Escaping The Toxic Election At A Medieval-Themed Music Festival In The Woods

11.07.16 2 years ago


Just one more day.

That’s all that remains until the most hotly contested race since Ruben Studdard vs. Clay Aiken during season two of American Idol. Tomorrow, you’ll head to the nearest polling station, assuming you haven’t already, where you’ll help decide who becomes the next president of the United States: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump (or, Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, if Clinton and Trump get involved in a Designated Survivor situation in the next 24 hours).

Just one more day can’t get here soon enough, either, because this has also been the ugliest race since I finished my half-marathon. I’d recap all the exhausting coverage over “Crooked” Hillary’s exhausting e-mail scandal, or Trump’s greatest sexist, racist, ignorant hits since he watched Air Force One and decided, “I could do that,” but that would take hours. It’s no wonder psychologists are saying “Trump-induced anxiety” is a real thing.

I know I was starting to detect that uneasy “what if…?” feeling, which is why I spent much of this weekend at Sound on Sound Festival, Austin, Texas’ most diverse music festival that isn’t actually in Austin. It’s about a 50-minute drive away in McDade, the home of Sherwood Forest Faire, a medieval-style village/playground spread out over 23 acres.

Think Medieval Times, or the battle scene from Role Models, but in the woods, and everything kind of looks like that old mini-golf place in your hometown, where the attractions are faded by years of sun but the lack of polish is what makes it weirdly charming. Sherwood Forest’s goal, according to their website, is “to create a beautiful, magical place that is consistent with our six core values,” including Authenticity, Community, Fun, and Escape. That’s what I was there for.

Well, that, and the music.

Austin is famous for two festivals — South by Southwest and Austin City Limits — but my favorite is the lesser known third, Fun Fun Fun. Unfortunately, FFF doesn’t exist anymore; fortunately, founder Graham Williams started Sound on Sound, which is basically the same thing, except it’s a “festival that’s not just in a field or a park, but in a renaissance faire,” he said. The lineup is as wonderful as FFF’s, where CHVRCHES headlined at the same time last year as ScHoolboy Q and Coheed and Cambria.

There’s something for everyone: Beach House’s dream pop; Run the Jewels’ brash rap; Dillinger Escape Plan’s mathcore; Explosions In the Sky’s post-rock; Descendents’ college punk; Dead Milkmen’s cowpunk; FIDLAR f*ck it punk; Youth of Today’s hardcore punk… basically, there’s a lot of punk, but Williams prides himself on “an even balance of heavier stuff — punk and metal — with upbeat, dancey stuff — electronic, hip-hop, DJs — and indie rock. That’s just something I believe in. All these genres are part of the same scene, even if they aren’t.”

One of the true pains of attending a music festival is walking from stage to stage. You end up missing half the set of one band you want to see because it takes 15 minutes to get from point A to point B, and it’s not even an interesting jaunt; just a mass of people in Indian headdresses and stages named after cell phone companies. But Sound on Sound was spread out enough that you didn’t have to walk through a maze of towels and inflatable chairs to get from the Dragon’s Lair (the biggest stage that was made to look like a castle with a dragon peering on top; while waiting for Beach House, I heard a stoner couple behind me describe the dragon as “mischievously evil”) to the Keep stage.

And along the way, there was a lot to see, including: Tomato throwing, hatchet tossing, jousting, snail races, a mechanical dragon on a track, Robin Hood, some guy who looked like Khal Drogo holding a woman in the air, podcast recordings (including an episode of Damian Abraham’s Turned Out a Punk), a skate ramp, a wrestling ring, turkey legs, beer, more beer, the Air Sex Championships, concession stands with names like “The Fat Friar,” and, of course, Santa after a few too many pints of grog.



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