UT’s Forty Acres Festival Draws Crowds Despite Rainfall

The University of Texas at Austin’s annual music festival, Forty Acres Fest, prevailed on April 6 despite last minute thunderstorms and tornado forecasts. The event featured a headlining performance by BET award winning rapper Waka Flocka Flame.

Story by Naomi Brady

Photos by Erika Ramirez

Forty Acres Fest is an annual spring UT tradition, normally occurring in front of the tower on the main mall, and featuring a different headlining musical celebrity each year. In recent years the event has hosted performances by Marc E. Bassy, Hunter Hayes, MisterWives, Ra Ra Riot, and Smallpools. The headliner this year, BET award winning rapper Waka Flocka Flame, was chosen by a student poll earlier in the year— conducted by the Events & Entertainment committee, Headliners. The festival is a combined effort from two E&E committees: Headliners, and Texas Traditions.

Other local Austin bands performed throughout the day, including Burnt Orange Bluegrass, the Longhorn Singers, Fuse ACapella, Decibel Agency, Big Wy’s Brass Band, Midnight Archives and rap collective PNTHN. Gabriel Borg, a fourth-year biology major and frontrunner of Decibel Agency, sat down with ORANGE to discuss what it was like performing at such a large campus event as an up-and-coming indie rock band.

Borg, along with bassist Jackson Hvizdos, and drummer Ross Lewis, originally formed Decibel Agency in their high school in Dripping Springs, for a battle of the bands. While it’s been tough keeping up with their music through college, especially with the three friends attending different schools, the band is hopeful for their musical prospects after graduation - and is planning to release their first official EP later this year.

“This past two years we’ve been gigging pretty consistently, and we’ve had the chance to play at some cool venues around town and open up for some bigger acts” Borg says.. “Things are moving forward for sure —- it’s pretty dope that we’re on the same bill as Waka Flocka Flame, it’s probably the biggest name that we’ve ever performed alongside.”

Adrian Gonzalez, a second year radio-television-film major in Texas Traditions, spoke to ORANGE about the logistical difficulties the unexpected rain forecast caused. Adrian worked as a stage manager on the 2018 Fest and was promoted to outreach officer this year - in charge of the musical half of the festival, booking and organizing all of the day’s performances.

“We were done planning everything in January, February” Gonzalez says “After the rain was called, everything I had done in the past 5 months I had to redo in less than 2 days.”

The music venue wasn’t the only thing that had to drastically be re-planned to move the festival indoors. A variety of other entertainment was also featured at the event - including an extensive carnival-style food court, acrobatic acts, amusement park games and a petting zoo.

Texas Traditions’ member and festival planning leader John Gerling, a sophomore business honors program student, discussed the difficulty of re-arranging so many complex factors, and how E&E managed to still pull off the event successfully despite the limited time frame.

“This is the first time it’s ever been held in the Union. No one on our staff knew how it would work,” Gerling says.“In 48 hours we turned it around: made new maps, a new schedule, etc. So much has come together in the past two days - it’s kind of incredible. It’s really cool to see, and I’m happy for my committee. It’s our biggest event of the year.”

The festival was hosted at three separate venues throughout the day, beginning in the Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom in the Texas Union, with food and tabling outside the Flawn Academic Center and ending in the Hogg Memorial Auditorium with Waka Flocka Flame’s performance.