FFF Fest Founder announces Sound on Sound Fest coming this fall

sos2_smFun Fun Fun Fest founder Graham Williams, who left Transmission Events and FFF Fest to start his own company, Margin Walker presents last month, has announced plans for a new festival Sound on Sound Fest. Location, lineup and tickets will be announced on June 28, but the event has set dates: Nov. 4-6.

Graham Williams of Transmission on Thursday October 29, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Graham Williams of Transmission on Thursday October 29, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Williams’ departure from Transmission left the fate of FFF Fest, a celebration of rowdy punk and metal, hip-hop and cutting edge alt-rock that has a cult following among music nerds and adventurous listeners of all stripes, up in the air. But Williams reassured fans of FFF’s eclectic vibe that he had something in the works, a new festival that would be very similar, “almost exactly the same as” Fun Fun Fun Fest.

 » RELATED: 10 years of triple fun: An oral history of FFF Fest

Like FFF Fest, the new event is named after a song by Austin’s late punk funk kingpins, the Big Boys and the festival dates are set for the same weekend when FFF Fest traditionally took place.

When the shakeup at Transmission, which also included the departure of company co-founder James Moody, was revealed last month, Bobby Garza, who remained with the company as general manager, said we could expect an announcement about Fun Fun Fun Fest this June. On Thursday morning, there was no update about the festival’s status.

 

 

Former Transmission partner James Moody weighs in on shakeup from Africa

James Moody, left, and Graham Williams of Transmission photographed at their offices on Thursday October 29, 2015.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
James Moody, left, and Graham Williams of Transmission photographed at their offices on Thursday October 29, 2015. Jay Janner/American-Statesman.

As news broke this week that local music booking powerhouse Transmission Events was undergoing a radical restructuring and former partner Graham Williams was launching a new company, Margin Walker Presents, James Moody, one of Transmission’s co-founders, was notably absent in the conversation. Turns out Moody, who is also a co-owner of popular Red River St. club, the Mohawk and the creative strategies agency Guerilla Suit, has been traveling in Africa.

“It’s true that I have left TE and FFF, but am still working with Graham on stuff,” Moody said via email on Wednesday morning. “I very excited for him and the crew, they are all my friends.”

MORE FUN FUN FUN FEST: THE FIRST 10 YEARS: The oral history

Without Williams and Moody in the mix, the future of Fun Fun Fun Fest is uncertain. On Tuesday, Bobby Garza, who remains at Transmission Events as the company’s general manager, said there will be an announcement about the festival in June. Even with all the change, he  remains optimistic about the Transmission’s future, he said.

On Tuesday, Beau Armstrong, CEO of Stratus Properties, the real estate company that now owns Fun Fun Fun Fest and Transmission Events, said his company remains committed to its entertainment ventures. 

Look for Fun Fun Fun Fest announcement in June, promoters say

There was plenty to do and see at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2016.
There was plenty to do and see at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015.

After yesterday’s announcement that Graham Williams and James Moody have left Transmission Events, the fate of Fun Fun Fun Fest, the promotion company’s signature event, which turned 10 last year, has been unclear. Bobby Garza, who remains general manager for Transmission after the split, said today that we can expect an announcement about the festival in June.

Garza, who retained most of the Transmission production team in the reorganization, says it’s business as usual for his crew. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. He remains optimistic about the company’s future.

“I came to Transmission because I love the stuff Transmission does and I love the brand and I still think there’s promise with that,” he said. “We’ve grown not just on the booking side but also on the events side and I think we’ve professionalized that side of the business quite a bit as evidenced by doing things like Fader Fort this year. Those things are exciting to me and it’s definitely the space that I want to keep moving in.”

Beau Armstrong, CEO of Stratus Properties, the real estate company that now owns Transmission and Fun Fun Fun Fest, said his company remains committed to its entertainment ventures. “Stratus is in the hospitality business, and unique, Austin-focused live music events are an important component of our strategy,” he said. “The company generated $19.8 million in entertainment revenue in 2015. At ACL Live alone we hosted 210 events with an estimated attendance of 245,000 people. In addition, ACL Live sold 168,506 concert tickets during 2015.”

MORE FUN FUN FUN: THE FIRST 10 YEARS. The oral history

On Monday, Jason Maurer with the Austin Parks and Recreation Department said the city and the Fun Fun Fun Fest “have been in communication.”

“At this time the festival is reviewing dates available (at Auditorium Shores), and has been in discussions as well with Long Center and Palmer about potential conflicts,” he said via email.

Last year Fun Fun Fun Fest put early bird tickets on sale in February. While it’s possible Transmission could announce details for the November event next month, it does seem late in the game to get a full-scale festival off the ground.

Tuesday morning, Williams’ new company Margin Walker Presents launched a website and set up shop on Instagram and Twitter. The company, billing itself as a “truly independent, boutique promotions, marketing and production agency,” has taken over all of Transmission Events club bookings in Austin, San Antonio and Dallas.

Williams said he also plans to work on festivals and expects to announce soon the first Margin Walker Presents-booked festival, an event he said will be “almost exactly the same as” Fun Fun Fun Fest. He said the new festival will debut this year.

Fun Fun Fun Fest founder Graham Williams launches new company; Future of FFF uncertain

TINA PHAN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN. 11/09/14. Concertgoers walk through the Fun Fun Fun Fest entrance on Riverside Drive on Sunday, November 9, 2014. With Auditorium Shores under construction, this year's Fun Fun Fun Fest occupies only part of the lakeside park, with the event grounds angling south into adjacent Butler Park.
TINA PHAN/AMERICAN-STATESMAN. 11/09/14. Concertgoers walk through the Fun Fun Fun Fest entrance on Riverside Drive on Sunday, November 9, 2014.

Graham Williams, who founded Fun Fun Fun Fest in 2006, has left Transmission Entertainment, the parent company that produces the festival. James Moody, another key player in Transmission and Fun Fun Fun Fest, has also left the company.

Williams, who began his career in Austin music at the downtown location of Emo’s in the 1990s, has founded a new company called Margin Walker Presents (named after a Fugazi song) focused on music promotions and booking. The business is launching with a crew of nine employees, roughly half the Transmission staff, who will move over.

Stratus Properties, a local real estate company whose holdings include the W Austin, the music venue ACL Live and a new smaller music venue 3Ten at ACL Live, now holds full ownership of Transmission Entertainment and Fun Fun Fun Festival. According to Williams, general manager, Bobby Garza will remain in place at the reorganized Transmission Events.

“I don’t think we always saw eye to eye,” Williams said of the split Monday night. “(Stratus) is a really big company. They build sky rises and we do live music. It was hard to understand both sides of that. They’re good people, just two different worlds.”

James Moody, left, and Graham Williams of Transmission photographed at their offices on Thursday October 29, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
James Moody, left, and Graham Williams of Transmission photographed at their offices on Thursday October 29, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Without Williams or Moody in the picture, the future of Fun Fun Fun Fest, which turned 10 last year, is up in the air. The festival, held at Auditorium Shores since 2011, has not announced a date or a location for 2016 and no tickets for this year’s event have been sold. The festival put early bird tickets on sale in mid-February last year for 2015.
On Monday, Jason Maurer with the Austin Parks Department said the city and the festival “have been in communication.”

“At this time the festival is reviewing dates available (at Auditorium Shores), and has been in discussions as well with Long Center and Palmer about potential conflicts,” he said via email.

Representatives from Stratus did not respond to a request for comment about the status of the festival on Monday.

Stratus and Transmission formed a partnership with Stratus taking an ownership stake in the events company in 2013. Last month, representatives from Stratus told the Statesman they had tapped a financial advisor to “explore a full range of strategic alternatives” for the company.

In addition to producing Fun Fun Fun Fest, Transmission Events runs a robust year-round concert promotion business, booking shows in venues all over town, notably the Mohawk, Barracuda (formerly Red 7) and Sidewinder (formerly Red Eyed Fly). Williams says his company will take over the bookings formerly handled by Transmission and will continue to work in their signature clubs.

Williams says he also plans to continue booking festivals and we can expect an announcement soon for the first Margin Walker Presents booked festival, a event he says will be very similar, “almost exactly the same as” Fun Fun Fun Fest. He says the new fest will debut this year.

“We’ve been doing what we do for a long time and we’re pretty good at it and people love it and they want us to continue doing it so there’s no reason not to,” he said.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to correct a misspelled name and a date.

The case of the missing Fun Fun Fun Fest golf cart

The recently celebrated Fun Fun Fun Fest is, as any live music fan knows, the most off-the-wall music weekend in Austin. Taco cannons. Luchadores. Intergalactic jazz odysseys, twerking lessons and Grimes: Everything is just a little weirder in Auditorium Shores in November.

That’s why, amid the photos of skate ramps, mosh pits and marriage proposals, one picture posted to the fest’s Instagram account Nov. 10 stood out. Apparently, a golf cart went missing from the fest and was later found outside of Side Bar.

The gram’s caption reads:

Just wanted to let everyone know that we found our missing golf cart safe and sound. It disappeared from Auditorium Shores Sunday night and we thought our little buddy was lost forever. Apparently, someone drove it to Sidebar for a post fest nightcap. Although this may not be legal and we don’t condone any of this sort of behavior, we would like to compliment the culprit on their taste in bars, and thank them for supporting the#defendredriver neighborhood.

Amid the post-fest scramble, organizers found out the cart was missing via text message.

“It put an interesting cap on the weekend for sure,” a FFF representative said in an email. “Yes, the cart was rented festival property, so while it sounds humorous, this was an act of theft, and is being handled as such.”

According to the festival, the golf cart was found by employees of Side Bar and was in fine condition.

“We definitely reported it missing, since it was technically stolen property,” the rep said.  Police are aware of the theft and who stole it, according to the festival.

Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas on Friday November 6, 2015, at at Auditorium Shores. (Erika Rich for American-Statesman)
Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas on Friday November 6, 2015, at at Auditorium Shores. (Erika Rich for American-Statesman)

Though the theft was no laughing matter, a missing golf cart found outside a bar does seem like something out of a tell-all rock ‘n’ roll biography. On a scale of 1-10, how metal is this case of a purloined vehicle?

The festival’s rep says, “I hope (the thief is) ready to pay for the ‘Damage, Inc.’ That’s what you get for ‘Breaking the Law.’  We don’t want to sound like some Emperor, telling people what they can and can’t do, but we’re not happy about it, as someone could have been hurt and stealing from local businesses is lame. On a scale of Poison being weak metal and Slayer being awesome metal, we’d give him or her a ‘Devil Wears Prada,’ at best.”

Never change, Fun Fun Fun. See you next year. In the meantime, relive this year’s fest with a video recap.

Say farewell to FFF 10 with this awesome recap video

This Fun Fun Fun Fest recap video includes many of our favorite moments from the tenth anniversary event that wrapped up on November 8 at Auditorium Shores. Highlights include Shamir’s fabulous Saturday afternoon set, the sweet proposal in the middle of Peaches’ spectacularly obscene theatrics, high-flying shots from the skate ramp and mosh pits aplenty.

Venom slays on FFF Fest Black Stage

Out of all the Black Stage headliners this year at Fun Fun Fun Fest, only Venom felt like a true headliner, like a destination you had to see. Coheed and Cambria might be the most popular and NOFX certainly rang true to FFF’s punk heritage, but when it came to commanding a festival crowd, Venom slayed them all. Like Judas Priest and King Diamond last year, they were committed to putting on an actual show, one that took advantage of a large stage. They wanted to bring pyro to recreate some of their classic gigs, and while they weren’t able to, their over-the-top exuberance provided all the fireworks they needed. And they had good reason to give it their all – this was their first show ever in Texas!

Venom perform Sunday at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores in Austin. (Kyser Lough/For American-Statesman)
Venom perform Sunday at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores in Austin. (Kyser Lough/For American-Statesman)

To commemorate the occasion, during “Welcome to Hell,” Cronos would occasionally yell “Welcome to Texas” in the chorus. Despite the cool temperatures, perfect for battle jackets with huge patches of the Welcome to Hell cover, the crowd ate it up. While two of Venom’s original members, guitarist Mantas and drummer Abaddon, have long been out of the band, current guitarist Rage and drummer Dante kept Venom raging like Satan figured out how to stop the aging process. Dante in particular was a joy to watch, moving flamboyantly not unlike Motorhead’s Mikkey Dee. Those who’ve listened “Bloodlust” enough times to memorize Cronos yelling “Mantas!” before the first lead break must have freaked when he yelled “Rage!” instead, but Venom are professionals and he didn’t pause. And Rage can rip, nailing Mantas’ lines with a crisp, heavy tone. Cronos heckled him for his shaved head; that didn’t stop Rage from going full force on “Long Haired Punks,” Venom’s tribute to their punk influences that brought the speed to their heaviness. Still, Cronos was the center of attention, never missing an opportunity to wield his bass like a victorious sword on the catwalk. His snarl hasn’t gone out, and he never sounded as evil as he did on this rendition of “Black Metal.” That song gave birth to the genre of the same name, and most of its adherents are still trying to live up to it. Cronos, more than anyone in the band, knew how important this show was. You can tell it in his face, excited and ready to kill with a touch of joy.

Venom stuck to the faster classics for the most part, with the exception of “Buried Alive” and “Warhead,” two of their slower songs. “Buried” still retains its hallucinatory, nightmarish power years after it was first released on Black Metal. They made “Warhead” more thunderous by extending the pauses of silence between attacks and having Dante bring the band back in with booming toms. Dante was also the backbone behind “In League With Satan,” the first song of Venom’s encore, making Cronos’ chant of “EVIL! IN LEAGUE WITH SATAN” hypnotic and far from subliminal. “Witching Hour” closed the night, and when Cronos yelled “all hell breaks loose,” the crowd was one step ahead of him. This is the show metalheads wanted from FFF, and Venom gave it to them. A ten year anniversary crowned by a legendary band’s first trip to Texas – how could it get better?

‘What is meant to be will be.’ Lauryn Hill triumphantly closes Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015

Lauryn Hill closes Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015. Erika Rich/For American-Statesman
Lauryn Hill closes Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015. Erika Rich/For American-Statesman

Ms. Lauryn Hill’s Fun Fun Fun Fest set was almost identical to her ‘Austin City Limits’ taping on Saturday night, with two important differences. First, she hit the stage at 8:27 p.m., only 12 minutes after start time and with ample time to play the full 90 minutes she was booked for before the 10 p.m. park curfew. Second, she played a breath-taking, true to the original, version of “Everything is Everything” right before closing with show stopper “Doo Wop.”

The song was one of over 30 on a set list circulated before the Saturday taping that clearly carried over to the festival performance. “Let’s play a little of this one,” Ms. Hill said to her band before they launched into it.

Maybe it was a whim, but it was the perfect selection.

IMG_4186
Lauryn Hill headlines the final night of Fun Fun Fun Fest. Erika Rich/For American-Statesman

“Everything is everything/What is meant to be will be/After winter, must come spring/Change it comes eventually,” she sang boldly with all her heart. With Austin’s skyline shimmering in the background, a field full of fans lifted their voices to join her and as they did, those words captured the beautiful serendipity of the moment.

Hill was tapped to close the fest less than two weeks ago when headliner D’Angelo suddenly cancelled. Her performance turned out to be one of the fest’s happiest accidents, but it was never a sure shot.

“I’d be lying if I said this was my most confident booking ever,” festival founder Graham Williams said after the show. Williams was fully aware of Hill’s inconsistent track record and her history of punctuality problems. But risk-taking is a definitive quality of Fun Fun Fun Fest, something that sets it apart from “many of the other cookie cutter fests.”

“We love Lauryn Hill and thought it was the right move,” he said. “We were right…she destroyed. Maybe the best set of the fest and one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.”

As with Saturday night’s performance, there were a few awkward and musically challenging moments, mostly during “the couch section” at the beginning of the show. But Lauryn Hill the astounding singer, the lightning-tongued rapper, the band-leading maestro and the incredible artist reveling in her reinvigorated vision showed up with radiant energy to take the fest out on a triumphant note.

“I don’t know if this is her comeback moment or not,” Williams said, “but whatever footing she was looking for before, she found it and we were proud to have her on our stage for our ten year anniversary.”

Fun Fun Fun Fest’s last weird wonder? BadBadNotGood’s intergalactic jazz odyssey

What better way to end Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015 than a jazz concert? It’s not like motivational speaking from Andrew W.K. or twerking lessons from Big Freedia are any more (or less?) eccentric programming choices for Austin’s most unhinged music festival.

While Ms. Lauryn Hill, Odesza and Venom closed out the big Orange, Blue and Black stages, respectively, the humble lil’ Yellow Stage tent said “See ya next year” with Canadian nu-jazz group BadBadNotGood. Best known of late for “Sour Soul,” their excellent collaboration with Ghostface Killah, there wasn’t a Wu Tang member or much genre mashing Sunday night. Just smooth, buttery tenor sax and Tasmanian Devil drums showed up, with a hint of a rock band’s charisma.

BADBADNOTGOOD perform Sunday at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores in Austin. (Kayser Lough/For American-Statesman)
BADBADNOTGOOD perform Sunday at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores in Austin. (Kayser Lough/For American-Statesman)

It’s a testament to the power of FFF that a Sunday night closer can sound like a montage of Brooklyn subway scenes from movies.

The emotional gamut was still run. Icy blue lights frosting a nighttime chill eased the set into the gate amid cool-guy sax riffs and slinky cymbals. Drums veered punk at one point. There was a cover of Flying Lotus’ “Pretty Boy Strut.” Sometimes the players came together to sound like rock bottom, and other times euphoria.

Consistent throughout the set: a note of psychedelia. Perhaps buoyed by their incongruity with the rest of the fest’s lineup, BadBadNotGood asked to take us to another galaxy, and embraced the pure ecstatic thrill of their moment with every count-in. Screams were urged. They played under projections on the tent’s ceiling that ranged from acid-colored static to outer space starscapes to pulsing organisms under a microscope.

There weren’t hooks or electro-beats or twerks or stage dives. But BadBadNotGood served good natured cool to wind down a wild weekend. At what other set would people cheer at an encore for a sexy sax line?

Future Islands gives Austin its all in last U.S. show for a while

It’s common for performers to try and connect themselves to the audience of whatever city they’re in on any given night — “Hello Cleveland!” — but it felt like a deeper level of sincerity when singer Samuel T. Herring took the stage with Future Islands at Fun Fun Fun Fest Sunday night and told the Austin crowd, “I feel like we’ve gone places together.”

Future Islands perform Sunday at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores in Austin. (Photo by Kyser Lough/American-Statesman)
Future Islands perform Sunday at Fun Fun Fun Fest at Auditorium Shores in Austin. (Photo by Kyser Lough/American-Statesman)

Indeed. As Herring explained later, when the band first visited Austin in the summer of 2008, they played to almost no one at a nightclub and a skate park. “There was like 25 people between the two shows,” he recalled. But then Fun Fun Fun booked the band for an early-afternoon slot on the main stage in 2011, and then South by Southwest awarded the group its coveted Grulke Prize for rising-star acts after a big week in March 2014. No surprise, then, to see a huge throng pack the Blue Stage for what was another Future Islands milepost occasion, as it turned out.

Near the end of the band’s 11-song set, Herring revealed that Fun Fun Fun would be “our last show in the U.S. for a long time.” He sounded relieved at the prospect of taking a break from touring after two whirlwind years that saw the Baltimore synth-pop quartet progress from promising up-and-comers to a firmly established national act. Herring expressed eagerness to finally work on new material with keyboardist Gerrit Welmers and bassist William Cashion (supplemented on tour by drummer Michael Lowry).

It felt like these special circumstances drove Future Islands to an especially energized performance. Granted, Herring’s captivating stage presence is his trademark at every show, but on this night his endless kinetic flow of full-body twists, jerks, hops and thrusts seemed to be kicked up a notch as he led the band through favorites from last year’s “Singles” album such as “Light House” and “Seasons (Waiting on You),” as well as older tunes including “Balance” and “Tin Man.”

Herring urged everyone to dance cathartically on the final number, “Vireo’s Eye” from the band’s 2010 album “In Evening Air.” Nearly everyone obliged, drawn in by the frenetic, hypnotic pull of the music and Herring’s irrepressible spirit. Future Islands has earned the break, and they’ll be welcomed back whenever they return, ready to go places together again.