Last weekend, Consequence of Sound traveled to Austin, Texas to take part in summer’s last major music festival. Austin City Limits always seems phenomenal, but by weekend’s end, this year’s edition certainly proved to be one of the most memorable. In the coming days, our staff will share its thought of and experiences from the festival…
With each new year, Austin City Limits continually strives to redefine just how much bigger and how much better a music festival can be. Quality matching quantity is key, and if the seventh annual edition of ACL proved anything, it once again showed that the Texas based extravaganza is in a class of its own when to comes this. The tens of thousands of tourists who joined the residents of Austin for a weekend of chilled beer, loud music, and of course, the blazing sun, would ultimately witness a festival that no adjective could accurately describe. After all, words like “huge,” “mammoth,” and “ginormous” don’t even begin to capture the scene that was ACL 7. But hey, we’ll give a try…
Early acts lacked name recognition but captured the essence of Austin completely. Beginning the day in the confines of a shaded tent, The Jones Family Singers energized the early arrivers with Southern charm thanks to their fun and engaging gospel songs. Survivors of Hurricane Ike, the east Texans were humanizing and charismatic, inviting festival-goers of all backgrounds to stand up, dance, sing, and praise God with them.
On opposing stages soon thereafter, it was a battle of locals. Funk-soul musician Dan Dyer and Sound and the Jury contest winners The Steps fought for the local crowd in addition to introducing its music to all of the out-of-towners. Dyer, a Lenny Kravitz protégé, gave off a similar vibe, while the barely legal Steps (yet ACL repeaters) filled the Dell Stage with its classic-sounding pop rock.
The weather was nice. Light breezes and cloud coverage were more than welcome as the temperature was bound to reach the mid 90’s. But the briskness was relieving, as was the light early day schedule. Down in the VIP Grove, free alcoholic beverages, as well as refreshing ones like Sweet Leaf and Vitamin Water, accompanied the catered lunch of assorted sandwiches. For those in need of a necessary break, The Dell Dome offered computer access and fun activities such as a custom t-shirt print station.
But the Dell Stage was just getting started. An hour later, Yeasayer kicked off the with a good dose of indie weirdness and healthy, catchy melodies. Using a fretless bass, the notes moved the music from smooth wave to thundering crests. The group experimented with melding sounds, reminiscent of Genesis with Black Moth Super Rainbow, while vocalist Chris Keating worked more as a technician, manipulating and layering his voice into separate melodies.
Vampire Weekend played to a huge, anxious crowd over on the AMD Stage. The buzz backlash didn’t seem apparent as they played its jangly, precious pop tunes almost perfectly for the audience present. No risks were taken with the arrangements, so it made for a solid, yet uninspired set. It was peculiar that the stellar violin solo was missing from “Ladies of Cambridge”, yet a full orchestra was brought on later in the set.
Immediately following Vampire Weekend, Del Tha Funky Homosapien graced the AT&T Blueroom Stage and played played a set which mixed old and new material, as well as cuts from his other projects. “Virus” from Deltron 3030 played early on, and he closed with a rendition of the Gorillaz tune, “Clint Eastwood”, which he happened to contribute too.
Over in the WaMu tent, the one-two indie punch of M. Ward and Jenny Lewis saw plenty of adoring fans sticking around once the former was completed. M. Ward’s husky voice echoed in the confines of the shade as his backing band complimented him superbly with beautiful solos.
But Jenny Lewis is a star. Decked in a flattering outfit and giant sunglasses, she began the set with an energetic performance of “Jack Killed Mom”, before pleasing fans with stellar renditions of several songs off her newest release, Acid Tongue. However, she did scale back some, and her album with the Watson Twins was well-represented, as she cut tracks from Rabbit Fur Coat beautifully. To top it all off, Johnathan Rice did Elvis Costello justice by singing his part from “Carpetbaggers”.
Hot Chip provided the electro-rock dance explosion for the day as people threw glitter all over their fellow crowd members and danced to the pulsating beats.
As the afternoon progressed, so did the desire for food and drinks. Twenty of the best local restaurants, ranging from Salt Lick BBQ to the health-conscious Pureheart, gave festival-goers the opportunity to try a wide variety of affordable meals. Alcohol was reasonably-priced too, as a 12 ounce can of Heineken, Bud Light and Lonestar cost four dollars (and subsequently, a 24 ounce was eight).
First of the weekend’s big musical legends, David Byrne utilized the size of the stage by incorporating back up dancers and singers into the performance. The music was largely from the latest record with Brian Eno and came across as purely just that. In an effort to please his oldest fans, he closed off the set with a few Talking Heads tracks such as “Life During War Time” and “Once in a Lifetime”.
Glen Hansard of The Swell Season has seen an explosion in his reputation as an emotional performer who demands your every attention. But he and Marketa Irglova just didn’t command the stage. They looked beautiful up there as the sky darkened, and they sounded lovely, but technical complications forced Irglova off stage for a bit and they never really got going.
Following the quiet sounds of songs from the movie Once on the Blueroom field, The Mars Volta was the complete opposite, delivering a loud and energized set. Seven songs, including the 2006 single “Viscera Eyes” and several songs from the January release, The Bedlam in Goliath, stretched into lengthy rock epics. Guitarist Omar Rodriguez, multi-instrumentalist Adrian Terrazas-Gonzalez and drummer Thomas Pridgen kept the sound fresh with their outrageous solos, and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala was his usual acrobatic and charismatic self. It was a great way to end the night and head out to Chuy’s for a late night meal.