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Fun Fun Fun Fest: Staying True To Its Roots

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News
Fun Fun Fun Fest prides itself on unexpected antics, seen here at the 2012 Festival

Fun Fun Fun Fest kicks off as at Auditorium Shores starting today.

The festival began eight years ago as a small music showcase in downtown Austin. Since then, it’s become one of the top independent festivals for music lovers. Known for its relaxed and creative atmosphere, the festival now includes comedy, action sports and flying tacos.

Given all it takes to put on a music festival, you wouldn’t expect as much laughter and humor from festival organizers, Transmission Events, this close to their event. But the vibe over at the temporary small east Austin office was anything but serious. It’s clear that fest creators like to have, well, fun.

“We had half-pipe diaper changing stations last year,” says Transmission and Fun Fun Fun Fest co-founder, James Moody. “They are all miniature half pipes. One time we tried to run the stats about how many black t-shirts are at our fest. I would say it’s 65 percent more than that of ACL Fest. I don’t know what it means but I know it’s true [laughing]. So, we could sit here for an hour and talk about all those little differences – it’s one big difference if you roll them all up.

This year, over three days on five stages, about 90 bands will play at Auditorium Shores, from mainstream acts like Snoop Dogg aka Snoop Lion, to indie psych group MGMT, bounce queen Big Freedia, NPR approved Bill Callahan, punk veteransFlag, dance gurus Cut Copy, and '90s rap icon, Ice T. And then there’s sports and a comedy stage with acts like Sarah Silverman, Tenacious D and Patton Oswalt.

The festival has come a long way since its beginning days at Waterloo Park.

“It originally wasn’t a multi-stage system like it became,” Moody says. “Sparsely attended, but by all the right people is kind of what it felt like in the early days. It was like, ‘OK, no one knows if we’re going to make any money doing this, but this feels right,’ because it was all the right people, all the record store nerds. It was all the right people who were serious about bookings and shows in the scene, so we felt like it was the right thing to do."

And even with all the growth, Moody and his team say they try to stay true to the festival’s beginnings.

“We just do small really well,” Moody says.  “I mean, we like the boutique aspect of it, when you’re dealing with 20,000 people a day, as opposed to 80,000 people a day, your conversations are allowed to be more intimate. We have just a unique voice, a different approach to curation and we service a different market of festgoers. I mean, a lot of our festgoers don’t like fests.”

The Transmission team accomplishes it by booking the bands they want. The reunions they’d like to see. The bands they never thought they’d see. And for this group that means a lot of punk, alternative and indie acts you might not catch at other festivals.

And with such an alternative nature to the fest, some might expect problems such as drugs, mosh pits and injuries that have been seen at other music festivals across the nation. But Moody credits the fest’s seeming lack of these issues to Austin, with its thriving music scene.

“I think there is something to be said for community having knowledge of what is to be at a show,” he says. “Having crowd dynamics because you’re at a show three or four nights a week, so you know what the show world is. There’s probably a lot to be said for knowing how to be comfortable in the show."

After this year’s Fun Fun Fun fest, Auditorium Shores will close for renovations, meaning the festival will likely have to find a new home for next year. Moody said they haven’t chosen a location yet, but no matter where the festival is held, the nature of the fest won’t change.

“It remains,” he adds. “No matter how much a sponsor comes in, a stage grows or changes, or we book a big artists like M.I.A., I don’t think the independent spirit really changes all that much. It’s still what is always has been."

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