Fun Fun Fun Fest keeps its own beat

Hannah Smothers

Rising from the still settling dust, or mud, of this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, comes the seventh annual Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin’s premier “anti” music festival.

“Nothing against other larger fests, they’re great for what they are and I go to many of those myself,” FFF Founder Graham Williams said. “But there are a lot of people that are looking for something a bit less hectic, more intimate and more up their alley.”

Founded in 2006, FFF serves as an alternative to the bustling crowds and mega-headliner bands of ACL.

The festival didn’t always occupy such a sizable piece of real estate, Auditorium Shores. FFF originated in the much smaller Waterloo Park but made the move to Auditorium Shores in 2011. The lineup of the 2011 festival included several widely recognized bands.

“We’ve grown each year, but part of booking bigger bands has been due to being in a larger park,” Williams said.

The 2012 lineup features even more big “headliner” bands, including Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Run-DMC and Girl Talk. These bands may not be comparable to the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Neil Young and Crazy Horse, but bigger names are somewhat of a diversion from Fun Fun Fun’s debut as a festival dedicated to underground or alternative acts.

“This year redefines Fun Fun Fun in a lot of ways,” Jeffrey Ferguson, KVRX 91.7 FM web editor and DJ, said. “This year freaking De La Soul is going to be rocking at Auditorium Shores. That hypocrisy is pretty obvious, but I think it was their goal from the get-go to book bands such as these.”

There are several ACL veterans playing at this year’s FFF, including Santigold, who played at ACL last year.

“While we’re a very different fest, there are always some acts that we both will want to have booked on either side,” Williams said. “Bands may come through after playing ACL and want to do something different the next year and we may end up having them play Fun Fun Fun that next year instead, but we don’t book enough of the same genre of bands for the lineups to ever look too similar.”

Transmission Events, the company behind FFF, and C3, the company behind ACL, are two of the many booking agencies that control Austin’s venues and festival grounds. Transmission Events was founded in 2007, shortly after Fun Fun Fun’s inaugural festival and, according to the company, refers to itself as “tucked comfortably below the mainstream.”

“There’s always some amount of competition between companies in the same industry, that’s healthy though,” Rosa Madriz, director of artist relations for Transmission Events and former KVRX station manager, said. “It keeps everyone on their toes.”

According to Williams, the competition between festivals and companies is minimal.

There are several key factors that set FFF apart from ACL. One of the most important differences is the division of acts onto genre-based stages.

“We want the crowd at every stage to love every band, so we have a bunch of hip-hop and DJ acts playing back-to-back,” Williams said.

While the division of acts onto genre-based stages seems practical, fans hoping for a more diverse experience may be disappointed. Music festival enthusiasts commonly list the discovery of bands they wouldn’t normally have encountered among the top reasons they love the mega-concert events.

This is less likely to happen if fans camp out at their favorite genre’s stage all day.

These genre-based stages include the Black Stage, which features mainly punk and metal bands; the Blue Stage, which features several major hip-hop acts; the Yellow Stage, with stand-up comedy acts; and the Orange Stage, which includes an array of genres but focuses mostly on indie-rock groups.

The addition of hip-hop and metal bands brings a much different breed of festivalgoers to Auditorium Shores compared to those who come marching into Zilker Park.

Ferguson attended both ACL and FFF in 2011 and noticed a major difference between audiences at both festivals.

“Fun Fun Fun is either for all the people who ‘used’ to think ACL was cool, or don’t give a shit about stuff like that and just enjoy music festivals,” Ferguson said. “ACL draws people from all over the country, while FFF still feels like more of a local shindig.”

Printed on Friday, November 2, 2012 as: FFF keeps own beat