I finally FINALLY crossed “See an ACL taping” off my Austin bucket list.
Okay, okay. It wasn’t exactly a taping, but it was a sold out show at the ACL Moody Theater where they do film concerts by acclaimed artists like Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes and, in this case, Wilco (who had taped the same set list at the venue the night before). And it wasn’t exactly at the same location where legendary artists like Johnny Cash, The Allman Brothers Band and David Byrne (I’m excluding hundreds of others here) recorded ACL shows in the past*, but it was nevertheless a pretty remarkable experience.
For starters, Wilco is a band I’ve loved since Brian Jackson first burned one of their songs for me on a CD in the 10th grade. I’ve continued to love and appreciate them as I’ve gotten older, so getting the chance** to see them up close and personal at an intimate venue in my very own city was a pretty incredible experience. They deliver a show that’s as tranquil as it is toe tapping and as psychedelic as it is down-to-earth. They love their fans, love their music and love to play together–which makes for a pretty incredible concert, if you ask me (and you do, because you are reading my blog at this moment).
As hinted earlier, the venue does its part to add to the “oh my gosh, I can’t believe what I’m seeing” experience. The layout, lighting, and acoustics are mind-blowing. The location is in the middle of the hippest Austin action. And even though the new venue is less than a year old, you can’t help but feel like you might be witnessing history.
Check out photos of other live tapings at The Moody Theater below by Mark Collins.
*For the unfamiliar, the studio where public broadcasting station KLRU films the wildly popular Austin City Limits performances, after which the festival is named, relocated from the UT campus to a new theater at the W hotel downtown.
**By “chance” I mean an incredibly generous friend offered me her extra ticket, what a gal. Thanks a ton!
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.
Day 2 of the festival turned out to be one of the better festival days I’ve experienced. Sure there was rain, but that just meant cooler temperatures. And in addition to the much needed precipitation, there were dance parties, an FDP, two celebrity sightings and, of course, epic musical performances.
Again, more details will come at festival’s end, but in the meantime enjoy photos from Day 2.
The day began with a Free Drink Party at the American Legion across the street from the park.
Free drinks and free video games…for people who were less into music and more into Gears of War.
Austin City Limits music festival is back in town, which means we are in for 3 days packed full of tremendous people watching, $5 beers, and sinfully sweet live music performances by our favorite artists.
With two days left of the festival to enjoy, a more detailed account of the experience will have to wait until later.
Day 2, see ya soon.
In Austin and elsewhere, Facebook albums are published, the voices of local disc jockeys hit the airwaves and (sigh) blog posts invade the public domain—all offering first-hand accounts of the splendor of the 2010 Austin City Limits Music Festival. The euphoric memories of humans swaying in unison to today’s trendy and triumphant tunes still linger in our brains like a hangover. Finding amateur reviews of the festival’s performances, the weather, the food, the art, it’s easy. No, it’s beyond that. It’s so abundant it has become hazardous. But what of the fashion?
Yes, ACL is as much about what you wear as who you see. A person’s chosen outfit (or lack of one) immediately places them in one category or another.
Fringe boots, a more-formal-than-appropriate dress and a braided headband—that spells sorority girl. Shirtless, hair-free chest with some kind of abstract flora tattoo? That’s premature hippie dude.
Some go further to make a fashion point than others; take the poor man’s Kid Rock (yes, there is a poor-man’s Kid Rock) or the woman in purple fury boots, bikini and fairy wings who entertains onlookers with yoyo tricks (those clothes say “probably on heavy drugs”). In a place with as much people watching as ACL, it’s easy to make judgments based upon the threads and fibers on the backs of passersby.
And who’s to say it’s a bad thing? The people (and fashion) watching opportunities unquestionably enhance the festival’s atmosphere, and ACL is as much about the atmosphere as it is the music. Cliché? Maybe. Corny? Definitely. But at the end of the day, fairy wings or no, the festival is about welcoming the differences (fashion included) that make us unique and enjoying the music that brings us together.
I will have to give a much more detailed post later of our first ACL experience together, but in the meantime enjoy these photos from our concert-going weekend.
Lots o’ bikes. We opted to walk and avoid the bike clutter.
Heath gives the crowd a look over.
Sit down, humans.
Made completely out of yarn.
That’ll have to tide ya over for the time being. But who did we see? Check out the artists below to see who made the short list.