Festivals have been steadily gaining popularity all over the world in recent years, and the larger ones have expanded tremendously. However, as a result of the high ticket prices and relatively remote locations, a few oppurtunistic entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the backlash against the inaccesibility of events like Bonaroo, Lollapalooza, and other big-draw, weeklong festivals.
One notable example of this comes in the form of Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, which is now in its second year. Last year’s event featured over 30 bands on three stages, for a modest charge of $10. Many local and nationally acclaimed acts were featured, from punk rock bands like the venerable Circle Jerks to Austin favorites such as the Octopus Project and the Riverboat Gamblers. Large festivals aim to please as many music fans as possible by providing an incredibly diverse cross-section of acts, thereby minimizing the liklelyhood of alienating a potential customer.
However, the drawback to this approach is that booking such a large number of acts means paying all of them, and providing a substantial amount of infrastructure. Even in the case of events like South By Southwest, which use mostly existing clubs to showcase the artists, the number of people whoever can see a given act is compromised by, if nothing else, fire codes which restrict how some people may be inside a club safely at a given time. On the other hand, festivals like Fun Fun Fun Fest serve as an intermediary between the larger festivals and one-off club shows by serving a relatively small subset of the musical crowd with a lot of bands. Thus the “bang for your buck” of a large festival is preserved, although some people are still more satisfied by the relatively low ticket price, which is more in line with a club charge for seeing at most four to five bands in one night.
Fun Fun Fun also brings a somewhat different aesthetic to the standard “carpet bomb” approach discussed earlier. By appealing to a more specific (some would say discerning) crowd, the fans are more likely to be happier with the experience, therefore making them likely to return. Since their acts do range from relatively unknown to national touring acts, new musical introductions are welcome and often. The 2006 festival was (somewhat hilariously) divided into three stages according to loosely defined genres: Rock, Punk, and Electronic. While these definitions seemed a bit inaccurate, (for example, anyone whoever has seen Peaches live would probably have placed her in the Punk or possibly the Electronic stage before the largest Rock stage, but the genre-based stage distinctions are no longer quite so brazen in the upcoming 2007 iteration) most would have considered the 2006 Fest to be quite a success.
This year’s festival has expanded quite a bit, most obviously in that it is now a 2-day affair. It still takes place in Austin’s own Waterloo Park, and there are still three stages (their genres still based along the previous year’s lines, without calling them such outright) but the tickets are a bit pricier at $54 a pop (which does fall in line with the 75 bands now playing). This festival now appears to be in direct competition with the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival, but with a narrower focus. I enjoyed last year’s show immensely, and the acts seemed much more tailored to my tastes than ACL, not to mention costing less than a tenth of the hard-to-obtain ACL day passes. Also, since FunFunFun happens in November, the absurd dust storms and (this year) fires are no longer a threat. “What!” you say, “A festival in Texas that’s comfortable and, well, fun?” I say check out the bands and see what piques your interest. If punk rock, electronic dance music, or just plain old rock-and-roll seems up your alley, then FFFFest is a good bet.