[white_box]For this year’s ACL Music Festival, we sent our two correspondents Andrea and Carlos to join in on the fun on the second weekend and this is their report on the happenings. Unfortunately, the Sunday show was cancelled, but they still came back with plenty to talk about.
Photography by Dave Mead, Jack Edinger, Ashley Garmon, and Nick Simonite.
We arrive late and miss Wild Nothing. Carlos was not happy. Given the blistering heat, I couldn’t imagine bearing the sun any earlier than that. The sweltering humidity seemed to be on everyone’s mind as we sat in the grass, roasting in the sun, waiting for some musical distraction. Widowspeak was a pleasant diversion with their folk tunes accompanied by Molly Hamilton’s angelic voice. It was hard not to be constantly reminded of the heat when you’re watching a girl perform in a long-sleeve shirt, suede skirt and black tights. Still, it was enough to get us into the mood for more live music. Being a longtime fan of Pinback, I decide to break off from my party, who were all dead-set on Local Natives, and watch the show alone. No regrets. The veteran band killed it onstage, with original member Rob Crow bringing plenty of verve to the show. During one of my favorite songs – Fortress – Crow dove off the stage and strolled around the sweaty crowd of fans, all singing along into the microphone. Though I was fairly close up, I didn’t get the chance to cross paths with Crow.
Vampire Weekend and Arctic Monkeys ended up overlapping and though I am a fan of VW, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands perform. Frontman Alex Turner is a lot smaller in person at first glance, even onstage, but his seductive approach as he addressed the crowd in that thick English accent made him ten feet tall. I don’t think I danced too often at ACL but this particular show was definitely one of the ones in which I, pardon the pun, put on my Dancing Shoes. (They played that). The crowd sang along, word-for-word, with every song – even the newest songs off their latest album, AM.[/one_half]
Highlights – Of course, I’m a big Local Natives fan. This show was the last leg of the band’s tour for their “Hummingbird” album and the band announced that this was the first show with Nik Ewing as an official member of the band. Their performance showed how special this show was for them and landed them, hands down, as my favorite performance of the day. There was so much unbelievable energy coming from all the members. Their final song of the set was “Sun Hands,” as requested by the audience and Taylor Rice said “Hey the sun came out!” just before they started and ended the show with a powerful song and the sun bathing the audience as they all lifted up their hands.
Vampire Weekend was definitely on everybody’s Friday ACL list. Lady Bird stage was so packed that it spilled over onto the Honda stage next door. The band successfully mixed old favorites with some great new songs off the new “Modern Vampires of the City” and it was a great show complete with beautiful set design and beach balls floating around the audience. Vampire Weekend put on a great show full of favorites, both old and new for a lively audience.
Runner-ups – Hungover from Thursday night and having missed Wild Nothing due to troubles I’d rather not talk about, Widowspeak was the first band we saw and the Brooklyn indie rock band didn’t disappoint. Maybe it was the state I was in from the night before, but Widowspeak provided the perfect setting (Molly Hamilton the most angelic voice) to ease in to ACL weekend. Although the rain toward the end of the night pushed Purity Ring’s set back a few minutes, it was definitely worth the wait. Despite being soaking wet and the humid conditions, the, Canadian electronic band provided perfect sounds and wonderful visuals that created the perfect outdoor night show experience.
I have to admit, I wasn’t looking forward to this day. I was still so exhausted, not to mention sunburned, from the day before. Regardless, we found ourselves in the middle of a sticky crowd on a hot afternoon waiting for some music. Just as I was beginning to lose my optimism, the Haim sisters came onstage. Out of all the concerts I saw at this festival, I have to say this was one of my absolute favorite shows. The music, the dancing, the faces, the jokes and the rock star mannerisms… it all made for an eclectic and enjoyable performance. Eldest sister, Este led the connection with the audience by keeping consistent conversations with the crowd in between songs. Eventually though, youngest sister, Alana stole the show when she jumped down from the stage and ran along the pit during one of the songs. To close the show, they decided to end with a bang, as the three sisters joined in a percussion symphony with the drummer. I left with the idea that it would be next to impossible to top that performance.
Then we saw Grimes. I’d heard of her before, even read promising reviews but something had always kept me from really investing time into checking her out. Big mistake. This was yet another of the few shows in which I couldn’t help but dance along with the crowd. The clouds shrouded the sun just as a breeze swept through the hill as the eccentric music blasted through the speakers. Cute-as-a-button Claire Boucher would charm the pants off the crowd when she would go off on a rant about Pokemon and then criticize herself for over-talking in between songs. And when she wasn’t doing that, she was making the crowd dance with her dreamy ‘synthpop’ melodies and her dancers leading by example. Last but certainly not least was The Cure. I expected there to be fewer people, considering that Kings of Leon was playing at the same time all the way across Zilker Park but the legendary band drew a huge audience that spilled about halfway down the park. The show began just as the sun was setting and the weary crowd revamped upon hearing the first melody. By the time they played Lovesong, the vast audience became a harmonious and energetic crowd, singing along and swaying to the music. Not even the pouring rain could stop the band and audience from enjoying the tunes until eventually it was time to call it a night. It was the perfect ending to a long, tiresome, fantastic musical weekend. Unfortunately, due to an exorbitant amount of rain, Sunday was cancelled leaving us wanting for bands like Tame Impala, Phoenix, MS MR, Toro y Moi, The National and of course, my favorite, Lionel Ritchie. [/one_half]
Highlights – I’ll be the first one to say that I didn’t immediately warm up to HAIM. Looking back, I can’t even think of a reason why that was. I stayed for their show purely because of the people I was with, but I’m really glad I did. These three ladies have the most amazing energy on stage and I was completely in awe at how quickly I became a fan (literally 2 songs into their set). As their show progressed, their energy only grew. For a show of its size, it was awesome to see the three engage. The three joked and talked in between songs and Alana Haim even jumped off stage and high fived the audience in the middle of a song. The band ended their set with “Let Me Go” (which I now listen to on repeat) and followed up with a non stop drum trio that ended the show with Este Haim storming off stage, only to return to crowd surf. These three are amazing live and definitely won me over with the best performance of the day.
Kendrick Lamar, obviously, was one of the shows to be at. It even seemed that most people came solely to get drunk and watch him perform. But of course, it was with reason. Kendrick definitely provided with a great show and even said Texas was the loudest several times throughout (can’t really disagree). Complete with a live band, something I haven’t really experienced at a rap concert, Kendrick provided an overall great experience.
Runner-ups – Despite not being Passion Pit’s most dedicated fan, I had to see them live. After all, their “Manners” album was the anthem to my summer in Austin in 2009. Their show was fun and energetic. I found myself dancing a few times throughout to songs I didn’t even know. The light show mixed with a wild audience made for a great show that night.
I had been waiting for a long time to finally see Grimes live. After missing her two years in a row at SXSW, I wasn’t going to miss her a third year in a row. I was hoping her show would be amazing but after a few songs I found myself back on the grassy knoll listening from afar. Don’t get me wrong; Claire Boucher is so full of talent and energy that it was hard to not like the overall show. Despite forgetting her own lyrics half way into a song, she managed to have tons of people out of their seats, despite the heat, dancing hard.
Some of the performances I was most looking forward to (Tame Impala, Atoms for Peace) were set to perform on Sunday. The heavy rain that started Saturday night led to the cancellation of the final day of the second weekend. Despite the disappointment, The first two days were so great and full of great acts that I was content with my first time attending Austin City Limits.[/one_half_last]