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Fun Fun Fun Fest preview: Even more fun, more fest for 5-year-old event

Peter Mongillo

When Fun Fun Fun Fest began in 2006, it was a sort of little festival that could, a one-day December event that ran out of food and had music fans braving cold temperatures in Waterloo Park. This year, the less mainstream alternative to the Austin City Limits Music Festival is bigger than ever, with a new location, a third day, four nights of aftershows with almost as many bands as the daytime lineup, heavy metal headliners Slayer and a four-channel live stream on popular music site Pitchfork. There's also a wedding.

James Moody, who co-owns festival producer Transmission Entertainment along with Graham Williams, says that he never imagined it getting this big. "It's night and day, it's just amazing," he says. We talked with Moody about what's new at this year's fest, which is Friday through Sunday at Auditorium Shores:

More people. Waterloo's capacity was 10,000; it never felt too crowded, even with stages tucked among the trees. Auditorium Shores, of course, is much bigger, and the goal for attendance is 15,000 people a day. But it's never a sure thing with FFF. Unlike ACL Fest, the festival does a lot of walk-up ticket sales.

"I wish we'd sell out before we go into the week but that's not our crowd," Moody says. "We have a huge walk-up crowd, we've got a bunch of dudes from San Antonio that are going to drive up and tailgate day of, and we're ready to roll."

• Out-of-towners. In the early years, FFF drew a mostly local crowd. Now, more people are traveling to Austin from other places. Exact ticket sales figures weren't available, but Moody says it's the largest number of out-of-towners ever, in part because of increased marketing, including scavenger hunts for free tickets in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and elsewhere.

• Watch from home. Something that will undoubtedly draw more people from out of town to next year's festival is a live stream, with a channel for each of the four stages, on music website Pitchfork. The fact that it's happening on a music site that caters to people interested in the same bands that play at the festival is a big marketing plus for the festival. The stream is scheduled to begin just after noon each day of the fest.

• Dust. Waterloo Park was the site of some very dusty FFF Fests. Based on how dry and dusty Auditorium Shores is right now, this year isn't going to be any different.

• Two festivals in one. Fest aftershows, dubbed FFF Nites, start Thursday at most of the clubs on Red River Street and some not, including the Parish and the ND. The shows are free with a festival bracelet (single-day pass-holders can get into aftershows on Thursday as well as the day they attend the festival). And while there are some repeat performances from bands on the FFF lineup (the Thermals, Thee Oh Sees), many of the groups (the Felice Brothers, Kool Keith) aren't playing during the day, making for a weekend with more bands than ACL Fest. "A lot of the concern about moving from Waterloo Park is that it was a special park for Red River music fans," Moody says. "Nites allows us to bring Red River back into the festival experience, it's a total extension of the fest."

• Nonmusic elements. In addition to the improv and stand-up comedy that has been a part of the festival in the past, there are more carnival-like elements than ever, including "Sexy Sax Man" Sergio Flores (look it up on YouTube), a photo booth inside a portable toilet, aerial photography, professional skaters on a ramp, an onstage wedding with a band and a special guest officiant and talk of a taco cannon.

"We have a mechanical bull, we put together a wedding at the last minute — it's what we always hoped festivals would be, and we're able to kind of do some of the stuff we always wished others would and it's fun," Moody says.