It has now been some three weeks since FNC, FP, and I pulled on our hiking boots and marched down to the disheveled shores of Lady Bird Lake to an area known quaintly as Auditorium Shores for a Saturday at Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin City Limits Festival’s younger, punkier brother. It was something for which I had exceedingly low expectations in regards to music and exceedingly high expectations in regards to annoyance and general discomfort. The only reason we three even entertained the merest notion of spending all day surrounded by a swirling sea of hipsters and retro-punks was because Courtney Barnett was hitting the stage at 3:30pm and it was pretty much (it was actually the following week) FNC’s birthday, and we all knew just how much she worshiped the laid-back stylings of the somewhat sleepy and perhaps a bit stoned Australian who tends to come across as a far funnier and much more accessible version of Lucinda Williams. Courtney readily confesses that she was never good at smoking bongs and how she much prefers the mundane. Just how accessible is that?
We were hoping to catch Barnett’s set, check out a little bit of former SNL trouper Fred Armisen– we had no idea what the hell he would be doing – maybe some other stuff and just get the hell outta there before the nutso fanbase of Modest Mouse hit the shores and threatened public safety and morals, and perhaps hear a bit of their set as we fled the scene and back into the loving arms of the slums of Barton Hills, no Natasha Lyon in sight, merci dieux. But Ms. Barnett’s set had us hopeful, and the presence of J. Mascis and Tim Kerr onstage with Armisen -they did covers of Armisen’s fave songs by the Jam, Big Boys, Dino Jr., etc. – raised hopes just a little bit more. The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die – from Connecticut, no less – replaced Armisen for the better. I kept thinking I heard Broken Social Scene with good measures of dirge bands Tortoise and Codeine to keep the listener off balance, if not completely floored. I would have been satisfied that I’d gotten my $85 worth when they left the stage. I was quite ready to go home and listen to the drunken denizens of Thistle Glen bemoan yet another Longhorns loss and the wisdom of he who is the great Charlie Strong – hallowed is his name, kids. Ranked West Virginia was sure to have spanked them that afternoon. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Have faith I say. Moreover, rather than faith, are you familiar with the concept of patience? They actually won by a couple of touchdowns. Shock. WVU dropped from the top 25 the next day and was never to be heard from again, as happens when you lose to a mediocre team.
I glanced at my fest sked and saw the New Pornographers were up next. Then it hit me – hey, Neko Case is in that band. But I stopped cold there, doubting Thomas as I am – and thought, nah, she’s got her own gig. She surely won’t be on tour with’em. But no – there she was – the fabulous Brill Bruiser front and center, or rather, front and to the left shaking a tambourine and other things sporting gold King Tut tights like nobody’s business, lovely red hair falling off to the side – the Maneater just killing everyone in sight and making them love every minute of it. The band played all or most of new Brill Bruiser LP – which I have since declared the best LP of 2014 – and left me wanting more from them. But…. Home. I could go there now, happy as a lark. $85 well-spent.
But no. First Aid Kit – I’d never heard them or of them before this day – just had to turn out to be a damn revelation – damn them – forcing me to go out the next day and seek out their entire ouvre. Damn those Swedish girls with West Virginia souls and Jack White for bringing them to these shores. How dare you all make a crunchy old man believe in music again – and in addition to their incessant bicycling – get another reason to pardon the hipsters.
Smoking allowed on city property. Heresy. Cigs, Cigars, and, naturally, pot everywhere.
Modest Mouse fans everywhere. FNC led us out of the thickening throng of them. Away we went – smiling, humming – dreaming of using the I-tunes account for the first time in years. God bless them all, for I am too old for this. But away I go. No matter how damn ridiculous I look, or feel.