The Austin Chronicle

Sound on Sound Fest’s Renaissance

By Kevin Curtin, June 28, 2016, 10:00am, Earache!

Sound on Sound Fest has staked out a one-of-a-kind location for its debut. The new music festival, booked by Fun Fun Fun Fest founder Graham Williams and produced by Barracuda co-owner Johnny Sarkis, sounds off Nov. 4-6 at Sherwood Forest Faire, a Renaissance site in Bastrop County complete with castle, jousting arena, and stockades.

The scenery sends you back in time, but the headliners announced this morning are decidedly modern: dream-pop partnership Beach House, local bottle rockets Explosions in the Sky, and electronic rock duo Phantogram. The trio of acts serve as marquee toppers for the three-day event, which also stars rap phenomenon Run the Jewels, electro-pop Canucks Purity Ring, Australian songstress Courtney Barnett, explosive noise trio Death Grips, and ATL rapper Young Thug.

The remainder of the 80-act bill leans heavy on punk (Descendents, Flag, Youth of Today, Dead Milkmen, Thee Oh Sees, Fidlar, Metz, Protomartyr), and indie rock (Mac Demarco, Guided by Voices, Bully, Car Seat Headrest, STRFKR), with smatterings of rap (Big Boi, Wale), metal (Carcass, Dillinger Escape Plan, Baroness), DJs (Boys Noize, A-Trak), and emo (Thursday, Cursive).

Less classifiable notables include onetime James Brown impersonator turned tear-jerking soul showstopper Charles Bradley, reunited Touch & Go Records standouts Girls Against Boys, avant-garde bassist/producer Thundercat, and Monkeywrench, the garage-punk superband featuring Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and Steve Turner combined with Austin’s Tim Kerr, guitarist for the Big Boys, whose song “Sound on Sound” serves as the fest’s namesake.

“I did make a conscious effort to not overspend on a mega rock star,” said Williams on Monday of Sound on Sound’s booking strategy, which echoes his FFF Fest ethos minus grandiose acts featured in recent years like Judas Priest and Jane’s Addiction.

Williams split from Transmission Events, the concert promotions business he founded with FFF Fest co-owner James Moody, in May, leaving the company and the brand rights to his former fest in the hands of investors Stratus Properties. FFF currently hangs in limbo, not having announced any 2016 programming. Williams, who’s launched a new booking enterprise called Margin Walker, says that his budget for Sound on Sound is similar to what he had to work with when booking FFF.

“We definitely want to book lots of up-and-coming acts,” he continued. “There’s a lot of newer bands – ones that have come about in the last decade and are really strong – especially at the top. Once you dig down a little deeper, there’s a lot of classic old-school stuff that everyone’s into as well.”

In addition to Explosions in the Sky and, in part, Monkeywrench, Sound on Sound pulls heavily from local ranks with cocaine sludge trio American Sharks, Afrobeaters Hard Proof, melodic punks Radioactivity, indie-prog outfit Boyfrndz, party-folk freaks Calliope Musicals, jazzed-out hip-hop collective Magna Carda, electro poppers Night Drive, dreamgaze trio Moving Panoramas, the muscular soul rock of Leopold & His Fiction, beat maestro Boombaptist, conscious rapper Protexter, disco fixer Orthy, thoughtful femcee Anya, dream rocker Emily Wolfe, no-wave band US Weekly, and ATX/SATX hardcore quintet Illustrations.

Sarkis, who runs beverage sales at a variety of local and national festivals through his company Fun House Services, is responsible for the lightbulb moment of installing the music fest at the Ren faire habitat, which sits 45 minutes east of Austin on Highway 290.

“I’ve never seen it done before,” says Sarkis. “It’s a super interesting and unique space that will be fun for us sci-fi and fantasy nerds. Now we just need to figure out if we should name the stages after Lord of the Rings cities. Mordor would be a good name for the stage that has punk and metal.”

Tickets for Sound on Sound are now on sale. Three-day GA passes are $169 plus tax and shipping, weekend Treat Thy Self (VIP) passes – offering expedited entry, exclusive food and drink options, and luxurious amenities – hike to $445 plus tax and shipping. Onsite camping runs $115.

Comedy acts, panels, and sideshow attractions will be announced closer to the fest. That leaves just one question: Will there be jousting?

“I can’t confirm we’re doing that,” says Williams. “But it’d be crazy for us not to.”

More on Sound on Sound Fest in Thursday’s Music news column Playback. Here’s the full lineup:

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