• Fun Fun Fun Fest, Day One: Mechanical bulls, Mac Demarco and Johnny Marr

    Only during Fun Fun Fun Fest can you find people riding a mechanical bull, skateboarding on a giant ramp, spraying graffiti art across installations or getting a haircut in the middle of Auditorium Shores. 

    The first day of this year’s fest was an exciting and memorable one, carrying an equal mix of current, hipper bands with older, more nostalgic acts, true to the festival’s mission to bring an odd array of bands to Austin for one weekend.

    The early highlight of the day was Canada’s Mac Demarco, whose band tore through solid renditions of all the garage rocker’s best songs before winding down with a highly irreverent and goofy medley of classics by Metallica, The Beatles, The Police and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. The set ended with Demarco crowd-surfing before addressing the crowd with an invitation to come hang out later. 

    The nostalgia set in as Johnny Marr of The Smiths played a set that mixed in his recent solo material alongside classics like “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” from his legendary `80s band. Folk troubadour Bill Callahan played a mesmerizing set in the small Yellow Tent, opening with a cover of The Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” as tribute to the late Lou Reed. 

    But it wasn’t all Fun Fun Fun and games on day one of the festival. Previous years, the festival employed a dual stage set up so that while one band was playing a set on a stage, the next band up would be setting up on the adjacent space. Johnny Marr and Kurt Vile ran late, causing The Walkmen to take the stage amidst sound issues and then be forced off after only 25 minutes to get back on schedule, which visibly frustrated the band. The sound mix was pretty awful, and it was disappointing for the fans. 

    Another act that disappointed his fans was Lupe Fiasco, who had some sort of a meltdown on stage. Light rain caused a slight delay, and he responded by getting very angry and even cussing out a staffer who ran across the back of the stage. He yelled at the crowd a couple of times, and left the stage after only playing about four or five songs. 

    The night’s headliners proved that even though Fun Fun Fun Fest brings in contemporary acts, the big draw is to relive the greatest bands of the 80s and 90s that so many people are nostalgic for. Every year, they find great ways to pull it off. 

  • Lunchtime Links

    Here’s a collection of links from across the cultural spectrum to distract you during your lunch hour(s).

    Dreams do come true. Some of the funniest tweets have been recreated into comics, courtesy of this Tumblr.

    Wikipedia might not be a valid source, but it does contain some interesting information

    An unlikely aid for Alzheimer's patients comes in the form of... "The Sound of Music?"

    Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine apparently takes Twitter very seriously

  • 2013 is the year of album release hype

    2013 has been the year of album hype, and the hype is not limited to one genre. Daft Punk, Kanye West and Arcade Fire have all had over-zealous campaigns accompanying their releases this year.

    Daft Punk first unleashed the news of its new album publically with a 15 second clip that aired during SNL, which was quickly spread online. At first, people thought the stranger robots were saying “mexican monkey,” but anticipation for the group’s first true album in years caught on quickly. A slightly longer clip was shown at Coachella, and was talked about more than any of the actual festival performances. It was at Coachella that the world heard the first murmurs of “Get Lucky,” which would soon be the song of the summer for teenagers and young adults everywhere. The release of collaborators and production techniques used on the album only enhanced anticipation, leading to the duo’s most successful album ever.

    Arcade Fire had a more guerrilla-roots campaign its its rollout, consisting mostly of cryptic symbols marked on streets. The ominous words “Reflektor” originally didn’t hold any relation to Arcade Fire, but the band revealed that it would be the title of its next album through a reply on Twitter. An official Instagram account documented the symbols, which then began featuring the date "9/9/9." On Sept. 9 at 9 p.m., Arcade Fire officially released a video for its single “Reflektor,” and expectations grew. By the time the album was finally released, anticipation was higher than for any album in the band’s history.

    Perhaps the most subversive and interesting album rollout of 2013 was Kanye West’s Yeezus. It began with his tweet “JUNE EIGHTEEN,” which led to a map on his website that targeted spots around the world. Fans and bystanders at the locations were then graced with a projection of Kanye’s face rapping “New Slaves” — including one spot on the UT campus. He then put the album art — which is blank — on his website, only adding to the enigma that is Yeezus. Kanye consciously decided not to put a single out for the radio or do any major promotion for the album, instead relying on his individual vision to carry the anticipation for it. More popular and well known than Daft Punk or Arcade Fire, West used his far-reach to make an event and album that will be discussed for many years to come.

    This pattern of pre-release hype and elaborate album rollouts could soon become the norm for all artists desiring credible exposure in the future. Moving away from traditional ways of promoting an album … Could this be the beginning of a new era? 

  • Missing Sexy Sally? She'll be back next week

    Sex column fans and foes may have noticed Sexy Sally and friends are missing this week. Do not fret. All columnists, plus one new voice, will return next week to talk about oral sex. 

    Sally, Frank, Caroline and Veronica needed a break this week to have some experiences. They will report back about all things oral sex — or lack thereof — beginning with our new friend on Monday evening. 

  • Nine Inch Nails, live in San Antonio

    Even after a string of disappointing records, Nine Inch Nails are still one of the most impressive and engrossing live bands around. Since they weren’t playing in Austin, aside from an "Austin City Limits" taping, I had to trek out to San Antonio to see them. As a big fan of Trent Reznor’s bleak songs from when I was an angsty middle school kid, this was a dream come true.

    The night began with a set by the always-great Austin natives Explosions In The Sky, whose cinematic instrumental pieces were perfect for setting the tone. This week marked the 10th anniversary of the band's seminal album The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, and it was a treat to get to hear those songs sounding as resonant as they did back then.

    From there, the crowd filled in as we waited about 40 minutes for Nine Inch Nails to appear. While there were an unusually high number of people wearing Tool band shirts, there thankfully were not a lot of actual tools in the crowd, which surprised me given the sometimes hyper-masculine attitude often associated with Nine Inch Nails fans.

    The band took the stage around 9 p.m. and immediately showed off its prowess with a true spectacle. Two see-through screens in front of and behind the band were used for a light show that rivaled Radiohead’s in terms of innovation and wonder. The band sounded excellent as it opened with its single “Copy of A” from its latest album Hesitation Marks. To appease older fans, Nine Inch Nails went straight into “Sanctified,” “Terrible Lie” and “March of the Pigs." It was incredible.

    Nine Inch Nails played a lot of new material, often with the assistance of intricate designs that would cause seizures for anyone who might be epileptic — there was actually a warning about seizures playing over the loudspeaker as everyone entered the arena. The band also managed to mix in plenty of great songs from its earlier work, including favorites like “Piggy” and “Slipping Away.” Just when the members were losing momentum after an hour and 10 minutes of performing, they picked it back up with the ultra-heavy “Survivalism” before leading into a four-song run of hits that culminated with crowd favorites “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like a Hole.” On the latter, the whole crowd was shouting along as Reznor gave everybody exactly what they wanted.

    For an encore, the band played a mix of older and newer songs that were a bit on the softer side, including 2005’s “All The Love In The World,” the closest thing you’ll find to a hopeful song from the goth group. After signing off and thanking everyone, Reznor led the band for an emotional take on its legendary hit “Hurt,” the classic that was famously covered by the late Johnny Cash. As the band played with a projection of people and animals dying on the screen behind them, it led the crowd in a somber sing-along of one of the most emotionally damaging songs of the ’90s, in an awe-inspiring moment.

    There’s a reason why Nine Inch Nails still pack arenas and headline festivals. They are great performers. The older material still sounded as aggressive as ever, and proved that it was a good thing that Reznor decided to resurrect Nine Inch Nails and go back out on tour.