Fun Fun Fun Fest – Austin, Texas

Spread the metal:

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By Robert Williams

Photography courtesy of Sandra Torres

Fun Fun Fun Fest is an annual music, comedy and extreme sports destination festival held in Austin, Texas. A barrage of different music genres make Fun Fun Fun Fest a one of a kind experience, mixing punk, metal, acoustic, electronica, hip-hop and everything in between. This year’s roster boasted headlining performances from Judas Priest & King Diamond and was held at the outdoor Auditorium Shores venue the weekend of November 7-9th. 

This year Fun Fun Fun Fest kicked off with their special Fun Fun Fun Fest Nites series of pre- shows. I headed to the Red 7 venue located off of 7th and Red River Street to catch a rare West Coast performance from american punk rock pioneers The Dictators NYC (featuring Manowar co-founder Ross The Boss on lead guitar) who scorched the stage with an absolutely incredible and electric performance that was heavily comprised of early material. The Fun Fun Fun Fest Nites kicked off the festival on Thursday evening a day before the actual festival located at the massive Auditorium Shores and actually concluded each days festivities at various venues located off-site festival grounds. The bad boys of Los Angeles glam metal otherwise known as Steel Panther paired up with local hard rockers Broken Teeth across town at the small and intimate Mohawk venue to wrap things up after Judas Priest’s headlining performance on Friday evening.

I couldn’t help but notice the enormous line that backed up all of the way to South 1st Street as I made my way from the parking garage to the beautiful outdoor Auditorium Shores venue that rests upon muddy banks of Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, Texas. According to festival organizers “significant delays with the check-in process due to a significant single wave of unexpected demand” that is one way to put it or we could be honest with ourselves and attribute that significant single wave of demand solely to the anticipation and excitement in the air generated by Friday evenings headliners, the metal gods themselves Judas Priest whose last performance in Austin was 26 years ago in 1988.

Festival goers were greeted as they walked in by Immortal Guardian, Austin’s own power metal virtuoso’s fronted by Brazilian powerhouse vocalist Carlos Zema who utilized their shred sled as their portable stage as they have done in year’s past and introduced the masses to material from their excellent newly-released “Revolution Part I” EP.

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Next, Amon Amarth delivered a thunderous nine-song afternoon set. I’ve seen the mighty horde of Viking Swedes in concert before, but seeing them perform under the Texas sun backdropped by the skyscrapers of Downtown Austin was a bit surreal.

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Amon Amarth opened their set with “War of the Gods” taken from 2011’s “Surtur Rising” album and followed that up with “For Victory or Death” and “Death In Fire” from their now classic “Versus the World” record which got fists pumping and the crowd roaring. We alson heard “Deceiver Of The Gods” the title track from their latest album and vocalist Johan Hegg raised a horn of ale in celebration of the special ass kicking that they had brought all thw way with them from overseas to deliver to Friday’s festival crowd in Austin. “Father of The Wolf” “As Loke Falls” were next followed by “Twilight of The Thunder God” and the band’s crushing closer for the afternoon “Guardians of Asgaard”.

There was a lot of cool artwork on the festival grounds with local graffiti artists given free reign to do their thing on large canvases provided by the festival.

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Check out this giant goat skull sculpture for Shiner Bock beer. It had glowing red eyes and emitted smoke from the nostrils every so often.

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British heavy metal legends Judas Priest opened their headlining performance with “Dragonaut” from their new album “Redeemer of Souls” and kept pace with the time honored classic “Metal Gods”

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the band then delved in to some classic like “Devil’s Child” taken from the “Screaming For Vengeance” album followed by “Victim Of Changes” off of “Sad Wings of Destiny” before launching into another brand new track “Halls of Valhalla” which received an overwhelming reception from the sea of metal fans assembled at Auditorium Shores.

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The band really showcased their new guitarist Ritchie Faulkner during their performance Friday night. At one point turning the spotlight solely on Ritchie for an extended solo.

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Rob Halford maintained a commanding presence over the crowd, his voice still in absolutely excellent tip-top shape as the band dished out older classics like “Love Bites” Turbo Lover” and “Beyond The Realms of Death” while keeping current with their newer material like “March of The Damned” and “Redeemer of Souls”.

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Hit after hit was fired off “Jawbreaker” “Breaking The Law” and Hellbent For Leather” including Rob’s signature stage entrance on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The band took their first encore of the evening with “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” and due to overwhelming demand, returned to the stage for a second encore performing “Living After Midnight” before engaging the audience with a sing-a-long of the title track from “Defenders of the Faith”. “Painkiller” was surprisingly absent from their set. Could it be they have retired this electrifying hellraiser of a tune from their setlist? I hope not…

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(King Diamond photo credits: Chad Wadsworth)

It has been over a decade since we’ve had the pleasure to hold court with the King and his Saturday evening headlining performance was a metalhead’s dream from the word GO! If there was an award for “Most Killer Stage Setup Ever” then King Diamond’s neon-lighted pentagram and upside-down cross backdropped, cathedral spired, gates of hell setup would be a top contender for such an honor.

I was amazed at how many in attendance seemed to know and sing-a-long to every word of the opening trilogy of classics “The Candle” “Sleepless Nights” and “Welcome Home”.

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We also heard later year millennial standards such as “Never Ending Hill” and the “Puppet Master” before being treated to “At The Graves” and a medley of “Tea/Digging Graves/A Visit From The Dead”.

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It’s no secret that King Diamond has been plagued with some health/medical issues over the last ten years and his return to the stage has been a long, hard road to rehabilitation as a performer. Having said that, the much heralded veteran left the audience in wonderment and awe as he hit all of the highest of high notes, sometimes even harmonizing with his wife Livia Zita who joined him onstage for the majority of his performance.

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Next up were two heavy hitting Mercyful Fate covers in “Evil” and “Come To The Sabbath” followed by “Shapes Of Black” and “Eye of the Witch”. For his first encore, King took us back to the final track off of “The Conspiracy” album with “Cremation” before launching into all-time crowd favorite “Halloween”. Having waited years upon years to revel in the magic that is a King Diamond live performance, the Fun Fun Fun Fest crowd let loose waves of thunderous applause until King Diamond returned for a second encore, this time delivering forth “The Family Ghost” and “Black Horsemen” to properly conclude Saturday evening’s ritualistic metal madness.

Fun Fun Fun Fest is the one music festival in town that I can always count on for offering up something spectacular in nature. In year’s past we have seen Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Suicidal Tendencies, The Damned, High On Fire, Body Count, Sub-Humans and many more perform on the biggest stages to the largest crowds. My hats off to Transmission Entertainment. Here’s to many more years of triple fun!

www.funfunfunfest.com