ACL Wrapped UpPosted: September 19, 2011
It’s difficult to write about an event that is so widely reported on it’s almost cliche. Austin City Limits Music Festival. Yes it’s a good time. Yes there is a wonderfully diverse selection of bands that will tickle your ear drums (think everything from Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, Randy Newman and Coldplay). Yes there are massive crowds, expensive beer and weather woes. Despite those shared sentiments, at the end of those three days, the 75,000 festival attendees leave the park feeling as though they’ve each just had a completely unique experience. Such is the beauty of 46 acres, 130 bands and 8 stages.
So, rather than giving a vague, surface level review of the festival as a whole (after all, I’m not a music snob and can’t single out a skilled guitar riff or a sick bass line), I shall opt for an honest recollection of my fourth ACL experience.
In year one I made it my goal to hit the front row of every show. Year two I hung back in the shade. Year three was my first go at festival attending at legal drinking age and year four allowed me to mix my favorite elements of the other three fests together to create one awesome festival cocktail. For the bands I loved I wiggled my way through the crowd to get as close to the front as decency would allow (there is strict crowd etiquette when it comes to getting front and center) and for the more mellow, less familiar bands I hung back with a beer and an umbrella (which, this go ’round, offered protection from sun and rain).
The final menu looked something like this:
Friday–Fool’s Gold, Foster the People, Kanye West
Saturday–Fitz and the Tantrums, Cut Copy, Chromeo, Stevie Wonder, My Morning Jacket
Sunday–Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses, Fleet Foxes, Empire of the Sun
Foster the People, of Pumped up Kicks fame, put on an invigorating show that had 12,000 bystanders singing, dancing, clapping and writhing along with lead singer Mark Foster who was having as good or better a time than the crowd he was performing for. * Having seen Coldplay perform twice before, we opted to rap along side Kanye West for the Friday finale. The rapper put on a show typical of Kanye fashion…that is, it was flashy and self-indulgent. The 1 1/2 hour performance was presented in three acts. Acts one and two were packed with the hit maker’s most famous tunes like Good Life, Gold Digger and Through the Wire. The crowd ate it up, and had the opportunity to behold a fantastic troupe of professional ballerinas in the process. (As a former ballerina myself, I applaud Kanye for exposing his fans to one of the more under appreciated arts, but I couldn’t help but wonder if his desire to hire dozens of professional dancers was rooted less in some deep appreciation for the art of ballet and more in fear of sharing the stage with musical contemporaries who could potentially steal his thunder.) The last act was tired and momentum killing. Instead of turning out his most bass thumping hits, the rapper went off into a slow parade of one auto-tuned memoir after another. Fans who left before the last 20 minutes did themselves a favor. * The Saturday Chromeo performance had people dancing against their will AND included Robert Palmer-esque back up dancers who helped keep the crowd in a constant sway. * Stevie Wonder would have been fantastic if the show was only audible. A failed speaker made it nearly impossible for fans hundreds of yards out to hear hits like How Sweet It Is and Signed, Sealed Delivered. * So we headed to My Morning Jacket across the park to hear a show that at times was peaceable and serene and at others headbangingly wonderful. * Sunday’s performance by Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses was so alluring it got Heath to abandon his post at the TV tent where the Dallas Cowboys game was being broadcasted. I wouldn’t have thought Bingham’s voice could outshine his good looks, but I was pleasantly pleased to see that, even live, it did. * Fleet Foxes sounded eerily, but delightfully, similar to Simon and Garfunkle and provided the perfect wind-down/wrap-up to the festival.
So there you have it folks, the extremely novice and naive opinion of two unprofessional festival goers.
Cheers to next year’s fest. I am already saving up for tickets.