20 bands, 3 stages and 20,000 water balloons.
New events that are trying to make a name for themselves in Austin really need to do something special. In the highly competitive Austin music fest scene, did Fire Fest 2012 do what it needed to do in order to put a stake in the ground?
Ultimately, Austinites will decide for themselves. The only thing I can do is give my personal impression of the inaugural Fire Fest here in Austin.
First Impressions of Fire Fest 2012 Austin
The location was decent, just a bit south of Austin-Bergstrom Airport. The parking lot was packed when I arrived at Fire Fest 2012, which was scheduled to be an overnight event where attendees were encouraged to pitch their tents and camp out.
Three stages were spread out over the festival grounds, numerous food trucks filled their area, and a water balloon filling station was prominently placed in the middle of the site. The campground was well situated on flat ground by the two easternmost stages. The tents were tightly packed and an atmosphere of camaraderie was evident. People were having a good time.
Several vendors were set up under tents and booths, and I even saw a random guy teaching people how to make fire with two sticks. A large slip n’ slide provided some measure of entertainment as the bands geared up to do their shows. Overall, pretty laid back.
Food Trucks Get Shut Down
Right around dinnertime, the Health Department swooped in and shut down all of the food trucks. Apparently the location was in the unincorporated part of Austin and, therefore, the Austin license that the trucks held wasn’t sufficient. They needed a Travis County license.
I can’t get into the legalities, but I can tell you a few things that I learned. At the beginning of the night, one of the food truck vendors (who asked to remain anonymous) was asked to shut down by a Health Department official. But the official repeatedly stated that he wouldn’t be coming back, “if you know what I mean.” Clearly suggesting that the trucks could open back up as soon as the official left, without reprisal.
Due to the preparation costs incurred, most of the food trucks made the decision to open back up – to the delight of the hungry public.
What the truck owners didn’t know at the time was that the Health Department had told the Fire Department to give them a call if they saw the trucks open back up, and they would come back out.
So guess what happened?
The Health Department came back out and fined Fire Fest and the food trucks. It wasn’t pretty… and if my understanding of the situation is correct, the way it went down was pretty uncool.
Having said that, these are the growing pains of a new festival. I’m sure the Fire Fest organizers were furious with themselves and the State, but at the end of the day they learned a valuable lesson.
Bands Rock Fire Fest
Twenty bands were featured in the line-up. All of them were good; some stood out. I really liked Scorpion Child, as well as the duo that makes up Black Pistol Fire. The stages were nicely spaced and the schedule for the bands had Fire Fest attendees continuously moving from one side of the event lot to the other, as one band closed their set and the next one started up.
Fireworks filled the night sky while attendees were entranced by the musical offerings. It was kind of a surreal experience that I’m sure will be remembered fondly by those who attended.
While watching Scorpion Child, I got to connect with some of the folks from the r/Austin sub-Reddit Meetup group. “Taikun” was carrying the guidon, a metal pole with the Reddit Alien taped to the top. These Redditors were pretty cool, and obviously having a good time.
After the bands did their thing, DJs came out to keep the crowd rocking until the wee hours of the morning.
Fire Fest Austin 2012 Campground
The campground seemed to be the center of activity. The tents were situated so close to two of the three stages that you could literally hang out by your tent and take most of the event in from there. I got my face war-painted by some of the Fire Fest faithful who seemed to be having the time of their lives.
For future Fire Fests, I would definitely recommend camping, as the campers seemed to be the ones having the most fun. Apparently the festival this year was RV friendly, but there were no hookups.
Fire Fest Austin 2012 in Summary
What is not to love about an event like Fire Fest Austin? Live music, camping, fireworks, slip n’ slides, live music and food trucks.
Sounds pretty Austin to me.
We’d like to thank Weston McGowen from Push Music Marketing and Publicity for providing the Austinot with 4 pairs of tickets that we gave away to our email subscribers.
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Not sure what Fire Fest organizers’ plans are for next year, but I’m sure that they have some lessons learned from this year’s event to take back to the drawing board. All in all, I think it was a successful inaugural effort and I look forward to seeing what they’ll do with it next year.
Though starting a festival in Austin can be a tough thing, I think Fire Fest did a great job for first timers. They’ve got one good foot in the door. Let’s see what happens.
Did you go to Fire Fest this year? What were your thoughts?