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Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012’s 20 Best Sets

Refused / Photo by Getty Images

Friday, 5:15, Black Stage

“How are you all doing out there in that fucking dust bowl?” asked Converge frontman Jacob Bannon as the Salem, Massachsetts hardcore vets got into the homestretch of their ferocious sundown set. As the first day of the festival progressed, the sounds coming from the Black Stage grew aggressive, along with the crowds. But Converge were playing to two, a wave of friends standing behind them on stage, and to the sea of them that extended in front of them. Both knew every word. And, as Converge tore into recent single, “Empty On The Inside,” they had stoked the pit so intensely that the dust had completely filled the sky.

Friday, 7:05, Black Stage

So many conversations could be overheard leading up to this, festivalgoers curious to know if the emergence of Laura Jane Grace had in any way changed the Against Me! live experience. Grace and her bandmates were behemoth, sprinting through a long parade of singles, each more enthusiastically received than the one before. There were smiles on stage and smiles out in the crowd, and, no matter how far you strayed, you could hear it from the other side of the park.

Friday, 7:55, Blue Stage

While most of the attention on Friday night went to headlining rap pioneers Run-DMC, it was Bun B’s set on the Blue Stage that proved the most memorable. At first marred by some technical difficulties, the UGK co-founder (and recent Rice University professor) found his footing immediately and put on a seamless, sweat-less, career-spanning clinic that included dedications to fallen partner Pimp C, as well as Biggie, 2Pac and Houston legend DJ Screw, all punctuated by a closing, call-and-response rendition of perhaps his duo’s finest moment, 2007’s “International Players Anthem.”

Saturday, 1:45, Blue Stage

“I feel like a turd in the rain.” With that announcement Daughn Gibson began his midday Blue Stage set, a head cold somehow managing to further enrich the Pennsylvanian’s toffee’d baritone, bolstering one of the more entertaining performances of the day. Gibson, a former truck driver and drummer for Pennsylvanian stoner-punks Pearls & Brass, told SPIN recently that he spent much of his teen years falling in love with musical theater. His time along the lip of the stage has served him well: Gibson boasts a very natural, often cheeky command of the space, his Olympian poses and poker-faced stage banter at marvelous odds with the nocturnal, monastic feel of his country-informed, sample-based solo debut, All Hell.

Saturday, 2:45, Orange Stage

A few songs into their mid-afternoon outing, Braid frontman Bob Nanna asked the sizable crowd in front of him if any of them had also come out for their show in downtown Austin very early that same morning. He received a roar in response, many of the devotees in attendance having come back for more just hours later. And with good reason: The beloved, recently reunited Illinois post-hardcore foursome offered up an effervescent, spring-loaded set that leaned heavy on fan favorite, Frame and Canvas, from 1998. Nanna, was particularly chatty with the crowd between songs, and the effect was not unlike witnessing the reunion between friends: Everyone was clearly happy to see one another again.