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ACL scene report: Who is ‘Ben the Banana?’

Staff Writer
Austin 360

By Erin J. Walter

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 12, 2013

If you haven’t seen “Ben the Banana” at ACL Fest yet, chances are you will. He’s tall, yellow, and prone to hollering heartfelt, profanity-laden declarations of love to his favorite bands. Even performers have started to notice him from the stage.

The Banana’s real name is Daniel Cantu of Monterey, Mexico. He made the full-length, hooded outfit himself. After five years of wearing it to Warped Tours and more, Cantu has created a Facebook page for his alter ego: http://facebook.com/benthebanana. There he throws up the “I love you” hand sign and describes himself as, “just a random Mexican dude, dressed like a banana at some festivals and concerts.”

A Thursday Facebook status perfectly encapsulated his vibe: “HI, TODAY IM ON MY WAY TO AUSTIN CITY LIMITS TO SPREAD MY YELLOW BODY TO EVERYBODY, [expletive deleted]!!!”

During Jimmy Eat World’s energetic Friday afternoon set, “Ben the Banana” bopped up and down with friends near the front, standing out among the young crowd. When lead singer Jim Atkins introduced the Arizona band’s keyboard player as a new addition “from Mesa High,” Cantu wailed his approval.

“I see you! Yes, you,” Atkins said, smiling and pointing at Cantu. “You don’t know Mesa High, Banana guy. You guys are from Colombia.” (We’ll give Atkins the benefit of the doubt and suppose Cantu’s crowd of friends is from Colombia, or perhaps Columbia University.) More cheers from Cantu. “What’s the Mesa High mascot, then?” Atkins said. “Not a banana, I can tell you that!”

Moments later, “Ben the Banana” appeared on the “Keep It Weird, Austin” cam on the jumbo screen. Again, Cantu bounced and cheered.

At one Warped Tour stop, the members of Bowling for Soup all autographed the banana and then brought Cantu on stage to dance during a song. (Indeed, the black cursive writing and sloppy hearts remain on the banana today, and you can watch the performance of “Ohio” on Youtube.)

Friday afternoon at ACL seemed an awfully hot time to dance in a polyester banana costume, but “Ben the Banana” was clearly having a blast—with Cantu usually getting the last laugh.