Seven years ago, Austin became the birthplace of a little mistake named Fun Fun Fun Fest. Now, our city’s darling festival is all grown up, as last year saw a record attendance of over 15,000 'fun'atics converging in the name of independent music. What festival founder Graham Williams considered to be “kind of an accident” soon became the go-to festival for anti-festival goers.
As the booker for iconic Austin venue Emo’s, Williams saw a number of artists come through Austin one weekend that had nowhere to play, so he decided to stage an alternative event for them at Waterloo Park. As more bands were added to the bill, the show became a mini-festival. “That was pretty much it,” Williams explained. “Didn’t plan it beyond that, but everyone in town loved it and wanted us to keep doing it.” Teaming up with James Moody, then the booker for the Mohawk, the two created Transmission Events, and seven years later the festival continues to exceed everyone’s previous expectations.
Last year, the festival not only expanded its lineup to three full days and nights of shows, but also relocated to Auditorium Shores. Producers took full advantage of the additional space, adding more food trailers, bigger stages and new attractions like the beloved taco cannon and a wrestling ring. Now that the festival has had a chance to grow into its new home and producers have figured out all the kinks of the venue switch, it is now prepared to embrace a successful seventh year. This year, the festival has the privilege of hosting a reunion of the legendary hip-hop group Run DMC. “That was such a long shot; I’m still amazed it came together. Sometimes you just have to go for it,” Williams said.
Aside from big name headliners, FFF Fest prides itself on creating a platform to showcase the talent of smaller, unknown artists. Williams recommends watching out for bands like Twin Sister, Baauer and Joyce Manor — getting up early to catch the openers is worth it when they’ll be on everyone’s radar in six months.
Despite its recent growth, the festival has maintained an independent spirit and intimate atmosphere, and Williams plans to keep it that way. “It’s like having a band you liked and saw at Beerland. They’re not worse because they got bigger and played Mohawk, often they’re even better. We’re a fine wine aging — or a decent can of Jolt Cola.”
While there’s always room for improvement, FFF Fest is content with its level of success. “We’ll never be ACL or other 75,000 fests, as there just aren’t 75,000 fests that like the music we book and will continue to book,” Williams says. Rest assured; you won’t find either Muse or the Black Eyed Peas headlining FFF Fest, as the goal remains not to sell a certain amount of tickets, but rather to cater to a certain audience that Williams and the rest of the crew at Transmission Events are wholeheartedly a part of.
“In the end, we know our crowd and what they want, and it matches what we want and where we’ve ended up,” Williams said. Such a successful formula doesn’t stop the crew from giving people something different to look forward to each year. When asked if they have any surprises up their sleeves Williams responded, “Nothing I can talk about right now — but yes.” Get ready for FFF Fest’s lucky year number seven.