The Story Behind The Weirdest Music-Related Hashtag in Dallas.
The Granada Theater's Twitter wall — where patrons of the venue can post thoughts about the show and, more often than not, thoughts about their fellow showgoers onto a screen to the left of the stage by writing a tweet to the theater's @granadatheater handle — made its debut on April 28, 2010.
Yeasayer performed that night. It was a decent enough show. I remember that much. But the spotlight had been stolen: Between sets from that headlining act and their opening bands, the night felt mostly like a test-run for the Twitter wall.
It was a fun night, I recall. The concept, most everyone in attendance agreed, was quite the entertaining diversion from between-set lulls. Still, in retrospect, the actual posted tweets themselves were rather amateurish.
Most of them were pretty standard. Simple efforts like “@granadatheater This is so cool!!!!” were common.
Two years later, posting to the Granada Theater's Twitter wall has turned into something of an art. Crappy art, sure. But art nonetheless.
And there are, it seems, some unspoken rules in place.
Serious tweets are shunned in favor of irreverent ones. And, nine times out of ten, the wall conversations devolve into marathon sessions of quoting a favorite movie or television show (Arrested Development and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy quotes recur most often, far as I can tell from my own observations). Shows are almost never mentioned. People either seriously or jokingly seeking drugs are welcomed and embraced. Some themes — random hashtags in particular — recur show after show, regardless of the performer.
The Twitter wall now acts like an America Online chatroom, in some respects> Individually, none of the comments make much sense. But, combined, they're fairly insightful. You can tell a good deal about a given Granada show's audience by the contents of the comments on the Twitter wall.
The beginnings of this current and new normal can be traced back to a night just four months into the Twitter wall's existence.
It was at a performance from The Hold Steady and The Whigs at the Granada on July 10, 2010, when the Theater's still most commonly used — and most nonsensical — recurring hashtag was born.
“I was there pretty much just to see the Whigs because I can't really stand the Hold Steady,” remembers Jay Sutton. “Between sets, they had up the now-infamous live Twitter feed, and we were goofing off with that. My friend Jasun [Lee] and I were talking about putting up something really stupid, so I showed him my phone where I'd tweeted '@granadatheater FART.' He said “change it to FARTBUTT.' So I tweeted the first ever 'FARTBUTT,' which I believe was all caps no hashtag.”
The jackassery at play was immediately embraced.
“We had about six of us in our crew that night and we all kept retweeting it,” recalls Lee. “Some friends that weren't at the show but follow Jay, the Granada and me on Twitter noticed the shenanigans and started retweeting from home or their phones as well.
“I remember Dane Kees [@danekees], who I didn't even know at the time, but who was at the show, retweeted it that night after seeing it on the twitter fall. As did [frontman Jason Manriquez of] Fate Lions. I didn't personally know him at the time either. I suppose he saw that Dane and I had tweeted it. So in that one night — had to be, what, 30 minutes between The Whigs and The Hold Steady — it kinda took on a life of it's own. “
“It became our thing every time we went to the Granada,” Sutton adds. “We would make up clever ways to incorporate the phrase into the tweets and whatnot.”
Lee took things a step farther.
Says Lee: “I thought it would be funny to add a Granada column on my Tweetdeck so if I was home and bored and a show was going on, I would be able to see when people were tweeting the most, thus letting me know that the Twitter fall was probably active at the time. I would drop “#FARTBUTT” tweets in at shows I wasn't even at. It became a thing that summer. Just about any of us that were at a show would notify any of the others that were #FARTBUTT-friendly — often including friends from other towns, like Chicago that thought it was a funny story. We would all tweet it at the Granada no matter where we were.”
Absurd as the tweets may have been, though, the Granada's marketing team embraced the hashtag.
Before long, Granada employees Gavin Mulloy and Chris McDonald reach out to Lee and Sutton, the hashtag's ambassadors, to learn more about it — and for another specific purpose.
“They were huge fans of the meme,” Lee says.
“Gavin said he and Chris were thinking of making #FARTBUTT shirts,” Sutton says. “They posted the thought on the Granada's Facebook wall. It was pretty funny to see people's reactions to it. It seemed like some people loved it and some thought it was the dumbest thing in the world. Both appropriate reactions, I think. But, for me, it was just cool to see it getting any kind of attention.”
Even cooler? The fact others began embracing the meme as well.
“We still like to light up the fartbutt machine — our affectionate name for the live Twitter feed — with #fartbutt every time it's on between sets,” Lee says. .
But, these days, almost two years after its introduction, he and Sutton don't even have to bother. The “#FARTBUTT” hashtag remains in constant use — and by Twitter users not named Lee or Sutton, but just regular folks who think it's funny, even if they don't know the hashtag's humble origins.
And, well, yeah, it's kind of funny. Yes, still. Even more so since it's exactly what the Granada wasn't intending when installing the screen in the first place.
The best art forms are often unintended.