Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011: recap

Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011 was dreamy. And I mean that. As one of Austin’s prized and annual music festivals, FFF has a lot riding on it. If I were to personify the festival, I might even find myself conjecturing about whether or not FFF feels like she’s living in the shadows of SXSW and ACL. And if she could talk, she might say ‘yes’, but after this year’s FFF, I reckon that ‘yes’ would be followed with quite a few reasons why she likes it that way. And so do I.

Which way do I like it? I like it, it being music festivals at large, precisely the way FFF 2011 happened. It happened like this.

%Gallery-139353%After having crowded Austin‘s downtown but Highway 35-hugging Waterloo Park since the festival’s inception, FFF needed a new home for 2011. I don’t know what sort of politics went on behind the scenes at the FFF headquarters. I don’t know if decision-making people at the FFF Town Hall meetings were enraged or not when Auditorium Shores was picked as the 2011 location spot. But I do know that it worked. It worked well.

As I walked over the pedestrian bridge at South 1st toward the festival’s entrance on the first night of FFF, I stopped mid-bridge and took in the sunset over the water for what felt like the first time since I’ve been spending my time in Austin. The colors, creamy and soft pastel as they nearly always tend to be, spilled over the horizon at the sun’s setting and bled into the white-blue sky like ink dropped in water. The gnats were hoovering over the water and in my face; their silhouettes darted in and out of my periphery as I stared at the calm waters of Lady Bird Lake beneath the perfect sky. And just to my left, there was the festival. All set up and fully in gear, its lights and white tent domes created a carnival-like cityscape at the place where the lapping water meets the packed Texan soil, Auditorium Shores.

Compared to Austin City Limits, FFF’s stature was much more approachable and intimate. Compared to SXSW, FFF’s personality was much less belligerent. And maybe it just means I’m getting old, but approachable, intimate, and less belligerent really works for me now and I think it really worked well for FFF 2011.

Entering FFF was easy–the lines that usually precede a good music festival weren’t there. Then again, we entered in the evening of the first day. The dust kicked up from Auditorium Shores, which is normally a waterfront dog-friendly park in Austin, let loose a haze all over the dimming festival. Festival-goers wore bandanas and other sorts of scarves over their noses and mouths; it was like a music festival shot on a wild west movie set. This may sound like a bad thing, and it certainly wasn’t a good thing, but the dust matched with the scarf-wearing presented a sort of mystique for the festival this year.

Relaxed and spacious, FFF’s crowd still warmly and eagerly embraced the main acts of the festival–Slayer, Public Enemy, Lykke Li, Passion Pit, and others. Public Enemy got into character before their set started and decided to sound check all the way through Four Tet’s set (it was kind of obnoxious). Lykke Li performed a stunning set, completely with billowing smoke, swaying black fabrics, and sporadic percussion, thanks to her affinity for carrying drumsticks in her hands while on stage, ready at any moment to pound away on the nearest drum.

I suspect Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Festival succeeded in teaching many Austinites and travelers alike that a music festival needn’t be overpopulated or over-hyped in order to be worth the ticket price, time, and energy to attend. In fact, I’d say, this one was better for the lack of those two things.

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