For the most part, I'm not a music-festival kind of guy. Over the years I've spent lots of time in various huge fields and parking lots waiting through a bunch of bands I didn't really want to see, so I could check out a handful I really did. I'd had good times at those, even though I almost always seemed to slink home with a bad sunburn afterwards. As I've gotten older, the festivals I thought might be worth spending several ten- or 12 hour days standing around outside with a few thousand other folks grew fewer and farther between.
But when Fun Fun Fun Fest rolled around this year, I figured I had to go. For one thing, L7 recently reformed, and this was the first time in many years that they'd toured. I would have braved a hurricane to see them again. When I found out that Skinny Puppy, Jane's Addiction, Venom and Har Mar Superstar were also on the bill, my decision was made.
I'll preface this by saying that I had a blast. Over all, Fun Fun Fun Fest seemed to be a crowd-pleaser, and was well-organized from what I observed. But any large event that combines live music and lots of people is going to have some odd things going on, and I compiled a list of some of the stranger stuff I experienced.
6. Everyone Seemed to Smoke Weed
For a city with a reputation as a healthy oasis in a state where being physically fit often seems less important than owning a big truck, it appeared that nearly everyone at FFFF was openly smoking weed, when they weren't vaping or having a regular cigarette. I smelled cloves, saw dudes with cigars, and witnessed more pot smoking than I've seen almost anywhere ever. While the minimal security check on entry was a nice change from the near-strip-search concertgoers are subjected to at many venues, it obviously didn't keep anyone from sneaking in drugs. During one of the nighttime shows, I looked next to me and saw a bearded hipster smoking from a small bong. How he hid that without soaking his skinny jeans in rancid bongwater I'll never figure out, but he didn't seem concerned. For all I know, he just openly carried it around, since everyone else seemed to be passing joints and stumbling about higher than kites.
I'm all for legalizing weed, but some of these potheads should consider being a bit more polite, since not everyone wants to smell like Cheech and Chong's van, or wants to be breathing in secondhand pot smoke all day long. I'm "hip," daddy-O, but not everyone in the world smokes grass — even if it seems that way at Fun Fun Fun Fest. It was tempting to just punch a few of the ruder offenders, because what were they going to do? Call the cops? To be fair, the small handful of policemen I saw the entire three days were probably high, too. There may be special "Austin music festival marijuana rules" I'm unaware of. It got pretty irritating, is all I can say.
5. There Was a Lot of Good Food, Including a $136 Hot Dog
The selection of yummy-looking food was a surprising (to me, anyway), and from what I could tell most of it wasn't ridiculously priced. One hot-dog and sausage stand was selling something called a "Wu-Tang Shaolin Duck", which was described as "Smoked duck sausage dressed with 9 spice sweet and sour, cream cheese, fried wonton, and scallions. Two dogs and a side of ???" I can only assume that meant a bowl of diamonds, because otherwise that price is ridiculous. To be fair, the menu stated that it was SUPER LIMITED, with proceeds to benefit Project LOOP, which appears to be a fundraising effort focused on building a skate park in the nearby town of Taylor. I guess maybe that makes a super-limited sausage snack a deal to some folks. I'd probably only be interested if it came with that bowl of diamonds.
4. Costumes. Lots of Costumes.
I was surprised to see a lot of festivalgoers were wearing costumes. In a lot of cases, people were wearing things that may have been costumes, or may have been that individual's street clothes — I've seen grown men grocery shopping in adult-sized onesies with little tiger-eared hoods in Austin, so "desperate attempts to stand out" are common enough there. Even if I disqualify the "trying too hard" pseudo-costumes, quite a few people were still slogging around in elaborate getups that would have won Halloween contests.
As I cynically gazed at the listing for that expensive hot dog, a woman wearing a taco costume shambled by me. A moment later, a tall dude dressed in an elaborate dinosaur costume walked by, followed closely behind by another fellow in a lion suit. At one point during Jane's Addiction, I spotted a couple in matching shark costumes. I kept wondering "Do they wear all that stuff to every festival?" I used to think getting dressed up for one involved finding a cool concert shirt and sliding into my trusty Doc Martens, but I guess things have changed over the last 25 years. Next time I better pack my Liger costume, I guess.
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3. Got Circumcision?
As I was leaving on both Saturday and Sunday, stuck in the middle of an enormous sea of humans moving slowly out the exits, I spotted the strangest concert solicitor I've ever seen. He was a tall, very serious looking guy holding up a tall sign reading "Got Circumcision?"
I've seen a lot of people trying to pass out pamphlets after concerts, but they used to generally take the form of dour-looking religious goblins set on saving us from the soul-withering ravages of heavy-metal music. I avoided the circumcision guy, and it looked like everyone else was trying to as well, but I wondered what he was trying to do. Who was he trying to reach right after a huge music festival? Was he trying to sign uncut guys up for a snipping session? Was he intent on trying to convince other dudes to keep their foreskins if they still had them? I have no clue. Venom played on Sunday, and I would have preferred encountering some old-school religious nuts protesting heavy metal over a sign-wielding stranger with an unknown dick-based agenda. At least the religious people weren't interested in what's in my pants. I hope.
2. Andrew W.K. May Be the Most Inspirational Speaker Ever
Or he may be a real wizard of some kind. Perhaps he's both. On Sunday afternoon, Andrew W.K. gave an inspirational speech under a packed tent. The master of all things party-related has an advice column, and I could see why — he's got a very positive message, and dispensed what sounded like good advice to the large crowd that had gathered to hear him. Some of his material edged into slightly metaphysical territory, leading me to believe he's read some Aleister Crowley along the way; or I'd like to think so, anyway. He comes off as a super-positive party wizard as it is. Everyone around me seemed to be enraptured by his message, which is understandable: It was a very good one about staying true to oneself. Unsurprisingly, most of the people near me were also chain-smoking joints, so that may have contributed to some of the near-spiritual enthusiasm I saw under that tent.
1. The Music Was Awesome
I noticed a lot of silly and odd things at Fun Fun Fun Fest, but the bands I saw all delivered. Jane's Addiction put on an amazing show Saturday night, and Skinny Puppy blew their audience away the night before. On Sunday, L7 put on a great show, one that was a reminder why they were one of the '90s rock bands who really made that decade special, and to me their appearance really made the festival worthwhile. After them, Venom...Well, they "Venomed," bringing a nice dose of "Corny Satanic Metal" as only a band like Venom can. My group left that show early, though, so I may have missed a goat sacrifice or something. We cut out and headed to The Sidewinder, a club down the road where Har Mar Superstar was appearing. Har Mar may look a lot like Jon Lovitz, but the man busts out with a voice that's transcendent. He had the packed crowd jumping and dancing during his whole set.