Forever Fest Day 2: The Pajama Game

Austin’s hottest club is Forever Fest. It has everything: skinks, videos of dogs saying “I love you,” Meme Girls, Danceoke, a pajama dance party, and a Human Roomba (ok, maybe not that last thing). Day 2 of the fest started out chill and progressed steadily into a beautiful madness.

The day started out normally enough with a Nails Y’all nail art workshop, followed by Hoppy Hour, a petting zoo full of adorably tiny animals courtesy of Tiny Tails. Fest-goers had the opportunity to hold and pet a variety of squee-inducing creatures, from bunnies to turtles. I am pleased to report that I unlocked a life achievement by PETTING A HEDGEHOG, as well as a baby chick, super-chill skink, and The Most Amazingly Soft Creature Ever Invented, also known as a chinchilla.

Hoppy Hour was followed by the Cute Brunch, which was a compilation of adorable internet videos of animals, with a few small humans thrown in. If you were wondering if 90 minutes of ridiculousness is too much, I can assure you it is not, thanks in large part to the clever categorizing and music choices of the Fest team. A steady stream of laughs, awws, ohs, and WHATs were elicited by a mixed bag of goats being jerks, animals on slides, animals getting vacuumed, dogs making weird noises, and much, much more. If a montage of cats set to Presidents of the USA’s “Kitty” or animals acting like humans set to MJ’s “Human Nature” can’t crack the ice on your cold, cold heart, I don’t know what will. That last one was a real head trip — did the organizers simply choose “Human Nature” as a clever word play to accompany the dogs pushing shopping carts? Or were they making a social commentary on the oddities of human nature that prompt us to anthropomorphize our pets? Deep thoughts for a Saturday afternoon.

Tiny Tails staffer with a chinchilla

Skink giving people the tongue

Tiny Tails staffer with the skink


Fest attendees petting a baby chick

Baby chick getting some lap time

The next event on the agenda was a panel entitled “Meme Girls: Women on the Internet.” Featuring Jennifer Romolini of Hello Giggles, Mallory Ortberg of The Toast, Jazmine Hughes of The Hairpin, and Taylor Trudon of HuffPost Teen, the panel discussed the experiences of women writing online. Panelists fielded questions about how they got their current jobs, their sites’ missions, the challenges of the online environment, the health of feminism online, accepting criticism, and what they look for in submissions from writers. They all noted their goal of providing smart, safe spaces online for voices that might not otherwise be heard, as well as overcoming people’s narrow-minded ideas about what women want to read. “Women are interested in everything, and they should be able to read and write about everything,” noted Hughes — not just babies and makeup. Panelists lauded the visibility of and discussion around feminism online, and offered advice for dealing with criticism and separating the valid, useful criticism from the chaff of online trolls. “Criticism and abuse are not the same thing,” said Ortberg, encouraging attendees to simply flush the latter out of mind. For women interested in writing online, they covered the types of things they don’t want to see, namely things they’ve seen before and things that have been handled well elsewhere already. Beyond that, Ortberg encouraged writers to “Pitch. Pitch often. Pitch until somebody tells you to slow your roll.”

After the panel, Fest-goers were treated to an awesome session of awesomeness known as Danceoke. Think karaoke, but instead of singing along with your favorite song, you’re dancing along to your favorite music video or movie dance number. Teams went all out with costumes and choreography, mimicking everything from the “One Night Only” number in Dreamgirls to the dance team sequence in American Beauty to Jamie Lee Curtis’ striptease in True Lies. There were too many amazing performances to list, but the clear winners with the audience were a recreation of Lisa Kudrow, Mira Sorvino, and Alan Cumming’s number from Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion, and a white-clad tribute to Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton’s routine from The First Wives Club.

Dudes get in on the dance party action

Danceoke ladies get down at the dance party

Romy & Michelle Danceoke

First Wives Club Danceoke

Len Grossman Danceoke

Beat It Danceoke

Action Pack ‘N Sync Danceoke

Romy & Michelle Danceoke

The big event of the night was the screening of Amira & Sam, a new movie starring Martin Starr (Party Down, Silicon Valley), relative newcomer Dina Shihabi, Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries), and directed by Sean Mullin, all of whom were in attendance and gave a lively Q&A after the film. Stay tuned for my review of the event; the short version is that Amira & Sam is quite good and should be on your watch list for 2015.

Fest-goers ended the evening with a pajama party at the Highball featuring a sleepover photo booth, hair braiding by Jose Luis Salon, M.A.S.H., magazines, and a non-stop dance party courtesy of the Action Pack. Props to everyone who went all out in their PJs, and also to Amira director Mullin and Mean Girls star Daniel DeSanto for hanging out and braving the dance floor.

Thanks to the Forever Fest team for an awesome event. I wasn’t able to attend Sunday’s Fest wrap up, the Wild Brunch, so this concludes my day-to-day Fest coverage. As I mentioned, a full review of Amira & Sam will be forthcoming; in the meantime, mark your calendars for Forever Fest 2015, and cross your fingers that it includes a Bring it On screening/reunion with a special class to teach everyone the “Get Ready for This” choreography!

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