FFF Fest memories: That time Weird Al needed a Segway

"Weird Al" Yankovic, who has won three Grammys performs the first day of Fun Fun Fun Fest 2010 at Waterloo Park Friday evening, Danielle Villasana/American-Statesman
“Weird Al” Yankovic, who has won three Grammys performs the first day of Fun Fun Fun Fest 2010 at Waterloo Park Friday evening, Danielle Villasana/American-Statesman

The tenth anniversary of Fun Fun Fun Fest is set to go down this weekend at Auditorium Shores.  We’re rolling out a series of behind the scenes stories from the fest’s history. In 2010, the fest, still located at Waterloo Park, expanded to three days, adding a Friday night show from parody rocker Weird Al Yankovic. The performance itself was universally lauded as excellent, but there were challenges putting it together.

As told by…

Max Gregor: Director of production, started as a stage manager in 2006..

James Moody: Partner in Transmission Events and Fun Fun Fun Fest.

Graham Williams: Partner in Transmission Events, founded Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2006.

Booking Weird Al was an off-the-wall move even for Fun Fun Fun Fest. 

Graham Williams: (We thought it) would just blow the hipster population’s mind if our headliner was Weird Al Yankovic instead of whoever you expect to play our festival. Because everyone has a moment when they like Weird Al in their childhood … You might not buy a ticket if he comes through, but you would totally watch him at a festival and how cool and quirky it would be?

People gather to watch "Weird Al" Yankovic perform Friday evening, during Fun Fun Fun Fest 2010 in Waterloo Park. Danielle Villasana/American-Statesman
People gather to watch “Weird Al” Yankovic perform Friday evening, during Fun Fun Fun Fest 2010 in Waterloo Park. Danielle Villasana/American-Statesman

Festival organizers were surprised when Weird Al drew a disproportionate number of families with kids to the park. After the show, the hardcore fest received a slew of complaints about the opener, comedian Chris Hardwick.

Graham Williams: There were angry parents who were like, “My son had to sit through this Hardwick jerk and he wouldn’t stop saying curse words.”

Technically, it was a complex performance. 

James Moody: His production was probably one of the most insane that we’ve done to this day. Overall it was just a full-on Broadway performance in Waterloo Park.

One of the more difficult requests on the rider was a Segway. Yankovic rides one of the upright movers on stage during “White and Nerdy,” recreating a scene in the video for his parody of rapper Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’.”

Graham Williams: It was so hard to find a Segway in Austin and the one company found out what it was used for and then they were insulted because they thought it was making fun of Segway riders.

Max Gregor: No, it was actually the opposite. The impression that I got was that they were kind of blissfully ignorant on that front. … I had flagged down the Segway group while they were riding around Austin. … We sat down and we were talking about it and I was trying to explain, “Weird Al comes out on stage on a Segway.” … In my mind immediately, he’s like hilariously making fun of Segways or something — It’s Weird Al.

And I got finished explaining this and they were like, “You know what, this is so great because we’ve been looking for an opportunity to show people how cool Segways are and if we could get on stage at a major music festival, then man, people are going to be riding Segways all over this town.”

I was like, “Yeah, totally.”

Even when they showed up. I remember I was waiting nervously, it was like 20 minutes before Weird Al was going to go on. I was like, “Where are they?” And then over the fence line I see four helmets moving…and then they come in and they’re all riding on their Segways through the festival like “Yeah, we’re at a festival now.”

 

Author: Deborah Sengupta Stith

Deborah Sengupta Stith has been hanging out in dimly lit corners of the city soaking in the music scene for almost 20 years. Twitter: @deborific

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