Playback – Fun Fun Fun Fest: A Decade of Aggression

Flashing back on 10 years of Fun Fun Fun Fest

Am I Demon? Danzig, shortly before his meltdown at FFF Fest 2011 (photo by Shelley Hiam)

Ten's a heavy number: the commandments, an amplifier's maximum volume, the total counting power of our hands. Fitting for music, it's a union of two integers independently representing singularity and chaos. Fun Fun Fun Fest regulars Slayer celebrated their big 1-0 in 1991 with double-live LP Decade of Aggression. Saturday's Black stage headliner NOFX occasioned that anniversary with 1994 documentary Ten Years of Fuckin' Up.

Austin's spectacular genre throwdown, orchestrated by booker Graham Williams and brand visionary James Moody, marks its 10th birthday this weekend at Auditorium Shores. "Playback" charted the history and future of FFF.

FFF1 – 2006

Location: Waterloo Park

Headliners: Peaches, Circle Jerks, Negative Approach, Prefuse 73

Undercard: Dead Meadow, Lucero, Electric Frankenstein

Key Locals: Black Angels, Riverboat Gamblers, Octopus Project, Spoon

Fun Times: "It wasn't supposed to be a festival," admits Moody. "Peaches, Spoon, Circle Jerks, and Dead Meadow all happened to be routing through the same weekend. Graham couldn't get them all at Emo's, so he got together with Tim League from Alamo Drafthouse to throw a big party." A few thousand attendees shell out $20 and endure frigid December temps for the one-day, three-stage event. Williams reportedly stage dives during Negative Approach.

FFF2 – 2007

Location: Waterloo Park

Headliners: Cat Power, Murder City Devils, New Pornographers, Of Montreal

Undercard: Angry Samoans, Diplo, Poison Idea, Girl Talk

Key Locals: Explosions in the Sky, Okkervil River, White Denim

Fun Times: Under the banner of newly founded Transmission Events, FFF expands into two November days and Austin responds with solid attendance. Little-known MGMT are heralded by the Chronicle as a "surprise hit."

FFF3 – 2008

Location: Waterloo Park

Headliners: the National, Dead Milkmen, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Bad Brains

Undercard: St. Vincent, Trash Talk, Z-Trip, All

Key Locals: ...Trail of Dead, Grupo Fantasma, Shearwater

Fun Times: Still two days, but now four stages. Hip-hop comes into focus via Atmosphere, Kool Keith, and Clipse, Tim & Eric pop the comedy cherry, dust gags the growing crowd, Leftover Crack shit-talks Bad Brains' homophobic history, and Dead Milkmen's one-off reunion ends with a crowd-surfing keyboard.

FFF4 – 2009

Location: Waterloo Park

Headliners: Ratatat, Crystal Castles, Jesus Lizard, Danzig, Cool Kids

Undercard: Death, Fucked Up, Gorilla Biscuits, Pharcyde, GZA

Key Locals: This Will Destroy You, Neon Indian, Harlem

Fun Times: As FFF's stages coalesce with color-coding, the park becomes a mud puddle on Sunday, but legendary performances abound: Bankrupt & the Borrowers' musical wake for local singer Jon Pettis, severely injured Ian MacDougall playing with Riverboat Gamblers, and Danzig moaning under black clouds. "A priest in full robes came on the grounds and got in a fight with Danzig's crew that morning because their soundcheck was interrupting church," Moody remembers.

FFF5 – 2010

Location: Waterloo Park

Headliners: Descendents, Mastodon, RJD2, MGMT, Bad Religion, Gwar

Undercard: Slick Rick, Suicidal Tendencies, Dirty Projectors, Hold Steady, Big Freedia

Key Locals: Mother Falcon, League of Extraordinary Gz, Eagle Claw

Fun Times: "It became three days because we booked 'Weird Al' [Yankovic] on Friday just to freak people out," Moody reflects. Devo's cancellation instigates the Descendents' first gig in a decade – a punk rock sing-along for the ages. Saturday sells out. "We found ourselves that year," says Moody. "That's when we realized it wasn't about the brand, but the goofy experiences."

FFF6 – 2011

Location: Auditorium Shores

Headliners: Slayer, Danzig Legacy, Passion Pit, Major Lazer, Public Enemy

Undercard: the Damned, Future Islands, Death Grips, Flying Lotus, Odd Future

Key Locals: Spoon, Black Joe Lewis, OBN IIIs

Fun Times: FFF's six-six-sixth year evokes evil via Slayer, Odd Future, and Danzig. The latter's prima donna meltdown, truncating a promised Misfits set, provides the now-three-day fest's most notorious moment. The move from Waterloo Park to Auditorium Shores stresses organizers. "We had to rediscover who we were. Waterloo Park was in a dark corner of Red River – basically an extension of Emo's or the Mohawk," says Moody. "Taking those kids into a sensitive neighborhood and screaming 'Angel of Death' through Travis Heights was insane, but what were we supposed to book, Tom Petty?"

FFF7 – 2012

Location: Auditorium Shores

Headliners: Run-DMC, A$AP Rocky, Public Image Ltd., Refused

Undercard: Macklemore, Danny Brown, Bun B, Santigold

Key Locals: the Sword, Octopus Project, Black Angels

Fun Times: FFF channels vintage local gathering Aqua Fest and highlights ensue: Taco Cannon premieres, Refused deliver awe-inspiring anarchism, director Terrence Malick props the Black Lips with a crazed Val Kilmer, and Run-DMC lays down perfection. "Naively, I thought that was going to be the beginning of something crazy or the end of us because it was that big," says Moody, who paid Rev. Run with a suitcase of cash. "It ended up being neither."

FFF8 – 2013

Headliners: M.I.A., MGMT, Snoop Dogg, Jurassic 5, Slayer, Flag

Undercard: Action Bronson, Television, Mac DeMarco, Body Count

Key Locals: Daniel Johnston, Spray Paint, Wild Child

Fun Times: "Wheelchair crowdsurfer" steals the show, comedy superstars Tenacious D and Sarah Silverman make the Yellow stage a major attraction, and Slayer pays tribute to fallen guitarist Jeff Hanneman.

FFF9 – 2014

Headliners: Judas Priest, King Diamond, Neutral Milk Hotel, Nas, Modest Mouse

Undercard: Wiz Khalifa, Alt-J, Ginuwine, Courtney Barnett, Thundercat

Key Locals: Scott H. Biram, Zorch, Mineral

Fun Times: Friday's will-call line becomes state-of-emergency with thousands of pissed-off fans stuck outside until organizers open gates for an unforgettable Judas Priest performance. King Diamond burns witches, Nas nails Illmatic, and Modest Mouse summons a meteor. FFF's action sports go pro. "Before, it was a ramp that the skater bros built so they could shred while listening to Bad Religion," assesses Moody. "Volcom took it next level."

FFF10 – 2015

Headliners: Wu-Tang Clan, Jane's Addiction, Venom, NOFX, Lauryn Hill

Undercard: Cheap Trick, Schoolboy Q, Coheed and Cambria

Key Locals: American Sharks, A Giant Dog, Roger Sellers

Fun Times: "After a decade, we're at a crossroads," Moody reveals. "We love what we do and our fans feel like it's their fest, but the way we book is self-limiting. With Leftover Crack or Venom, you're only booking for a niche number of people and we've reached the limits of that. Now we need to think about where we go next, because we never want to follow the category. We want to innovate.

"What does innovation look like now as the market's shrinking and competition's growing? The only other big fest in town doubled its weekends. ACL isn't our direct competition, but there's overlap now that they've booked younger – after we influenced their comfort to book hip-hop.

"Does innovating mean going smaller and going to different cities? Or does it mean treating the fest completely different? Those are the kind of questions we're asking."

FFF Notes

Travis Barker plays FFF with Antemasque. The Blink 182 beatsman joined the band, led by At the Drive-In pillars Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López, in September and will drum on their upcoming album.

Archers of Loaf, Carolina kings of vintage college rock, join Saturday's Black stage lineup, substituting for Desaparecidos, who canceled after frontman Conor Oberst was hospitalized with laryngitis, anxiety, and exhaustion.

Lauryn Hill subs in for ailing D'Angelo & the Vanguard, not only as Sunday's Orange stage's headliner, but also for his Austin City Limits taping on Saturday.

Science of Fun: Theoretical space physicist Dr. Scott J. Bolton blows minds with a Yellow stage lecture on Saturday, 2pm. Bill Nye the Science Guy educates via StarTalk Live! at the Moody Theater on Thursday.

Dwarves' Blag Dahlia and bassist Nick Oliveri (ex-Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age) spin records at the Brixton on Saturday night.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Fun Fun Fun Fest 2015

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