes.
The narrative format of Posehn and Rollins helped ease ringing ear drums, but halted the action. Slayer would raise the energy level beyond any of the weekend’s acts. What may have been the biggest sheet in the world covered the stage, while symbols of light crisscrossed inside the stage. Suddenly, security pulled the sheet down, , as Gary Holt, Dave Lombardo, Tom Araya and Kerry King—in that order, chugged out “World Painted Blood.”
Exodus guitarist Gary Holt made this performance special. He filled in for steadfast, Jeff Hanneman. He brought added electricity, moving around the stage and raising his guitar above his head in dramatic fashion. His string-burning solos were spot on and followed Kerry King’s wailing whammies to a tie. First timers fret not over seeing Slayer without its original lineup because there will always be more Slayer tours, but seeing a member of Exodus join with Slayer was truly monumental.
Slayer’s set lacked any of the mishaps experienced by Danzig. The sound was incredible, Tom Araya sang the best I’ve heard him. He even attempted the scream for “Angel of Death,” something I had not seen in a while. Of course, using a delay helped. Dave Lombardo showed why he’s one of the most respected drummers in metal, firing off double bass kicks like Nazi bombs raining down on England. Speaking of bombs, one can’t fully comprehend the heaviness at the beginning of “Mandatory Suicide” unless experienced live.. He nailed every fill, including the tumbling beat near the end of “Angel of Death.” Each musician played every note as close to studio sound as possible. The only disappointment came with Kerry King not attempting the wicked whammy bar solo near the end of “Spirit in Black.”
Set wise, Slayer played career-spanning material. The only album I can’t recall being represented was “Divine Intervention.” They played all the classics—“Hell Awaits,” “Rain in Blood,” “South of Heaven,” “Black Magic,” “Seasons in the Abyss,” “Dead Skin Mask,” “Hallowed Point,” and many others. “Live Undead,” their nightmarish take on abortion, was a rare treat. Their hour-and-a-half surely left no one saying, “I wish they had played (fill in the blank).” Slayer still rules and showed why they are the kings of metal!
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