As we bid adieu to Transmission Event’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin welcomed the arrival of a new November festival: Sound on Sound Fest. Graham Williams, co-founder of Transmission Events, parted ways with the company earlier this year and ramped up a new production company: Margin Walker Presents. Margin Walker wasted no time in bringing show after show to some of our favorite downtown venues, but they changed it up a bit for this inaugural festival. Sound on Sound took over the grounds of the Sherwood Forest Faire, about 45 minutes east of Austin. Some questioned whether the trek out of the city would be worth it, as we were used to the leisurely walk from downtown to Auditorium Shores. However, those concerns were immediately put to rest upon arrival.
The festival encompassed the perfect balance between the existing renaissance spirit of the fair grounds and the high-octane atmosphere that FFF always brought to the table. The festival organizers kept the renaissance festival entertainment like axe throwing, archery, and jousting intact for the event. But they also incorporated some of our favorite FFF events back into the festival such as the skate ramps and wrestling matches.
It was extremely convenient that Sherwood Forest is already equipped for camping, so getting set up in the camp grounds was quick and painless. The campgrounds were also set back in the woods like the rest of the festival, so there was none of that “wake up in a giant field getting baked in your tent by the sun at 8am” nonsense. Sleep happy and late my friends!
The infrastructure of the fairgrounds is already perfectly equipped for a festival. It’s crazy to think that someone hadn’t thought of doing this sooner! The food vendors have full kitchens to work in rather than having to relocate food trucks. There was hardly a wait at all for food at any point in time. And what better festival food is there than a turkey leg or a giant baked potato? You eat that all weekend and you’re set to party for days on end.
The sweetest relief at a festival is arriving to find the shortest possible drink lines. Margin Walker didn’t disappoint with their craft beer selections from Karbach Brewing, Big Bend Brewing, Thunderbird Brew and Austin East Ciders. Dark Horse wines had a wide variety and wine tastings set up, so the winos had more options than the usual, “We have one white and one red. Take your pick.” We’re classier than that in ATX. Back in VIP you could get the good stuff and pour up with Don Julio and Austin’s pride and joy: Deep Eddy Vodka.
The eclectic lineup of noise rock bands, hip hop, surf rock, electronic, indie, and shit that you couldn’t assign a genre to if you tried, was something that was only paralleled by Sound on Sound’s predecessor, Fun Fun Fun. Day one catered to the manic likings of Death Grips and FIDLAR fans.
Sarah Barthel and Joshua Carter of Phantogram have been nonstop lately, between putting out their new album “THREE” and immediately hitting the road for their tour, popping by Sound on Sound Fest, jetting off to Europe, and they’re already going to be back in Austin on December 13, 2016! Their endless energy was plain to see at their SOS set and as always, Sarah’s outfit won the unspoken fashion contest that is any hipster festival.
The indie/surf/garage rock band of Spanish senoritas, Hinds, sported a cheetah print backdrop and made the “giant sorority girl t-shirt look” as adorable as could be. They project an aura of spunk that reminiscent of the 22.214.171.124’s in Kill Bill. And really, who doesn’t love them, or that scene where Uma shreds the Crazy 88s?
El-P and Killer Mike, the duo that comprises Run the Jewels, entered by fading in and out of “We are the Champions” (always a win) and didn’t waste any time hyping up the crowd with a smoke breathing dragon that was wrapped around on top of the main stage. Die-hard Bernie Sanders supporter, Killer Mike knew exactly how to pump up the Austin, TX crowd with a Pimp C and DJ Screw shout out. While El-P encouraged the sound guys to just “turn it up past whatever the law is.” F it, right? We’re in the middle of nowhere, what’s a sound ordinance anyway?
We got the chance to chat with Austin’s very own: Calliope Musicals. Their bubbly, Flaming Lips-esque sound perfectly matches their wild personalities. More is certainly the merrier when it comes to this large band. Carrie Fussell, Matt Roth, Craig Finkelstein, Josh Bickley, Chris Webb and Andrew Vizzone bring a light to a room (or in our case this weekend, a tent) that you don’t want to miss, given the chance to see them play. Check out our ridiculous interview with them below to find out if we ever will get Matt back from the aliens that abducted him after the band’s set on Friday afternoon.
Sorry….that was a trap, we never found him.
Day two was full of the entrancing sounds of groups like HEALTH, Deerhunter, and Beach House. The dream pop duo, Beach House, fixated the audience on the dark foggy stage with front woman, Victoria Legrand, lingering over her keyboard in a black hooded cloak. And of course the legendary Big Boi set the crowd off with his own hits, as well as some of the classic Outkast favorites. We closed the night out with mystical sounds of Purity Ring and apparently won’t be seeing or hearing from them for a while according to front woman, Megan James. So it’s a good thing they sent themselves off to start their hiatus with the best Purity Ring set that most of us have probably ever seen them put on.
Day three started out a bit rocky with the festival having to close down early in the afternoon when a few big rain storms rolled in and the festival had to close down (typical Texas weather). Thankfully, the Margin Walker crew did a great job of frequently updating their social media pages and kept everyone in the loop with when it was going to be cool to come back. They were able to keep the schedule for the rest of the evening pretty much the same once the rain subsided. Explosions in the Sky mesmerized in the way that only their melodic and heart-breakingly beautiful soundscapes can. The festival closed out with Courtney Barnett, STRFKR, Big Freedia, and A-Trak.
Despite the weather, this festival knocked it out of the park for its first year. Lord knows we all needed a distraction from this circus of an election and this festival was just what the doctor ordered. Sound on Sound Fest is sure to be an Austin staple in no time!
Festpop Staff Writer: Lindsay Shearon
Photos: Ty Sprague