It’s fair to call reunited rap legends Run-DMC the big stars and headliners of this year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest. And down-schedule talent like Swedish punks Refused (playing one of its last reunion shows), Superchunk, Santigold and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are helping to move loads of tickets to this weekend’s three-day fest as well.
But there’s a non-musical attraction grabbing lots of local attention this year in the lead-up to the festival – now in its sixth year – that has earned loyal crowds by positioning itself as sort of the antithesis to large multi-day events.
What is it? There’s no not-absurd way to say this.
It’s a taco cannon.
Retrofitted from a rented 12-chambered wheeled T-shirt cannon of the kind usually used at athletic events and powered via a car battery and pressurized carbon dioxide, the cannon has been a bizarre hit at a series of appearances in recent weeks that have seen crowds scrambling to grab Torchy’s Tacos fired at high velocity, some of them containing festival passes that retail for $175.
"We’ve always joked that because they’re cheap and tasty, (tacos) are just like our fest," said James Moody of festival producers Transmission Entertainment. "We’ve always tried to have an element of that spirit, like Sexy Sax Man last year. We’ve asked, ‘What are those ridiculous things that carry on the un-fest thing we try to achieve?’"
First dreamed up last year in the months before the festival’s move to Auditorium Shores, it took until this year to make a reality out of the proposition of firing foodstuffs at crowds of people. Moody keeps a mostly straight face when talking about the engineering, taco "ballistics testing" and misfired "confetti tacos" he and his staff had to work around before they got the cannon to work properly, just in time for July’s Fun Fun Fun Fest Aqua Olympics kickoff event.
"I fully expected it not to work, like a lot of our ideas," he said.
"We had to work out a bunch of logistical things like how to keep the tacos delicious and wrap them with freebies like tickets. I don’t know where this comes from. I’m also a gamer nerd into Dungeons and Dragons, and cannons aren’t a thing that happen in real life, sort of like swords and nunchuks, but we talk about them all the time."
On Friday evening at an East Austin industrial property, the cannon’s final planned pre-fest appearance drew a crowd of more than three dozen hopeful recipients who huddled at various distances in front of the machine while a production and film crew tended to the cannon and captured the scene on video. In addition to the chaotic but mostly civil scramble for several dozen tacos wrapped in festival bandannas, the event also featured a pair of stunt fire runners covered in flame suits, which became an added attraction at several of the cannon appearances in recent weeks.
One of those responsible for keeping the cannon in top shape — it’s scheduled for several on-stage firings during the festival’s three days, and some tacos will have passes that turn a GA ticket into a backstage pass — has been Transmission production intern Neil Maris, who has been behind the controls as crews have strafed crowds with tacos and prizes in recent weeks.
Tasked with figuring out how to make the cannon a working attraction that shoots edible ordnance in 24 taco bursts, he said figuring out how to wrap the projectiles was the key problem.
That solved, Maris said the public launchings have helped him and co-workers get ready for this weekend’s festivities.
"The first few times we tried it, there was just lots of taco everywhere, but now that we’ve figured out how to wrap them, the hardest part will be loading the thing up on stages, because it’s so big and heavy," he said. "Everyone thought it was funny when I told them what we were trying, but getting it to work has been a fun experience."