Taking In the Freak Scene at Fun Fun Fun Fest

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Photos by Craig Hlavaty

While we go to festivals such as Fun Fun Fun Fest because we enjoy great music, we are also fans of the sorts of people who attend these events. We're people-watchers at heart, so we frequently engage in a bit of amateur sociological research in between sets. At South by Southwest, there are as many PR flacks clicking away on their BlackBerries as there are folks there actually for the music, while at Austin City Limits Festival, you have to contend with the teeming throngs of chair people and their innumerable flags.

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But with this two-day event, we have the opportunity to see indie rock hipsters and punk rockers in their natural habitat - sure, there might be a few bros around (it is Austin, after all), but we'll be damned if these two crowds don't love to get dressed up before they head out for the music.

For starters, since Where the Wild Things Are has been such a big hit with critics, nerds, and geeks for the past few weeks, we expected to see a few crowns (for Max). But we were astonished to see how many kids were sporting various caps, hats, and beanies with different animals and/or ears. We get it - you're nostalgic, you liked the movie, you think Maurice Sendak wrote a timeless children's classic (and we do too) - but is it really necessary to dress up (ironically?) like a 10-year-old in an elementary school play just to impress someone with how cool you might think you are?

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Then again, maybe those bear and beast hats aren't so bad when we stop to compare them against the gaggle of youths gallivanting about Waterloo Park in random clichéd accoutrements of Native American culture. Seriously, we frequently saw kids running from show to show in mock headdresses made up of cheap feathers that you could by in a common craft store. Nothing says, "I love quality underground indie rock!" better than parading around like a jester, trying to prove just how wacky you can be with your parent's credit card.

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And the neon! It was like an L.A. Gear commercial from 1989 vomited up all over some of these people. It wouldn't surprise us in the slightest to read somewhere that a bunch of hipsters have started up some sort of underground black market on slap bracelets or Zubaz pants. We know that you're wearing such attire in a youthful attempt to rebel against your bourgeoisie parents, but we also know who bought that fixed-gear bike you rode on your way here.

All snark and condescension aside, we are constantly in awe of the regalia put together by old-school punk rockers and hardcore kids. It might be November, but this is still Texas, so we'd imagine that coming to any festival, rain or shine, bedecked in black leather pants, jacket, and boots might become just a bit warm. Then again, a version of this outfit has been in fashion for over thirty years (or maybe even 50), so we do want to give recognition for stylistic consistency where it's due, even if we don't look good in leather ourselves.

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With a day full of rain on Sunday - Austin has received more rain on two mere festival days than it has the rest of the year - we were saddened to see hordes of punks walk around with floppy Mohawks. It never failed - we would see someone walk in (as well as the occasional young couple), spikes ablaze, fully erect, and ready for action, but then 45 minutes later, the same person would walk back by with his or her plumage flopping down limply. And yes, the verbiage we just employed could be construed as being cheap, tawdry innuendo, so forgive us (but we kinda meant it that way).

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One of the things we love about the punk rock and hardcore communities is the familiar aspect of it all, complete with the desire and specific intention to bring their kids up in the scene. At one point on Saturday night, we were watching Face To Face tear up the Black Stage when we look over to see a couple in their mid-'30s, each wearing Chucks, jeans, and plain black T-shirts, standing next to their son who was wearing a Russian Circles t-shirt and rocking out to the band. It makes us so very happy to see parents that take the time to show their children what real music really is.

I'm sure there would be even more exciting tales to tell, except that Sunday's rain brought out raincoats (whether actual raincoats, plastic bags, or otherwise) in droves. You'd think that more people would check the weather before heading to any sort of outdoor event (ya know, on the internet?), but apparently people prefer to get gross, wet, and muddy over attempting to stay dry.

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We know that it might be "hardcore" and/or "rock-and-roll" to get eschew one's personal health and well-being in order to brave the elements "for the music," but when you're laid up in bed later in the week with a bad cold or a case of pneumonia from tromping around in the mud like a dirty puppy, don't come complaining to us.

All of that being said, we'd much rather have put up with shenanigans of this nature at Fun Fun Fun Fest than be forced to contend with the masses of backward-cap-sporting bros and tiny-cowboy-hat-wearing woo-girls that pollute 6th Street on any given evening. Hipsters and punks we can deal with: tribal tats and shirts adorned with Greek lettering are something else entirely.


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