John Mayer

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

John Mayer is misunderstood by almost everyone.

But that wasn’t an issue at the Frank Erwin Center on Friday night. 

After a long stint away, Mayer has finally gotten back into music. The singer was laid back, wearing ranchers’ jeans, and sang in front of simple projected animation of the Montana outdoor landscape. Nothing mattered but the music.

It was easy to picture Mayer around a bonfire in Montana — his new refuge and place of residence after a tumultuous stretch of mishandled interviews, soured relationships and vocal cord surgeries.

And that’s how the crowd wanted to picture Mayer: not as a celebrity hosting extravagant parties on yachts or spilling intimate details about former lovers. No, the crowd believes in the “new” Mayer who says he is committed to making a lot of music in his future.

Mayer played what he felt like playing, and didn’t bother to focus too much on the songs of his past three albums. The concert was a celebration of sorts. A very mellow celebration.

As Mayer started “Why Georgia,” the single from his first album in 2001, the man next to me smiled widely and said Mayer was going “old-school.” Indeed, he was.

Mayer’s voice riled up the fans. He crooned “You’re No One ‘Til Someone Lets You Down,” and couples waltzed on the main floor, beer cups in their free hands. 

Compared to his Battle Studies tour, the show Friday night didn’t feel as contrived as the days of Mayer’s past. It felt like Mayer was giving the audience everything he had. As he sung “Who Says,” the anthem of freedom for hipsters everywhere, it became clear just how much freer Mayer feels now.

He certainly catered to the crowd’s desires. His solo acoustic set in the middle of the show featured a blissful rendition of 2006’s “Stop This Train” and even some serious whistling. He segued into a version of “Your Body is a Wonderland” that made things even hotter. I felt uncomfortable watching all the people making out around me. The people in the crowd forgot themselves, swaying their bodies and closing their eyes to throwback to one of Mayer’s most pop-y songs.

The last solo song of the night was “Neon,” and Mayer showed off his handiwork. People kept dancing, and everyone secretly hoped Katy Perry would join the stage to dance with her beau. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

But the show wasn’t over.

Mayer’s band returned to help him on a revved up version of “Half of My Heart,” a song originally featuring Taylor Swift — one of Mayer’s past love interests. The version of the song Mayer sang Friday was exponentially better than the recorded version. Obviously, Mayer is way better off without a whiny queen of country in his life.

The one low point of the night came when Mayer played “Age of Worry.” The crowd  was much older than the teenagers Mayer was trying to make feel better about Instagram and bullying, and the tried connection failed. The background behind Mayer also changed for this song to include lyrics, supposedly to really hammer home the message to just be yourself. It was a bit overwrought, even for Mayer’s standards.

The chill waves returned, though, with “Waiting on the World To Change," and he sailed on them the rest of the evening. He only performed one song for the encore, an extended version of his Grammy-winning “Gravity.” As he sung “just keep me where the light is,” the audience did just that. They held up their phones, with camera flashlights turned on, and waved them to simulate lighters.

It was beautiful. John was beautiful.

The crowd not only kept up with Mayer, they understood him. Keeping him from falling down or going into the dark, the audience at the Erwin Center was a group of fans looking out for John Mayer — both the musician and the man.

Toward the end of the show Mayer acknowledged the set list, saying, “There’s a lot of songs I’ve written in my life and only two hours to play them in, and I hope I satisfied you one way or another.”

He sure did.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

After semesters of putting it off and telling myself I wouldn’t make it, I finally tried out for the Texan last fall. One published tryout photo and interview with Lawrence later, I waited for a call to find out if I had made it. I gave up the dream by midnight and went to bed, only to be woken up at 2 a.m. by what I thought was a crazy drunk guy but was actually a member of the senior staff telling me I was in. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face or go back to sleep for hours.

Never in my college career did I think I’d be taking pictures of my favorite musicians at South by SouthWest or Austin City Limits, shooting alongside Sports Illustrated photographers at the Red River Rivalry Game or photographing the president at a memorial honoring West, Texas — or running a 5K with Shelby while taking pictures on a beer tour. 

Of course you grow professionally, but you also grow personally — the Texan has taught me a lot about life and even a little about love, accompanied by lots of laughs along the way.

I’ll miss Jonathan bringing me a pint of Blue Bell or rubbing my shoulders when I’m stressed.

I’ll miss how Gabby never judges me after hearing about all my outrageous escapades, or how Sam always sees the brighter side of things.

I’ll miss dancing to “Heart’s Content” with Brenda before she leaves the office and swing dancing on editing breaks with Marshall.

I’ll miss fawning over John Mayer with Elisabeth because it’s clear everyone else in the office has poor music taste. Except for Pete, who always gives great music recommendations and advice when I’m freaking out about the future.

I’ll miss hearing Shweta’s classic “come on” response, though I’ll miss her constant encouragement and joy even more.

I’ll miss the motivation I got working with Jack until 3 a.m. as we tried to catch up on papers we didn’t start writing until after scriptset. 

I’ll miss marveling at Charlie’s ability to shrug off stress and take on another assignment without a second thought.

I’ll miss sassing with Shelby, and how she always makes me laugh. We started together as scared, awkward staffers and now she’s become a fantastic friend — though we’re still awkward. Let’s be real. 

I’ll even miss Zach pointing out my many blonde moments. I hate to admit it, but I actually like the girly power-pop he made me listen to on editing nights.

I’ll miss Pu, the girl with the best work ethic I’ve ever seen. I’ll miss staying at Bennu until 5 a.m. with her or trying to figure out life on “real talk” breaks, and I’ll cherish those few times she voluntarily hugged me — it’s a big deal. I’ll always be a phone call away when she needs a “life coach.”  

Perhaps one of the best moments was when Pu and I convinced Sarah, an overwhelmed freshman, to stay at the Texan after a stressful first week. I’ve watched her grow so much her first semester in college, and she’s said the Texan is one of the best things to have happened to her at UT. I can only hope that by the time she writes her -30- column, she’ll have as many wonderful memories and incredible friends to look back on as I do.

-30-

Review

Frank Ocean just may be the future of R&B; well, at least he has done everything right so far. Originally from Louisiana, Ocean moved to California after Hurricane Katrina ravaged his hometown. His talents were quickly recognized, and Ocean secured a job writing for artists such as Brandy, Justin Bieber and John Legend. He rejuvenated his songwriting with the help of his friend Tyler, the Creator in the group Odd Future and subsequently appeared on Kanye’s and Jay-Z’s album “Watch the Throne.”

These well-placed steps, plus a successful mixtape, opened the door to Ocean’s debut album “Channel Orange.” Regardless of his intentions, his July Fourth Tumblr post concerning his sexuality further heightened the buzz around the album’s release. Of course, listeners should disregard the artist’s orientation and focus on the music, but this bold step demonstrates a sincerity and confidence that pervades the album.

His daring is made evident by his second single “Pyramids” which is a 10 minute long epic, a length which is nearly unheard of in the genre. This single shows his aversion to cheap, sweet singles that many of his contemporaries release and his affinity for craftsmanship. “Channel Orange” is an album of considerable length at 55 minutes, but it exhibits a smooth flow featuring short, light-hearted transitional tracks reminiscent of ‘90s R&B albums, one of which spotlights John Mayer’s silky guitar on “White.”

The 12 main tracks contain a sound influenced by jazz, soul and well-placed electronic effects. Most of the songs are fairly somber, and they are carried by electric piano and understated drums. This combination provides a terrific backdrop for Ocean’s appealingly sultry voice. His words have the ability to rise to a high and emotional pitch, only to descend as delicately as a leaf to a personal spoken tone. The album isn’t entirely melancholy — ­“Monks” has powerful drumming and “Crack Rock” has funky slap-bass.

His lyrics have depth and touch on the complacency of wealth, heartbreak and even the nature of the human mind. Rather than praise material goods like many of his R&B contemporaries, Ocean exposes the dangers of having everything you want. He poses the question, “So, why see the world when you got the beach?” in “Sweet Life”, and exposes in “Super Rich Kids” that although they have everything in excess, they are still “searching for a real love. His love ballads, such as “Bad Religion,” are heart wrenchingly personal, and he fearlessly uses the pronouns “he” and “him.”

“Channel Orange” is a gem of an album because it’s entirely genuine. Ocean refuses to filter his emotions, words or sound. My only wish for the album is that there were more rapped verses to provide more variety to the sound and feel. However, this release still sets a new benchmark in modern R&B and pop music.

Lazy days and memorable nights — summertime is almost here. Whether you’re a lo-fi aficionado or an instrumental rock lover, this summer has plenty to offer for fans of all genres. These are our picks of summer’s most promising new albums.

Best Coast,
The Only Place
Release date: May 15
Genre: Garage rock, surf pop

Garage rock duo Best Coast will make their long-awaited return with their follow-up to 2010’s well-received Crazy for You. Best Coast’s sophomore release will keep in the vein of the fuzzy, lo-fi distorted sound that has become their trademark. Two singles from the album have already been released: “The Only Place” and “When I Cry,” and frontwoman Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno have still got it. Underneath Cosentino’s sob stories of unrequited love lie muddled and distorted guitars and drums — the perfect accompaniment for a broken heart.

Tenacious D,
Rize of the Fenix
Release date: May 15
Genre: Comedy and Hard Rock

It has been six long years since comedy rock duo Tenacious D graced us with their presence. Their upcoming third album Rize of the Fenix shows the group tackling the themes they have become infamous for: love, sex and food. Although band members Jack Black and Kyle Gass make up Tenacious D, the duo enlisted the help of Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl to contribute drums to the album. For those eager to listen to the album, Rize of the Fenix is already streaming on the band’s website.

John Mayer,
Born and Raised
Release date: May 22
Genre: Americana, pop

Singer-songwriter John Mayer has had a bumpy road in recent years. Two years ago, the artist came under fire in an interview with Playboy Magazine, in which Mayer discussed past relationships with Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson in explicit detail. The interview only worsened when Mayer used a racial slur to address his African-American fans, a mistake that the artist has since then tried to forget about. Now, Mayer just seems to be focused on the music. His upcoming fifth album will be the follow-up to 2009’s Battle Studies. The only single currently available from the forthcoming album is “Shadow Days,” which has Mayer taking on a country twang while maintaining that soothing jazz-influenced vocal delivery he’s known for.

Sigur Rós, Valtari
Release date: May 29
Genre: Ambient Post-rock

Known for their ethereal sound, Icelandic rock ensemble Sigur Rós has been a part of indie movie soundtracks and college dorm playlists since their 1999 album Agaetis byrjun. Thirteen years later, the group will release their sixth full-length album, Valtari. It’s an album that will include “more electronic stuff than before,” as promised by bassist Georg Holm in an interview with Q magazine. The group will hopefully use Valtari to redefine their instrumental sound.

SpaceGhostPurrp, Chronicles of SpaceGhostPurrp
Release date: June 12
Genre: Hardcore-southern rap

Expect things to get trippy with this debut from A$AP Rocky producer and rapper SpaceGhostPurrp. To get a general idea of what Purrp may have up his musical sleeve, check out A$AP Rocky songs “Purple Swag: Chapter 2” and “Keep It G,” the latter of which Purrp both produced and rapped on.

Fiona Apple,
The Idler Wheel ...
Release date: June 26
Genre: Piano rock, baroque pop

It’s been seven years since singer-songwriter Fiona Apple put out some new material. After 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, Apple disappeared from the music radar, leaving fans wondering if the talented artist would ever return. This year marks Apple’s comeback as she prepares for the release of her fourth studio album, The Idler Wheel. Featuring 10 new songs, including the
well-received single “Every Single Night,” Apple’s forthcoming release will hopefully reassure fans critics that the songstress has not lost her knack for writing great songs.

Former Longhorn and Texas Student TV member Zach Anner is leading the competition for "Oprah's Search for the Next TV Star" with 2.6 million votes. Anner intends to produce a comedic travel series about seeing the world despite his disability.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

It’s one thing to post a video online. It’s another thing when that video may lead to a show on Oprah Winfrey’s new network, OWN, with John Mayer already promising to write the opening theme song.

That’s what happened last weekend to UT alumnus and Texas Student TV veteran Zach Anner with the submission of his humorous travel audition video about seeing the world despite his inability to use his legs. Since birth, Anner has had the motor disability cerebral palsy, or what he calls the “sexiest of the palsies.”

The disability usually occurs after an injury before or during birth, impacting the brain’s ability to control the nerves, and affects 800,000 Americans, according to United Cerebral Palsy.

“I guess I was a war hero of the womb or something,” Anner said.

Since posting the video, “Zach is Oprah 2 (now with wheelchair and world travel),” on “Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star” website on June 1, it has gained 2.6 million votes and is ahead of the nearest competitor’s entry by 1 million votes as of press time.

The video features him attempting various types of shows, including cooking, yoga and fashion before settling on travel. His friends say he’s been wanting to do a travel show for years.

Anner left town last weekend to go to Oprah’s open audition in Dallas but did not receive a callback. Then, after visiting Six Flags Over Texas before coming home, he discovered that his video had experienced a massive jump in votes — with a personal video response from John Mayer — and he was being called the “Next Oprah” by bloggers with Time and New York Magazine.

“When you’re performing and expressing yourself, you’re less confined than people without a disability,” Mayer said in his video. “And just in case someone needs an extra kick in the pants, I will up the ante and offer you a theme song for your show.”

Anner enthusiastically replied to the video Tuesday at 4 a.m., adding that Mayer could even play the theme on a nose flute.

If the Web sensation remains in first place by July 4, he and the other top four competitors will be flown out to Los Angeles to enter a television competition series to vie for their own show.

While this is his first video to reach such widespread success, Anner had already been known locally for helping create and acting in the TSTV show “That’s Awesome,” for which he interviewed Bill Clinton and Dennis Quaid.

Before any of the now-viral interviews premiered, though, Anner said he wasn’t sure about his abilities until his friend Mark Dennis encouraged him to be in front of the camera. After that, he went on to meet the people that would establish Lark the Beard Productions and has continued to write and act with them in feature films and pilots.

“We really don’t want this to become an ‘us thing,’ though,” Lark member Marshall Rimmer said. “We want this to be a ‘Zach thing’ because he really deserves this. It's rare when the sweetest guy you know is also the funniest guy you know.”

The team is also documenting Anner’s pledge to crawl the 26-mile Austin Marathon after receiving a million votes.

“If the Internet community doesn’t see it as cheating, I’m looking into getting some sort of Heelys on my legs since they’re just dead weight,” he said.

Whether he wins or loses Oprah’s competition, he has remained ecstatic and grateful for the attention and hopes his training videos help people get to know him better.

“[Anner] shows a creativeness that mainstream society doesn’t see,” said Mark Denzin, executive vice president and chief development officer for United Cerebral Palsy of Texas. “It’s a positive step for him to be able to show the world his comedic slant on his situation.”