In 2011 I got to work Fun Fun Fun Fest as security. I got the job through a friend of mine who had worked the fest in years past. As we walked through the various backstage areas to find the head of security and pick up my credentials, I got to take in the layout of the fest. There was no crazy segregation of dressing rooms among bands, friends of the bands, and other personnel. It was just a big stew of personalities in one area.
After receiving my credentials I began the trek back to Black Stage to start working. As I was leaving the Blue Stage area, I bumped into a tall, well-quaffed blonde gentleman with chiseled features dressed like a greaser from the '50s, complete with leather jacket, plain white T-shirt and faded blue jeans. I continued on my walk and ran into several of my friends along the way so I stopped to catch up with them.
The first thing they asked me was, "have you seen Ryan Gosling around here yet?" My mind raced back to the ridiculously dressed blonde and the only words I could say were "oh, fuck". Turns out Gosling was shooting a new Terrence Malick film at the fest. That's what being at Fun Fun Fun Fest is like.
You see, Fun Fun Fun Fest isn't a fest that artists go to take themselves seriously and get a check. Well, they take themselves seriously of course, but if that were the whole of it, they'll play ACL. No, FFF Fest is a place the artists go to, well, have fun. They go to party, see acts that they grew up loving and see friends they haven't seen in a long time.
For people attending the fest, it is a chance to be a part of the atmosphere. The thing about the fest, though -- something I had to learn the hard way -- is that it is unpredictable. You don't know what is going to happen and where. So here are a few tips that will try to help you ensure you don't miss out on some of the surprises and wild moments:
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Black Stage is Ground Zero - Gosling spent a lot of his time at Black Stage in 2011 because that was "where the crazier acts were." Val Kilmer's famous freak-out with the Black Lips in 2012 was at Black Stage. The Danzig meltdown and "riot" happened at Black Stage. It is a safe bet to just assume shit will go down at Black Stage. History is on their side for this one.
Let Controversy Be Your Compass - Certain acts go in to the fest with a reputation. This reputation goes beyond a simple "they're good live." Sometimes it's that, they're "violent" live or "they're huge assholes." It wasn't hard to see the Danzig set would have problems, seeing how he's a notorious prick. (Oops, did we just say that?) Acts like Trash Talk and Odd Future came in to the fest with known wild shows. If you hear about a wild act, go check them out. A reputation is a reputation because it's usually earned in some capacity -- certainly when it comes to concert performances, anyway.
Parties > Professionals - Some of the acts who play the fest aren't there to play Carnegie Hall. They're there to drink Lone Star beer (though backstage, it might still be Tecate), eat cool food and hang out with friends. For a lot of them, the performances are almost a formality. If you catch an act like this, you're in for a good time, as the act will probably want to include the audience in the fun as opposed to merely playing AT them.
Legends are the Center of the Universe - Fun Fun Fun Fest, in addition to its array of starlet acts, play host to some of music's biggest legends. The legends playing are conscious of their image and, more importantly, of the audience at the fest. They play sharper, stronger and usually with more initiated set-lists. They know that the audience there are not just FANS. They are often music snobs who will be critical of everything going on. When a legend plays at Fun Fun Fun Fest, everyone stops to watch. The fans, curious parties, the celebrities, the promoters, everyone. When a legend hits the stage at Fun Fun Fun Fest, everything stops.