Fun Fun Fun
FFF6 in review: Wugazi proves itself worthy of the name
If ever an act were tailor-made for Fun Fun Fun Fest, it's Minneapolis' Wugazi. For a festival built on punk rock, hip hop, and the DIY work ethic, nothing is more appropriate than a basement-bred, labor of love mash-up of the music of Fugazi and the Wu-Tang Clan, two acts that exemplify the DIY spirit more than almost any others.
So it was a good fit for the booking, but how does a personal mash-up project like that translate to the stage? It was a question on a lot of people’s minds—even the official Fun Fun Fun Fest program, assembled by the ironists at Misprint magazine, who made a crack about them just “streaming their MySpace tracks” to a live audience.
The artists behind Wugazi—Cecil Otter and Swiss Andy of the Minnesota hip-hop collective Doomtree—are accomplished stage pros with their individual work, but this was the pair’s first performance of the Wugazi material. It's clear that they haven't spent a lot of time working it live, too—the early part of the set was plagued by some decidedly muddy sound. ("Did that sound fuckin' weird or what?", Swiss Andy asked before explaining that the sheer number of beats on the DJs' computers had bled through.)
That was challenge number one, and the pair corrected the mistake quickly. Challenge number two was whether they could make what might be dismissed as a novelty stick as a compelling live set. For that one it was no contest. Wugazi killed it.
Part of what made the set work was the tools they had to work with: When you're playing to a crowd that grew up on 13 Songs and Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), being able to drop ODB rapping "Oh baby, I like it raw" or that unstoppable "Waiting Room" riff will get heads nodding ten times out of ten. But it wasn't just a couple dudes trading on the crowd's nostalgia for their beloved 90's music. The best thing about Wugazi as a live act on Saturday was their utter fearlessness when it came to deconstructing their material. Mash-ups require a lot of painstaking, meticulous attention to detail, and Cecil Otter and Swiss Andy were more than willing to blow up their carefully-arranged beats into a flurry of chaotic noise if that's what they knew would get bodies moving.
And move they did. The shared love of the music being played is the undercurrent that makes any DJ set successful—the sheer "you gotta hear this song"-ness of an enthusiastic DJ is infectious. When that DJ set is built around an obvious labor of love, designed to attract people who are psyched at the opportunity to hear music they’re already passionate about in a new way, then the possibility to form that connection is more present than ever. That bled through from the Blue Stage on Saturday afternoon during Wugazi’s performance, and it made what started as an after-work passion project from two Minnesota DJs as compelling a live act as any that took the Fun Fun Fun Fest stage on Saturday.