Delivering its usual triple dose of fun, Fun Fun Fun Fest proved to be a festival unlike any other for the ninth year in a row, Friday to Sunday, November 7th to 9th. Despite a couple of hitches in their giddy-up, namely a will call line that stretched nearly across the river from the festival’s new location in Auditorium Shores and Butler Park in Austin, Texas, the festival ended up remaining the area’s most unique and versatile festival, disseminating music, comedy, and other fun upon the crowds.
The main audience at FFF is, not coincidentally, the main demographic that has been moving in droves to the cultural oasis of Austin: predominantly 20-somethings and people in their 30s. Also not coincidentally, the festival was bigger than ever this time ‘round with thousands of attendees in a city that has had a population explosion in the last two years. This particular Austin demographic is drawn to the independent, quirky, and nostalgic, the things that keep Austin weird. Thus, FFF delivered. Dividing up the genres between four stages, metal, indie, folk, and rap music poured out of the park for 3 days. Headliners Modest Mouse, King Diamond, alt-J, Judas Priest, Neutral Milk Hotel, Girl Talk, and Wiz Khalifa brought in that nostalgic flair and interest in the new. King Diamond and Judas Priest were the two biggest spectacles, with elaborate sets, falsetto, and costume changes. At one point, Rob Halford rode out on a motorcycle on stage, donning his fourth or fifth coat change, only it was gold lamé this time. Before the headliners came out though, the stages were filled all day long with a variety of sounds from Ginuwine, Mineral, Gardens & Villa, Nas, and the beautiful, melodic sisters of First Aid Kit, among many others. First Aid Kid was a surprisingly high-energy show for music normally classified as folk. The Swedish sisters were crowd-pleasers with the perfect pitch and metallic gold tops.
FFF is not just a music festival, but a comedy one too. A good one. The yellow tent, or comedy stage, was jam-packed with people wanting to see Portlandia/Late Night’s Fred Armisen (who performed with his band), John Waters, the Air Sex Championships and other big wigs or up-and-comers. A particular favorite were the sets by two of the stars of Silicon Valley, Kumail Nanjiani and Thomas Middleditch. On the HBO show, Nanjiani certainly has good one-liners, but seeing him perform live gives you a glimpse of how clever and sharp-witted he is.
Tacos, Wrestlers & More
The beauty of FFF is that, sure, the main incentive for the festival is its wide variety of music and comedy, but the real thing that makes FFF so different from other festivals is its little bonuses when you’re not glued to a stage. Bonus treasures include local, delicious foods from both brick and mortar restaurants and food trucks, craft beer stands, a spray painting station for kids (young and old) to get creative, live mural paintings, half pipe skaters, wrestlers in a real wrestling ring, a ‘taco cannon’ that is really a taco machine gun, and good people watching.
So, sure, the festival got pretty big this year, but it didn’t lose its local charm. Or its tacos.
-words: Nicole Kern
-photos: Chris Becker and Rick Kern