Scratching your musical itch

Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011 Growing Pains + Photos

Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011 edition has come and gone, and while the dust has settled (literally), a look back at what has become one of Austin’s hottest festivals showcasing scores of indie bands sprawling genres that appeal to audiences as diverse as the festival’s lineup.

Relocating Fun Fun Fun Fest from the friendly confines of Waterloo Park to a much larger venue Auditorium Shores, was met by little skepticism by some of us who have grown to love the comfort and convenience of the smaller setup. A setup that gave us relief from the larger festivals that aren’t as quite as forgiving when trying to experience as much as you can at a festival with the ease of accessibility. Would FFF Fest still be able to maintain that feel that we’ve come to love so much about the event? Would the grown spurt be handled well enough technically and operationally that the quality of the fest not be compromised? And the dust? Most of us dealt with it years ago at ACL Festival and the thought of repeating the experience weighed heavy.

I should begin by stating that my approach to the festival experience has changed quite a bit over the past few years. Being that I really enjoy experiencing my favorite bands and live music in general in smaller venues, the idea of standing in a field in mid day watching a band run through a set that in some situations doesn’t replicate their club performance in many ways, just doesn’t appeal to me much. My approach to festivals is catch the handful of bands that I really do want to see and hope it translates well enough, and spend the rest of the time trying to experience other artists that might not be of extreme interest to me, but have built themselves a certain reputation or “buzz”. That, and catching up with peoples, and enjoying some beverages and the occasional tasty food offerings. Tasty food offerings a definite must at a festival and Fun Fun Fun Fest probably had the best selection of food that I have experienced at a festival.

I was only able to attend the last two days of the event, and as I entered the wind swept compound of Auditorium Shores, the dust was almost enough for me to consider my even staying for too long. The constant grit in my beverage, and the idea of trying to eat any food in the dust storm, played heavy on my mind, but the pending performance by M83 outweighed any decision to leave.

Throughout the course of the afternoon few bands achieved holding my attention for very long. The middle of the afternoon presented two, of which I was hoping to gain more interest in, tUnE-YaRdS and Ra Ra Riot failed to change any previous opinion that have on the recorded material. I know..gasp!

The pleasant surprise of the day, not really knowing much about the band was The Joy Formidable. I believe that there have been some comparisons to a local trio fronted by an axe wielding blonde front-woman, and understandable to a degree, but the energy, stage presence, and full band sound was impressive for such an early set.

M83 provided a great sounding set covering a fine selection of tracks from the band’s most recent release Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, but the band’s sound and visual performance would have benefited from a later set time after sunset.

Girls continue to impress as they blossom into a band that embraces the challenge of the larger stage with a sound that has evolved from quaint, quirky, cute jangly band from California into a full sounding rock band, incorporating a little psych with loud guitars.

This year my interest in the half-pipe and BMX ramp was a bit more than in the past, and it was a nice change of pace for shooting photography than the crowded photo pits where photo assigned wristbands at times sported nothing more than an iPhone for shooting. It’s great to see more interest by other media sources in the local fest, but the organization and security of the photo areas was a bit inconsistent.

In the interest of keeping this fairly short…

Sunday bands that failed to move my interest into to the plus category. Mates of State and We Were Promised Jetpacks. Always heard great things, but maybe on a smaller stage?

Kudos to Ted Leo for working through an almost non-existent voice and delivering his always infectious, high energy, sets of post-punk from one of today’s hardest working in the business.

Cannibal Corpse…that’s right. The opportunity to see something that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise, and what a weird, humorous experience. Not to offend anyone, but wow. And that guy must  pay thousands to his chiropractor to keep that neck in shape.

Consider me a new fan of Boris and once more impressed with the progress of Blonde Redhead in regards to their live show.

Sure, the dust was an incredibly unpleasant unfortunate part of the event. The reported exclusion of many of the local media photographers from the last two acts on every stage seems a bit of a slap in the face of the locals that have been supporting the festival since it’s infancy, and hopefully will be revisited next year.

The food was amazing, the lineup continues to grow and bring bigger acts, and the feel of the park still maintained it’s comfort while providing pockets of diversity that allows the attendee to experience something completely different in every corner of the park.

Now what are the reported numbers and facts about FFF Fest 2011? Just released:

2011 Factoids

  • FFF6′s economic impact on Austin can be seen HERE
  • FFF grew by over 40% in 2011, while still remaining progressive, intimate, creative, and relevant to the independent music scene
  • FFF is made up of a mix of homies from all over -  Austinites, Texans, U.S citizens, and International homies (45%, 41%, 13%, 1% respectively)
  • FFF added over 5.3MM to the local Austin economy and over 700 jobs
  • FFF employed 217 artists this year across the fest and NITES
  • FFF got greener!  Alternative transportation use cut emissions in Austin by 1,348 lbs (Amovens).  Over 3,000 bicycles were parked on site.  Over 4,000 people were shuttled to and from the park!
  • Pitchfork Stream was viewed by a kujillion people

Check out the rest of our photos by Loren Root and myself…

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