I saw The Internet, Thundercat, Cashmere Cat and Neutral Milk Hotel on day three of FFFFest.
The Internet performed very early in the day. They were given a short set- just 40 minutes long- but they made the most of it. Syd the Kyd got every person standing within 30 feet of the stage to dance, wave or sing song lyrics on command, which shows impressive control for an artist so young.
Dressed in the same outfit as she was the day before, the Odd Future vocalist showed that she just did not give a f*** by performing a set heavily biased towards a ganja-smoking crowd looking to chill and get loud.
Most songs had highly technical instrumental interludes with impressive performances from Christopher A. Smith on the drums and Stephen Bruner aka Thundercat on the bass. Stephen Bruner’s little brother Jameel jammed on the keys both in the Internet and during Thundercat’s performance. The Internet played “Sunset”, “SDGAF”, “Dontcha”, and more.
Next up was Thundercat. If the Internet was a smooth cruise, Thundercat was a musical joyride full of unexpected solos and incredible energy from all players.
Thundercat’s performance consisted of three musicians on stage: Himself, his little brother on the keys, and a drummer [name] on drums. Thundercat’s solos during “Daylight” looked like they were taking him through musical ecstasy, at least by the look on his face when hitting insane combinations of notes.
Thundercat showed his competence in voice as well as bass accomplishment. Although he relied less on his voice, and sounded unsure of himself when using it, the crowd ate up any vocals he tossed their way. With a surprising mix of soprano-vibratto and deep soulful tones, Thundercat conquered the crowd with the sparse lyrics he did sing.
Cashmere Cat performed at 3:00 on the blue stage, 20 minutes after Thundercat ended. A different world entirely opened up when the Norwegian producer began mixing. Instead of three live musicians, the entire responsibility of pleasing the crowd rested on Cashmere Cat’s angular shoulders. With some visible tension, he pulled off a good show.
Playing instrumental hits such as “Mirror Maru”, “With Me” and “Rice Rain” in between remixes of songs like “Miguel-Do You” and “Party Girls” by Ludacris, Cashmere showed that he can create compelling climaxes live as well as in-studio.
His only communication to the audience beyond the music he played and his body language was a flash of two fingers, signifying peace, briefly at the beginning and end of his set. It was a good show that might have benefited from some degree of structured lighting.
Neutral Milk Hotel was the last act I saw. I have no recorded images of them because they requested no cameras be used while at the show. Whether or not this pertained to media was not made clear.
Anyway, NMH’s performance was one of the most appreciated I had seen to date. It wasn’t the best performance I saw from a purely technical or energetic standpoint. I will say that they played their best songs to the best of their ability and did performances their way, whether or not it was easily digestible to everyone listening.
Neutral Milk Hotel did not try to please the crowd. Some fans standing ahead of me were driven away when NMH played dystopian white noise for a good minute or two. They played what they wanted to play and, even when begged for an encore, gave the fans a lullabye as a final song. Perhaps that song, “Engine”, was more fitting to close than an intense, fully-orchestrated blowout. NMH doesn’t do what other bands do.
To imagine the diversity of music possible and realized by this group, take a moment to look at their lineup.
- Jeff Mangum – lead vocals, guitars, bass, drums, percussion, organ, keyboards, tapes (1989–present)
- Jeremy Barnes – drums, piano, organ (1997–present)
- Scott Spillane – trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, euphonium, guitar, horn arrangements (1997–present)
- Julian Koster – accordion, musical saw, bowed banjo, organ, bass, keyboards (1997–present)
All of those members and a few others performed at FFFFest. Their songs included most of the material from their two full-length albums, but presented with ever-morphing on-stage lineups and instrument changes.
At one point, the entire audience was singing the words “I love you Jesus Christ”. It was surreal, but I joined in too. That was only one part of the wacky “The King of Carrot Flowers” song, out of the entire wacky set.
At another point, the entire audience was waving lighters in the air because they weren’t recording the concert with a phone in their hands. It was nice.
That sums it up! Check back later for further content and reviews from Fun Fun Fun Fest.
By Nicholas Randall