You're in a forest surrounded by friends, string lights, and jousting. From one corner wafts the sounds of nostalgic punk rock, from the other, thumping synth beats. An animatronic dragon peers from the side of a stage. It's the first annual Sound on Sound Festival outside of Austin, Texas. Reincarnated from the now-defunct Fun Fun Fun Fest, SOS Fest is the younger child--dreamy, rebellious, and nonconformist.
Taking place on the grounds of a renaissance fair, the fest features tomato throwing, archery, castle forts, and turkey leg stands scattered between music stages. Attendees scamper around in capes and Game of Thrones getups, gobbling up free temporary tattoos and beer--not a flower crown in sight. In between sets you can also visit the comedy stage, listen to a podcast recording, or scope out the wrestling ring. An hour outside of Austin lies a temporary oasis from city lights, sound ordinances, and election cycle coverage filled with escapists with nowhere else they would rather be.
With headliners like Beach House, Explosions in the Sky, and Run the Jewels, to name a few, FFF Fest organizers made good on their promise to bring its signature genre-spanning lineup to the new event. I've always applauded FFF Fest for its ability to attract diehard music fans as opposed to casual supporters who are there for the Snapchat filter--and SOS Fest was no different.
Cloudy, drizzly skies would have made for a glum atmosphere at most open-field festivals, but not SOS. The trees gladly soaked up the wet weather, and even when rain delayed the festival for a few hours Sunday night, organizers decided the show must go on. Artists from Big Freedia to Baio to Courtney Barnett, whose last Austin festival set was cancelled due to rain, gave shoutouts to the SOS staff for how they handled the situation--a big compliment for a first-time fest. Artists also thanked crowds for sticking around, which seemed superfluous considering the joyful muddy dance parties that erupted. As if being in a mystical wonderland for a few more hours needed thanking.
Although nine years behind FFF Fest, SOS Fest won't feel like the younger sibling for long. It bucks the trend of festivals held in the heart of downtown Austin, offering an alternative experience: one filled with playfulness and the freedom to just be. Be among the trees, friends, and damn good music.