Lights, Camera, Headaches

The quickest way to ruin a music festival? Get actors to show up.

Festival Experience

So Ashton Kutcher allegedly got in a fight at the Stagecoach Music Festival last month, staying true to his douche-roots and brawling with a security guard over a chick. I guess it can get more demoralizing than when he made an ass out of himself at the 2012 Country Music Awards. I'm borderline impressed with his abilities.

But this is not about good ol' Mr. Kutcher's constant fame-seeking. This is about all the celebrity fame-seeking that's been taking over music festivals and stomping them into the ground. Thanks to antics like Kutcher's at Stagecoach, the media has stopped focusing on the music and turned instead to celebrities' behavior at said festivals. So now, instead of a focus on the music, there's a billion paparazzi roaming around like ants, taking pictures of Mischa Barton's ass cheeks.

Christian Bale at the 2011 ACL Music Fest
Marco Torres
Christian Bale at the 2011 ACL Music Fest
Historically, the ACL Music Festival gates have been closed to Houston acts.
Marco Torres
Historically, the ACL Music Festival gates have been closed to Houston acts.

Before you call me out on it, yes, I know this is heading for first-world rant territory. So here's what the problem is, from my vantage point anyway. I can tell you what Lindsay Lohan was wearing at Coachella this year — a midriff top that made major headlines. I can also name, off the top of my head, at least ten other actors who were photographed wandering around the California desert, but I'd be hard-pressed to tell you much about any of the artists who actually performed.

Blog after blog has been devoted to the celebrities of Coachella and their festival-fashion mishaps, hook-ups and drunken antics, but rarely have any of them made a concerted effort to talk about the actual music. For example, I don't know whether the Stone Roses played a decent set or even if they were royally pissed about being bumped to make way for Blur, who headlined at the last minute.

But I had to dig through page after page of nods to the actors spotted at Coachella before I found anything about The xx's set (which was described as "smoldering," by the way). More information was available on Paris Hilton's ugly headband than on Skrillex and Boys Noize's new group Dog Blood, which should have been one of Coachella's most talked-about moments. That's mind-blowing to me.

And I'm not even suggesting that photographing celebrities at a music festival is in itself some major crime against music. I mean, these people are famous. They're photographed at the grocery store, and that doesn't mean they're ruining the integrity of the produce aisle. But they're also not going to Kroger and acting like utter asshats, either.

However, many actors (cough, Kutcher) are acting like asshats at music festivals. Kutcher's brawling takes the cake, but many a celebrity has a festival sin or two under his or her belt. With the Austin City Limits Music Festival — where a few celebrities have been known to hang out — coming up in the fall (see next item), I'm sure we'll have some tallies to add to that growing list.

Christian Bale was spotted at ACL 2011, and Val Kilmer showed up at Fun Fun Fun Fest last year, both reportedly working on Tree of Life director Terrence Malick's forthcoming film set in Austin. So at least they had good reason to be there, even if the much-delayed film is never released. And even if no one else shows up, we can probably count on good ol' Matthew McConaughey to be there with bells on. He lives in Austin, is fond of taking off his shirt, and even once managed reggae singer and ACL '06 performer Mishka. But unless they're working, it's not like these celebrities are hanging out under tents and shying away from the attention while watching the music. They're wearing hippie-dippie costumes and using the festival as publicity, turning what was supposed to be a massive celebration of great music into a sandy, ridiculously silly catwalk. Just stop.

For example, musicians usually don't crash the red carpet at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, all leathered-out and clutching a guitar and whiskey bottle in either hand. So maybe it would be slightly more appropriate for these hangers-on to show up at music festivals without all the fanfare, leaving some room for a little talk about the actual music being played for once.

I mean, that's what these things are supposed to be about, right?

ACL Fest

Bayou City Freeze-Out
Is Houston artists' lack of an ACL Fest impact important?

Chris Gray

Last week, the Austin City Limits Music Festival announced its 2013 lineup for its 12th edition in Zilker Park, the first to ­expand to two weekends with identical headliners: October 4-6 and 11-13.

Looking over this year's lineup, what leaps out first about the headliners is that, perhaps for the first time, the festival seems to consider thirty- and fortysomethings as the absolute upper range of its audience. This year's "heritage acts," what few there really are, all arrived on the scene in the late '70s or early '80s — Depeche Mode, The Cure, Lionel Richie — compared to the baby-boomer icons of ACLs past: Al Green, Neil Young, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan.

The other thing that stands out is that once again the lineup is utterly lacking in any representation by artists from a most active, if not outright thriving, music scene barely 160 miles to ACL's east: Houston.

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