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Nelson not in hospital, set to play show at Backyard; City preps for Fun Fun Fun Fest, ACL

Austin Music Source

Peter Mongillo
Country music icon Willie Nelson canceled an appearance amid reports that he was in the hospital with breathing problems. His publicist confirmed he is currently not in the hospital and will not cancel any upcoming shows.

Fans of Willie Nelson grew worried over the weekend when reports out of Denver had the 79-year-old musician in the hospital with breathing problems. A scheduled benefit performance in the area was canceled.

Nelson's publicist Elaine Schock confirmed Monday morning that the red-headed legend is currently not in the hospital and will not cancel any upcoming shows, including stops this week in Dallas, New Orleans and an Austin-area show Saturday at the Backyard.

Despite his age, Nelson has shown few signs of slowing in recent years. He continues to release music, including the recent album "Heroes," on which he collaborates with his son Lukas as well as Kris Kristofferson and Snoop Dog, among others. He also lives on tour. His current schedule has him playing consistently through September; after a short break he heads back out in October with Jamey Johnson, Band of Horses and John C. Reilly on the Railroad Revival Tour, which takes him from coast to coast by train for eight stops.

Remembering Brent Grulke. After the death last week of longtime creative director Brent Grulke, South by Southwest employees and friends shared their memories at sxsw.com/brent-grulke. That page also includes an address and link to donate to the Graham Grulke Education Fund, which has been set up to help Grulke's young son.

Splash Splash Splash. A small group of people standing near the line for free beer at the Fun Fun Fun Aqua Olympics on Sunday asked: "What are we supposed to do here?"

Aside from drink free beer, they were supposed to be observing/competing in a slew of Fun Fun Fun-worthy "sporting" events, including paddleboard-based high-kick and jousting competitions, and an across-the-lake tug-of-war led by Mayor Lee Leffingwell (representing the south) and Councilman Mike Martinez (the north). The north, including members of the Austin Facial Hair Club, was triumphant. KGSR's Andy Langer and Mike Wiebe from the Riverboat Gamblers, among others, provided play-by-play. Winners of the events took home passes to FFF Fest, which is Nov. 2-4 at Auditorium Shores, and other prizes.

Fun Fun Fun organizer James Moody wandered around the grounds of Fiesta Gardens, happy that the sun had come out after a much-needed weekend of rain. "This isn't going to last long," he said, looking at the huge beer line. He estimated the crowd in Fiesta Gardens at around 2,000, up from the 400 who showed up for the event's inaugural year. About 400 people had signed up to compete in events.

There was more to do this year, including a set from Austin-based electronic pop artist Orthy and a skateboarding half-pipe. In the center of the plaza at the East Austin park, a group of kids splashed around in a portable pool. "It's a chance to introduce people to the fest," Moody said. "It's an everybody festival."

Two weekends of ACL Fest. The Austin City Limits Music Festival reached new heights last year with a headlining set from music legend Stevie Wonder. Security seemed overwhelmed by people planting chairs outside the designated chair zones; the crowd was so big that people standing in some spots could not hear Wonder as he made his way through a set full of hits.

Even without Stevie, the level of demand for the fest did not decrease this year — when tickets went on sale earlier in the spring, they sold out immediately, leaving people who did not get tickets to express anger and disappointment on social media sites.

The extent of that demand will be put to the test next year, when ACL Fest expands to two weekends. Last Thursday, the Austin City Council unanimously gave permission for the city manager to negotiate with festival promoters C3 Presents to expand the fest in 2013 (according to a July report from Statesman reporter Sarah Coppola, next year's fest will be Oct. 4-6 and 11-13).

C3 hasn't released any details about how a two-weekend ACL Fest will work, but options include a repeat of the same lineup (which is what California's Coachella festival did this year) or an approach similar to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest, with a different lineup each weekend.

Although a repeat option seems more likely, either way, the prospect of a two-weekend fest raises plenty of questions, including how the strain of that many people will affect Zilker Park and what kind of deal C3 will make with the city to use the space.

Contact Peter Mongillo at pmongillo@statesman.com; 445-3696