AUSTIN — Comic actors singing R&B and goth metal. Sri Lankan female rappers. Hip-hop icons.
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Day 2 of Fun Fun Fun Fest on Saturday offered a little something for everyone and culminated with a high-energy, bass-thumping dance set from M.I.A., The British-Sri-Lankan rapper/performer.
Now in its eighth year, the festival — which draws around 15,000 fans a day — bills itself as a platform for underground indie, punk, metal, dance and hip-hop. The groups play on one of four stages spread across the banks of Colorado River across from downtown Austin.
But as the festival has grown, so have its headliners. Friday, Snoop Dogg and former Smiths co-leader Johnny Marr led all shows. On Saturday, it was M.I.A., Ice-T and Tenacious D, the goth-metal brainchild of Jack Black.
The comedy tent drew some of the thickest crowds, as fest-goers crammed inside the small tent and spilled out each entrance to catch the acts. Doug Benson attracted a large crowd and steady laughs for his exploration of smoking dope in hotel rooms, and Craig Robinson (Darryl on TV’s The Office) was backed onstage by a full R&B band. Robinson himself played the keyboard and belted out improv takes on classics like I Will Survive and Barry White impressions.
Later, Black and Kyle Gass took the stage as Tenacious D, a satirical rock duo that’s been playing and recording for more than a decade. After opening with Rize of the Fenix, Black greeted his hosts. “I like to call it Tejas,” he said, using the Spanish pronunciation for Texas. The crowd sang along and swayed to songs such as Deth Star and the group’s big hit, Tribute.
One of those crammed in the crowd was Nick Ochoa, 29, who had driven up from San Antonio for the festival. “I couldn’t breathe,” said Ochoa, a longtime Tenacious D fan. “But it was worth it,”.
At another stage, rap legend Ice-T reunited his rap-thrash metal hybrid group, Body Count, for a loud, boisterous set. As fans pulled themselves up on stage and flung themselves back in the crowd, Ice-T strutted around stage, singing hits like KKK B**** and There Goes the Neighborhood. The crowd appeared lukewarm to the rap swagger and guitar solos, until the group launched into a stylized tribute to Suicidal Tendencies’ Institutionalized, which drew some of the loudest cheers.
Later in the night, Ice-T performed again — this time alone — and reverted back to what made him famous: old-school gansta rap. He seemed more comfortable in this showing and the fans reacted with sustained cheers as Ice-T ran through crowd favorites such as I’m Your Pusher and O.G./Original Gangster.
Atlanta-based indie-rock favorites Deerhunter milled out a set of psychedelic alt-rock tunes, meandering guitar solos and feedback, performing such signature songs as Revival, Nothing and Hazel.
Next on the same stage came Maya Arulpragasam, better known as M.I.A. The set began with the sound of helicopter rotors followed by the recorded voice of Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor and classified document leaker, complaining about the media’s lack of trust. Then M.I.A. Bounded on stage, dressed in a shimmering gold pants suit and dark sunglasses.
The bass thumped a little too loud, at times drowning out the rapper’s lyrics. But the crowd jammed regardless, dancing to hits such as Bird Flu and Paper Planes, the single that shot M.I.A. Into superstardom. Her mix of Hindu spiritual chants and sitar loops laced with politically charged rap got the crowd of several thousand dancing and waving their hands.
For her final song, M.I.A. Cleared the stage and wailed into the mike alone during Sexodus, one of her recent releases. It was one of the more soulful moments of the set — and the day.