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Fun Fest: sun, rain and stage diving

Indie ethos fills fourth annual Fun Fun Fun Fest, which experiences both sun and rain in two days at Waterloo Park.

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com
Atlee and Kim Hickerson of Oklahoma City, Okla., said they were having fun despite the rain during the fourth annual festival.

After a bright and beautiful first day, Fun Fun Fun Fest was hit Sunday with a steady rain that dampened some spirits and forced the cancellation of one rocker's set.

"A lot of people just hang it up after getting completely soaked," said Justin Kyle, 25, who left at 3 p.m. with plans to return later for headliners Danzig and Of Montreal. "You're not ready to trade pneumonia for the experience of seeing a band you may not even know."

But many among the crowd of die-hards toughed out the rain to sample the rock, punk, dance and hip-hop music at the fourth annual jamboree put on by Austin club owners and promoters Transmission Entertainment.

Though patches of mud were common, especially in high traffic areas, Waterloo Park's grounds seemed to largely avoid the descent into muck that characterized the last two days of the Austin City Limits Music Festival last month. Even Fun Fest's program got in a dig at ACL Fest, pointing out Waterloo's lack of Dillo Dirt, the compost that muddily coated Zilker Park's Great Lawn by the end of ACL Fest.

The rain's most direct result was the cancellation of King Khan's set because of wet equipment. He was added to a free after-show Sunday night at Red 7 instead.

Rain aside, problems were few. Technical difficulties Saturday on one stage delayed the set by Detroit rock trio Death and led to sound problems in the performance of New York punk band Les Savy Fav, among others, Transmission spokeswoman Rosa Madriz said. But strong sets from bands national and international — the Jesus Lizard and Shonen Knife — as well as local — Foot Patrol, Car Stereo (Wars) and Pack of Wolves — led to happy crowds.

"We didn't quite hit 10,000 (the park's capacity) so we will probably be here in Waterloo Park again next year," festival organizer James Moody said Sunday.

He also said that he wants to add a fifth stage next year in a nearby parking garage. "It would be free to fans who couldn't afford the ticket and free to the bands who don't necessarily have the profile to play the main festival," he said.

This jibes with Fun Fest's roots in '90s punk and indie rock, with an emphasis on crowd participation and fan devotion. One of the weekend's triumphant moments came Saturday when Austin natives David Yow and David Sims took the stage with the rest of the Jesus Lizard and delivered perhaps the performance of the festival in front of family, friends and many fans.

Another fest performance was tinged with tragedy. The set by Austin's Bankrupt and the Borrowers was announced as the final performance for the band, who lost multi-instrumentalist Jon Pettis in a house fire Oct. 9. "Jon was so excited to be at Fun Fun Fun Fest," said band manager Gene Griffin. "We had a lot of momentum going, and to play it would have been one of the highlights of Jon's life. ... We had to do this for Jon."

In year four, the festival has grown, adding attractions such as a mechanical bull — Moody's favorite part of the festival, he said — and a half-pipe, all part of a casual charm and low-key ethos that endears Fun Fest to fans.

"They go out of their way to make this unique," Todd Watkins, 25, said. "The other fests are flavor of the month."