total cost of ACL (excluding plane and concert tickets):
breakfast tacos-homemade by Frank at home
apple-snagged from the fridge on our way out
water bottle $3
emergenC-free from my bag
vitamin water $3
dinner, half of veggie fajitas and tons of chips and salsa-$10 including tax, tip and so on
iced tea-free with ACL text message ad
apple-also free from my bag
beer provided by Frank after my near-meltdown after the insane, loud, rude crowd at MGMT-free
beer purchased for me+Mark-$10 total
dinner back at Frank and Vicky’s-delicious and free
pink drink $4
half a curry burrito-$2.50
half of a slice of watermelon-Mark generously shared
dinner for the crew at Guero’s split with Mark-$50
$98.50 total if my math is right. this is especially interesting to me since I remember Woodstock ‘99 being super expensive. It was late July in upstate New York and hot and humid as hell. Water was $4 per 12 oz and I budgeted myself one cold water and one frozen lemonade (at $4 as well) per day as well as one meal. I lived off the GoRP my mom packed for me and the duffel bag full of granola bars that Jeremy’s mom packed him. No wonder people rioted. Shit was expensive for the late ’90s!
This city really knows how to throw a festival. I’m already thinking about SXSW in March. Maybe I’ll do music in addition to interactive?
A.A. Bondy. Great solo acoustic guitar act, but in a different way than Jose Gonzalez. He was a cross between old Bob Dylan (obvious comparison because of the harmonica) and Elliot Smith, but with a Southern US vibe (he’s from Mississippi apparently). I hear he fills in at gigs in Austin a bit. Kind of a dark side to his lyrics. Perhaps he has a past in drugs? Mark identified him as right out of the 1950s. (I’d say late 50s or 60s)
Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet (featuring Bela Fleck). Honestly, I sat in the shade and half listened. It was from 12:30 to 1:30 and the sun and heat were brutal. She plays the banjo and does sort of folk music, both American and traditional Chinese. In Chinese. Unexpected but I wasn’t totally into it.
(we had a reviving pink drink here and I found out what they’re made of: lemonade and prickly pear juice, but agave sweetened so there are no calories. instant hydration)
Octapus Project. A local Austin group, but with a unique sound. The female in the band plays the theramin and they recruited the marching band from a local high school. Really fun stuff. Kinda reminded me of Architecture in Helsinki in a good way. They had cute large monster thingys on stage as well. Bonus points.
Gillian Welch. We set up a little blanket area for the rest of the day since most of the bands we wanted to see were in one area. At this point in the marathon I was ready to just sit and relax with the group and not worry about getting lost, etc. (reliable cell service is hard to come by, Mark’s phone died, and sometimes flags or other landmarks shift in the crowd). Oh, and Gillian Welsh was fine. Sounded like the rest of the bluegrass I heard this weekend. Good musician, really popular. She brought out Alison Krauss for that one song they sang in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Stars. They’re good but I wasn’t into it. We split for food and some shade. I had a strawberry frozen smoothie (all natural!) and it was the best decision I made all day. Then we sat in the beach tent on the sand, which was nice and cool and in the shade. We briefly lamented the expiration of the pink drink (sold out!) and made our way back after the next act started.
Neko Case. Kinda listened. She’s good but I always liked her better with the New Pornographers. She was a great performer, though, and talked to the crowd more than most acts have (which reminds me, a major diss to the crowd was Beck, the hour and a half headliner for Saturday, the biggest night attendance-wise, finishing his set 17 minutes early. let down for most people and also screwed up the flow of people leaving at the end of the night. we got caught in a major bike traffic jam). Neko has lovely red hair and a haunting voice, but you probably know that.
Okkervil River. Another band that was really good (band leader originally from New Hampshire, but based in Austin. singer sounded almost British) and not bluegrassy at all. A bit more Brit-indie-pop-ish but I wasn’t as into it as the crowd (maybe because of how far back we were sitting? I was fine just hanging out on the blanket and reapplying sunscreen every 20 minutes).
Raconteurs. Oh wow oh wow do I love Jack White now. I was never really into the White Stripes but have always liked the few Raconteurs songs I’d heard on the radio. I had no idea how good they would be. This music is pretty rockin’ and all the guys in the band are so talented. We managed to sneak up to the very front of the crowd which made the experience that much more exciting. We were so close that the stage was easier to see Jack White et al themselves than the large screens on either side. The high point of this set all the way at the front was probably the high point of the festival (at the very least tonight).
Tegan and Sara. I think that the majority of the group was not into seeing them, but based on my insistence in T&S awesomeness, everyone wanted to stay (and I compromised in leaving without seeing Band of Horses or Foo Fighters at all). Everyone seemed really happy at the end of it all, because Tegan and Sara really rocked. They played “Living Room,” “Walking with a Ghost,” and “I Bet it Stung.” The crowd ate it up when they played a bit of Rhianna’s “Umbrella.” They also did much more stage chatter than most bands — mostly about voting for Obama and a few personal anecdotes. They really played up the lesbian, Canadian, and twin angles (honestly all I know about this band other than the music can be sumemed up in those three words). You may be interested to know that this largely Texan crowd went WILD at all mentions of Obama, in a good way. This set was relatively mellow considering how unexpectedly badass the music was, in an Ani DiFranco sort of way. I just strolled right up to the front of the sound board, where I’m told the sound is the best in the stage area. I could see them pretty well. Perfect cap on the night.
(note: at this point in the night I somehow decided that I would get a tattoo if I could figure out what to get, so due to proximity I asked Mark who suggested the Union Jack. the absurdity of this suggestion gave me a good laugh and snapped me out of the foolish logic.)
Foo Fighters. overheard while we exited. Called my dad since he always liked them more than I do. I didn’t realize until I heard them back to back to back but they have a ton of pretty good songs.
In conclusion, Austinites are (in my experience) fun, friendly, into their music and their beer and very chill about it.
Because of recent trips and trip-related spending, I won’t be shopping (or, likely, eating out or going anywhere) for something like the rest of the year. But I’m pretty sure this place will be a temptation.
We started the day with homemade apple pancakes and a bike ride along Town Lake to the festival.
Fleet Foxes. They have such a great sound and this was the perfect set to start day two. They didn’t really wow me since, honestly, they sounded pretty similar to their studio recordings. They’re good but maybe they need to improvise a bit?
The Fratellis. Scottish band (very reminiscent of Franz Ferdinand) that drew a massive crowd, apparently because they had a song in an iPod commercial. Good and Brit poppy, but not that engaging.
Jose Gonzalez. We got a text from Frank about how amazing he was around the time we were losing interest in the Fratellis, so we walked clear across the park. This was hands down the best set of the day. He played solo for a bit and had two friends join him (one on hand drums, and the other playing the melodica and singing. They covered “Teardrop” by Massive Attack and he did “Heartbeats” which was way better in person than recorded. I was still picturing bouncing balls on a hill in San Francisco, though.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. We sat down and caught the beginning of their set. Lots of energy and a nice change from the acoustic indie-ish stuff we’ve been hearing.
CSS. We heard them in the background while we were swimming at Barton Springs. We decided to split for an hour and swim in the creek. It was chilly and so refreshing. There was so much moss and lake goo on the bottom that you had to tread water the whole time. I had green stuff stuck to me even after I rinsed off at the outdoor shower.
City and Coulour. Good but not at all memorable. We sat and listened and were a bit puzzled since he played with a band and not as a “solo acoustic” show as our little guide book indicated.
Electric Touch. The first band that I’ve thought was turned up too loud this weekend. Austin by way of England band.
MGMT. Holy crapness there were so many people here. I was the only one of us interested, so I tried to maneuver my way through the hoards and hoards of people (teenagers) who were packed in to the area between two of the main stages. I was probably the oldest person there and the crowd was packed in around me. After “Time to Pretend” (their most famous song among, clearly, teenagers, but not that great, albeit catchy, in my opion) people started streaming out. “Electric Feel” and “Weekend War were good and they did a pretty awesome version of “Kids” (typically just Andrew and Ben, but the guitarist who always wears the stripey shirt came out for the end). I planned on staying on that side to catch some of John Fogerty (and maybe Mason Jennings) and The Black Keys but there were way too many people around. My cell phone was going in and out of service because of all the people around and our text communication wasn’t working (I didn’t want to get lost from everyone and have to find my way back on a bike in the dark).
Conor Oberst. I’ve never listened to him much as Bright Eyes or as himself but this he was good. It was a nice relaxing re-intigration to the group after the ridiculous clusterf*&k that was MGMT. Very chill and way less crowded. We sat and half listened. He did a nice cover of “Kodachrome” during which I discovered that Mark has no clue about Paul Simon/most American bands pre-2005. Funny considering how many classic UK bands I know. I guess the wave only went one way?
Iron & Wine. They were playing in the background as we made our way to the front of the main stage area. Frank was really into seeing Beck up close (he’d never seen him).
Beck. I saw Beck (this is going to make me sound old, maybe) 11 or 12 years ago with Ben Folds Five and I remember him walking out on stage in a white jumpsuit dumping a quart of milk on his face/drinking it. He was so quirky and charming back then with cute dance moves. Now, he’s a bit more grown up, wearing a blazer and hat with long hair — a more mature look. The first song was “Loser,” which instantly transports me back to freshman year of high school walking home from school with my friend Matt who sang the Spanish lyrics from that song all the time. Then he went into “Guero” and kept going with more recent hits. His guitarist was this badass woman wearing a red plaid shirt, dark denim skirt with black tights and pinned up hair and bangs. She totally rocked and made me wish my dad had actually taught me guitar when I was a kid. Again, we were surrounded by teenagers (this time, ones eating magic mushrooms on a burger). It was a lot of fun and the energy from the crowd was great, but we were in desperate need of a bathroom break by this point.
Robert Plant and Allison Krauss. After the bathroom break we decided to swing by and check them out. Mark deemed himself “old” as an excuse for liking them. I was in semi-awe of seeing one half of what made Led Zeppelin awesome, and her voice is quite good as well. Some of the music was a bit country but other songs reminded me of “Over the Hills and Far Away”-type Led Zep with mandolin and all that. This stage was beautiful because you can turn around and see the Austin skyline.
I feel like I’ve smoked packs of cigarettes from breathing in the dust (and second hand smoke, but mostly the dust).
Apparently Mark used to be a mountain bike racer in high school so on the way back, in the dark, on the steep path, he started “frame surfing” (I can’t be sure of the name since his accent get a bit heavier with each beer) and doing all sorts of crazy stuff on his bike. This stirred Frank to egg Mark on even more. Funny to see the two of them interact — they are more like brothers than old friends sometimes.
Frank, in addition to making amazing breakfast tacos and pancakes, can whip up a dinner from nothing. Tonight we had two appetizer courses and dinner within 20 minutes upon arrival back, including a Paul Newman Memorial Salad (bcs of the dressing. get it?).
I looked up the lineup from Coachella because I could only remember a few acts I’d seen, namely Snow Patrol, Rilo Kiley, Razorlight, and Stereophonics (the latter simply because they seemed to be on speed).
Here’s who played on day one:
Ambulance LTD, Amp Fiddler, Bauhaus, Bloc Party, Boom Bip, Buck 65, Café Tacuba, Hernan Cattaneo, The Chemical Brothers, Coldplay, Jamie Cullum, DJ Marky, DJ Peretz (Perry Farrell), Eisley,Evil Nine, Fantômas, Four Tet, Jean Grae, Gratitude,Immortal Technique, Katie Melua, Keane,The Kills, k-os, M83, Mercury Rev,MF Doom, Nic Armstrong and the Thieves, Razorlight, The Raveonettes, Rilo Kiley, Sage Francis, The Secret Machines, The Sexy Magazines, Snow Patrol, Spoon, Swayzak, Tiga, UNKLE,Weezer, Wilco, Josh Wink, Zap Mama
To the best of my recollection (which is not completely reliable), I saw: Bloc Party (SO GOOD), The Chemical Brothers, Keane (good), Razorlight (who we took away as our discovery of the day. total rock stars. great performers.), Rilo Kiley (heart), Snow Patrol, and Spoon.
Update: we did not see Bloc Party—I saw them a few months later in LA.
Yeasayer. Great way to start the day. Much better (and much more sober?) than when I saw them before.
Jakob Dylan. Impressive. Such a great musician. And so handsome. Did I mention handsome?
Jamie Lidell. A cross between Maroon 5 and Jamiroquai, but more pop-ified. The preppy girls around me were REALLY into it and knew all the words. I wasn’t feeling it but I see the appeal. He was wearing cute, nerdy glasses.
M. Ward. I was impressed by the crowd he drew to one of the smaller tent stages since I’d never heard of him before the She and Him album. His gravely voice combined with his acoustic picking guitar style was great. It was hard to get into the set since we were pretty far back and couldn’t see him. I’d listen to this at home, though.
Hot Chip. Mark said we had to check this out since his “housemate in uni was shagging one of the guys” and also, I’m guessing since as a fledgeling musician, seeing a bunch of Cambridge blokes on stage at ACL is sort of his dream personified. I wasn’t feeling their electro-whatever.
Mates of State. Oh wow, they are great live. They are the cutest, coolest married couple with kids from Connecticut that I know of! They met in art school and have been married for 8 years but seem to really like each other in a non-obnoxious way. Jason was wearing a heather blue henley and playing the drums with major energy. Kori was wearing a black embroidered dress and kickass boots with gray knee socks peeking out. She played the keyboards while looking over at Jason. Super cute. They were backed by a male/female cello duo and a guy playing violin/bass. So good.
Jenny Lewis. She has really grown into her sound. Her new stuff is real rockabilly, which seems very ACL-appropriate. She has a big backing band and they were great, though of course her voice is what really shines. She is captivating on stage as she was before (I saw Rilo Kiley at Coachella 2005, the last festival I attended). She was wearing a short denim jumper/romper and she has the best bangs.
The Swell Season. Ok, I admit it. I saw the move “Once” three times (plus the making of) and have listened to the soundtrack about a million times. These guys make the best music together, and we saw them right as the sun was setting. They are a bit shmaltzy, and Glen Hansard tried a few tunes that felt flat with the crowd, and one of the keys on the piano broke, but they were still so good. The crowd went crazy when he covered a Van Morrison song. I was a little worried that Marketa was really ill or something because they barely showed her face on the big screen and when they did she looked deathly pale.
The Mars Volta. Not the most accessible sound, but on the main stage closing the night they were unbelievable. They are true performers. This is a real arena rock band. They are the closest thing to a Led Zeppelin that our time has, but mixed in with a little Jimi Hendrix psychedelic touch and maybe a bit of Rage Against the Machine. I didn’t recognize anything that they played (I’m familiar with their first 3 albums) but it didn’t matter.
It’s been 90 degrees and the field got really dusty by the afternoon.
Our feet got super dirty (sunblock plus grassy fields=dusty feet).
Seriously people, why are you all drinking beer? I can barely get enough water!
Part way through the afternoon, Frank produced a slightly fizzy, icy bright pink drink from one of the vendors that, I swear, just four sips of completely revived me from all the heat.
Just wrote a band-by-band recap of today at Austin City Limits and as I was finishing off the 9th band, my laptop spontaneously shut down. I hope Tumblr adds an auto-save feature soon! I don’t have it in me to rewrite that all now. My head is full of music and my ears have a slight ring or buzz in them. My nose is a bit stuffy from all the dust and second hand smoke. I’m the only one still awake (everyone else was drinking grown up beverages whereas I was just trying to keep hydrated). More tomorrow.