Why issue a press release when you can take over a bingo hall? Wednesday around midnight, the increasingly prominent Austin music festival Fun Fun Fun Fest unveiled the lineup for its seventh incarnation with an actual game of Bingo at the Lucky Lady in East Austin, with free beer and free nachos for the boisterous crowd.
“We do this every year different ways,” said festival founder Graham Williams of local promoter and club booker Transmission Events. Two years ago he, and the other Fun Fun Fun producers all dressed up in suits and gave a Powerpoint presentation at a Wyndham hotel. Last year, they had a live radio show (after a series of YouTube leaks involving nautical signals).
“We try to involve the local community,” Williams said of renting out the bingo hall along I-35, which filled up easily with Austin fans who are part of Fun Fun Fun’s year-round community–indie or yes, “hipster” types for lack of a better word, but who are into every kind of music that the festival presents, from hip-hop and black metal to indie-pop and punk.
At 4 p.m. Wednesday, Williams said that they were wondering if anyone would show. At 11:04 p.m., four minutes after the scheduled start time, they had already used up all the Bingo cards.
I was the fourth person in line when they ran out; the three women ahead of me only stayed because of the free Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, but then managed to find a group that snatched up more than their share of cards, and thus were able to participate.
One of them, Daralee Fallin, a San Antonio native who recently moved back to Texas from Oakland, California, hadn’t even heard of Fun Fun Fun.
“I don’t even know what it is,” she said. “From what I can tell it is a big corporate music fest.”
This is not accurate, but the fact that somebody could think so shows how much the festival’s reputation has grown, with bigger headliners since its move from Waterloo Park to Auditorium Shores last year. In fact, Fun Fun Fun’s reputation is as a more manageably sized, more adventurously curated festival compared to the more kid-and-boomer-friendly Austin City Limits, or even Chicago’s Lollapalooza (both of which are put on by Austin promoter C3 Presents).
“I just really want to play bingo,” Fallin said. “I’ve never played bingo before.” Her friend Erica Yeater, 27, even brought along an orange bingo marker.
Among the artists playing, some of whom had already been announced, are Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, X, Public Image Limited, comedian David Cross, De La Soul, Kreayshawn, Santigold, Superchunk, and Texas artists Explosions in the Sky, the Black Angels, and comedian Wyatt Cenac (further down the bill are many Austin bands, including the Golden Boys, Balmorhea, Not in the Face, Ume, The Young, Tia Carrera and the Flesh Lights).
The top attraction, rap-rock inventors Run DMC–performing together for the first time in more than ten years–had been previously announced on Tuesday.
Not announced, despite much speculation: El Paso’s At the Drive In, which reunited to play four Transmission-booked shows around Texas in April. Williams said they are still on his wish list for 2013 if the band continues playing, and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of At the Drive In and the Mars Volta is on this year’s bill
Joah Spearman, a 29-year-old fashion event producer who has been to Fun Fun Fun the last three years, says the event is like a college radio station compared to other festivals’ more regimented mission.
“They book it so tremendously,” he says. “You get the sense that a lot of festivals just to do it check the boxes [of who’s hot or popular]. This festival has a point of view.”
And that point of view is pretty much just Williams and the other promoters’ personal taste. In the press release regarding Run DMC, he explained that 1986’s Raising Hell was the first record he ever bought, when he was in second grade. Most bands on the bill are on it simply because that’s who all the people behind Fun Fun Fun think is fun fun fun.
“That’s what it is,” he said. “It’s risky because we don’t look at computers (to see what would sell tickets). But it’s what we like.”
View the Fun Fun Fun festival’s complete line-up here.