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Fun Fun Fun Fest Returns to Auditorium Shores

Festival moving slightly for ninth year downtown, Nov. 7-9

By Chase Hoffberger, 9:02AM, Tue. Jan. 14

The Sexy Sax Man salutes festival headliner Slayer at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011
The Sexy Sax Man salutes festival headliner Slayer at Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011
photo by Shelley Hiam

After months of deliberation and speculation, local concert promotions company Transmission Events announced that its marquee event, Fun Fun Fun Fest – now set for Nov. 7-9 – will move a portion of its proceedings from the soon-to-be revamped main lawn at Auditorium Shores all the way... across the street.

The musical festival, which has spread out on the waterfront plot the past three years, will do so even more in 2014. Ceding its mainstage area – the Orange stage and comedy tent – to a somewhat controversial $3.5 million redevelopment financed by rival ACL Fest promoters C3 Presents, FFF retains the rest of its annual footprint to the west, home to its hip-hop, indie, and metal stages, not to mention the skateboard half pipe.

From there, it spreads to Butler Park, the plot of grass and concrete walkways adjacent to the Long Center and Palmer Events Center across Riverside Drive. Right now, the plan is for FFF to maintain all five of its stages, but nobody at Transmission would reveal any specific plans or conceived maps as to their placement.

“We’re still negotiating with the city about what needs to go where and what makes the most sense,” reveals Bobby Garza, Transmission’s general manager. “Our intention is not to reduce our stage model. It’s important for us to keep all those things in our footprint.”

Garza also allowed that this Auditorium Shores/Butler Park arrangement remained up in the air as recently as Christmas, though Transmission’s nerves were settled somewhat two weeks prior when members of City Council directed city staff to figure out a way to fit the festival into the space during a meeting on Dec. 10.

“There are multiple council members who expressed concern that they get Fun Fun taken care of, and to do it in a pretty expedient manner,” says Garza. “We had a conversation from the dais with [Parks and Recreation Department] director [Sara Hensley] and the council explaining the urgency and telling them we’re behind and needed to get stuff wrapped up sooner than later since we were already behind our traditional schedule.

“PARD staff responded and helped us a get a solution pretty fast.”

Garza, who assumed his post at Transmission in July after seven years on staff for Councilman Mike Martinez, added that Transmission never truly considered any other locations for the festival, which has settled quite nicely into its space as the third largest music festival in this city of perpetual music festivals behind South by Southwest and C3’s Austin City Limits Music Festival.

“The important part of our brand is that Fun Fest is a festival that happens in the urban core of the city,” he explains, alluding in part to FFF Nites, free aftershows available to festival ticketholders. “That was an important part that we made sure to maintain. Knowing that we have a particular footprint that requires a certain amount of acreage, there’s not a lot of options within the city.

“We want to stay where we’re at. It’s hard for a festival to move locations multiple times and remain sustainable as a business.”

This will be the second time Fun Fun Fun Fest has been forced out of its comfort zone. In 2011, construction in Waterloo Park moved the festival across the river after five years, something Transmission principal James Moody mentioned when he spoke with the Chronicle’s Kevin Curtin Monday.

“This is definitely a compromise,” he said, emphasizing that the move should be considered a temporary solution and not a “standard for the future.” “Festivals don’t want to move. You want to stay where you are for consumer confidence. It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for a minor adjustments, and this is a major adjustment.”

Moody added that the trouble Transmission’s had locking down a venue has affected its track for ticket sales, as the company usually opens its box office before Christmas. This year, first–round tickets go on sale Feb. 12, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

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