by Stephanie Groves and Joey Bain
This was my first year back at ACL since the horrific rise of the mud people in 2009, but not a lot has changed in the interim. It’s still the same gigantic eight-stage goulash of differing musical styles and it’s still attended by roughly a billion people. They also still employ the guy (who I can only assume is some sort of evil genius) who schedules all my favorite bands to play at the exact same time and at the very least makes me trudge from one side of the park to the other to catch all my favorite acts. Oddly enough, they let this same guy plan out the location and method of accessing the media area, but I will gladly walk the distance again, just to have use of their fancy porta-potties and lounging. Despite C3’s best efforts, we still managed to actually divide and conquer to catch some music at this year’s show.
One of my ACL picks of the day, Metric, hit the AMD stage at 4pm. I stuck around and watched while my brother took off to catch Micheal Kiwanuka. Lead singer Emily Haines came skipping out energetic and ready to roll. Not the slightest bit intimidated by the roar of the crowd and not to mention sporting some cool shades that look like a pair I wear quite often. Cool. I was sold. Let’s do this. The first song they played was “Artificial Nocturne” off their newest album which lead into one of their biggest hits “Youth Without Youth”. Five or six songs into the set Emily claims how stoked she was to be at ACL and how there was “music everywhere and shit”. The rain at this point was a mist and it didn’t stop anyone from moving about on a wet stage with high voltage. Metric put on a great and entertaining show with crowd engaging “Dead Disco” with lots of clapping along and covered all their well-known top of the charts hits. Finishing off the set was a philosophical break with Emily Haines telling the crowd that “without Music we would all be lost”. After that, I heard a rumble in the sky and I thought to myself “you couldn’t be more right sister”.
Of the three acts I got to see fully this year, Michael Kiwanuka is probably the one you’ve never heard of. The UK singer actually started as session guitarist before moving on to create painfully pretty vintage Soul music on his debut album “Home Again”. I’m not sure if it was the oddness of seeing him outside in the daytime and not in a smoke filled bar but his live sound was quite a bit more upbeat than on his recordings. The deluge of rain that began slightly halfway through his set did little to deter his crowd as he crooned his way into the hearts of those gathered. After an (again oddly upbeat) rendition of his song “Bones”, he finished his set with a damn sight better than good cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “May This Be Love”, thanking the crowd for sticking through him even in the heat. Oh Michael, you should have been here in July.
Listen, you can’t go to one of these things without attending a big-ass dance party. You’d be a fool, and all your friends would laugh at you behind your back and no one wants that. This year my dance party of choice was The Roots and I can say with no bias at all that THEY BROUGHT IT SON. Ahem. For the uninitiated, The Roots are a hip-hop collective out of Philadelphia that forgo a DJ when playing live in favor of live-instrumentation. They started their set, fittingly, by paying tribute to departed hip-hop legend Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch and launching into the Beastie Boys’ perennial hit “Paul Revere”. From there, it was a cover-heavy dance-friendly set that still managed to include originals like “Here I Come” and “How I Got Over” from their albums Game Theory and How I Got Over respectively, while still including covers like Sugarhill Gangs party favorite “Jump On It”.
At the end of the day, we were left with the impossible decision of choosing between Neil Young and Jack White. Being somewhat young and determined to catch White after The White Stripes’ no-show in 2007 (okay, not that young), I went with the latter. As I stood in the fading light waiting for the band to take the stage, listening to Bassnectar’s attempts to murder the few remaining Barton Springs salamanders with low-frequency noises, I pondered if I had made the right decision. Was it worth missing one of the true remaining rock legends to see Jack White before he had a chance to break up with himself? The answer, as it always is with the Austin City Limits Festival, is a resounding maybe-probably. Jack White was certainly trying to make it up to any festival goers that missed out the last go round, playing plenty of material from his multitude of other bands including The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather, but with stuck mostly with crowd pleasing Stripes material. Perhaps the coolest bit about this was seeing some White Stripes songs fleshed out with help from his all-female backing band “The Peacocks” all gracefully dressed in white with a slight doll-like presence. White finished his set a full 15 minutes early with “Seven Nation Army”, leaving the crowd, and us, a bit disappointed in his brevity. I wonder what the deal is with Jack White high-tailing out of his sets early? I had just heard about the tweets of anger and hostility that left some high paying ($90 GA) ticket purchasers irate by his abrupt leaving of the stage 45 minutes early at Radio City Music Hall last month. What’s the hurry Jack? Well, nonetheless he is a magic music man and puts on a stellar performance. We were satisfied and ready to roll out anyway. Good day ACL and we will look forward to seeing how you fill out two weekends next year. Hopefully, not leaving ticket purchasing to chance.
Side Note: Once thing that was missing this year were the crazy religious nutters that always yelled outside the gates of ACL, that we all were going to hell -for listening to music or dancing or whatever. Glad I didn’t have to feel like I was in the middle of a witch hunt this year and I am glad they gave up. I’m gonna miss those crazy kids.