2011 Austin City Limits Festival Wrap
Austin City Limits served as the ultimate break from the status quo, an ephemeral voyage to a utopia far removed from normative daily life, embedded in the heart of one America’s most interesting cities. Also, the extended weekend was a long overdue first trip to Austin, TX for me personally, and I immediately became enamored with the place (a city with great live music and great Mexican food – is this real life?). The familiar ambitions of seeing as many bands as humanly possible and packing a month’s worth of debaucherousness into a less-than-100-hour window were once again prevalent and a good mix of festival favorites like Arcade Fire, Manu Chao, Santigold and My Morning Jacket paired well with a number of acts I’ve just recently got attuned to recently like Charles Bradley, Reptar and Phosphorescent. Free form noodling, shuffling and the new-to-me, slow-mo/glitchified moves of dubstep all ensued, copious amounts of Torchy’s tacos were consumed and one of the best all-around festival experiences of my life was had. ACL 2011 ranks high in many important festival categories so continue on below for some general festival critiques, musical recaps and a few videos to wrap up our coverage. Until next time – Keep Austin Awesome.
Yeezy came out guns blazin’ in Act I, ascending over the crowd perched on a crane lift as dancers of a Greek tragedy-esque play flailed wildly on the main stage. A visceral power sustained itself throughout the very impressive Act I, making this one of the more entertaining segments of any show of the weekend. After watching the 808’s and Heartbreaks-heavy Act II, expectedly drenched in Auto-Tune overkill, we decided to make an early exit to catch the convenient (and free) shuttle buses back to 4th & Congress. Any remaining bitterness at Kanye from the Bonnaroo ’08 debacle has now officially lifted. The man brings it.
Go See Them immediately. This Ziggy Stardust-meets-Animal Collective-meets-Modest Mouse psych-pop outfit emerged on the festival scene this year from the music factory town of Athens, GA and despite only having a 40-minute set, delivered the goods in a very animated, theatric and ultra-psychedelic way that had the soggy crowd completely engaged throughout. The entertainment/weird factors were also helped by the fact that the keyboard player wore a unitard and the lead singer oscillated seamlessly from his standard hi-strung vocals to a straight creepy and intense Dracula growl. I’m expecting big things from this band musically and, if given some financial backing as a result of a label backing or success on the road, it’s pretty clear that an Of Montreal level of weirdness in their stage production will likely be apart of their future.
My Morning Jacket
Alison Krauss and Union Station
Other Notes: Phosphorescent delivered an excellent welcome set on the Austin Ventures set, capped off by the serious ivory ticklin’ (see below) on the slow burning “Los Angeles” closer. Wanda Jackson added a touch of class on Saturday afternoon, doing “I Saw The Light” and sharing remembrances from her early career when rock-and-roll was still a primitive art form. The Queen of Rockabilly, even at 73, is still very much deserving of her crown. Skrillex’ midday crowd literally lapped up every second of the artist’s set (see below for motion .gif), fad or no fad, this dubstep thing is HUGE right now…and guess who’s gonna be on the cover of the next SPIN magazine??
Sunday was an amazing day, and one of the most genuine bands also happened to be the biggest of the weekend, a rarity when it comes to big-time bands. Arcade Fire closed down the Bud Light stage, filling up the festival’s coveted, sole unopposed slot and proving once again why they are the festival band of 2011. Seemingly every song in their set was a larger-than-life anthem, delivered with an amazing amount of enthusiasm and there were zero signs of wear-and-tear or a been-here-done-that attitude that one might expect at this point in the band’s relentless world tour in 2010-2011. Frontman Win Butler, after mentioning that he considers Austin to be the band’s American hometown, announced that the band is about to go on hiatus, marking ACL’s set as the final U.S. date for some time after a huge year that saw the Canadian band headline Jazz Fest, Coachella, Bonnaroo and take home a Grammy for Album of the Year. Here’s hoping they aren’t gone long, after all, this collective may just be the rock band of our generation.
THE LEE BOYS
Unfortunately, bands with any sort of connection to the jam scene were in very short supply this weekend which was why it was great to cut loose on Sunday afternoon at The Lee Boys gospel steel jam in the Vista Equity tent, an uplifting set in the same tradition of Robert Randolph and the Family Band that lifted spirits and got weary feet moving yet again. The Lee Boys got funky and spiritual at the same time and taught me tthat when four/five strings on a bass ain’t enough to bring the funk, you can always go with seven.
I’ll Take You There
Notes: Watching The Head and the Heart deliver lustrous harmonies and swoony folk-pop from stage left in the drizzle was the perfect way to ease into what would prove to be an aggressive final day at the fest. Manu Chao La Ventura proved why he is one of the best performers on the planet, sending the crowd into a jubilant celebration mode more reminiscent of a Glastonbury or Roskilde with flags flying and the whole crowd levitating. This was a very different and more punkish style than I had seen previously when Manu toured with Radio Bemba Sound System a few years ago, but a nice change of pace and a much rawer sound that worked just fine. See below for an animated .gif from the set. Also, my first impression of Death From Above 1979 was very, very good, I honestly went into the show almost knowing nothing about this duo, save the fact that a lot of people seem to be enthralled at their return and thoroughly enjoyed it. Also, the spot on the hill between the AMD and Honda Stage might just be the primo spot in Zilker to take a load off, relax and take in a set in the late afternoon.
Caught this on Sunday evening, had to skip the majority of their set to see Manu Chao, but was great to walk up and see one of my favorite Fleet Foxes tunes:
See you back in Austin this March for South-by-Southwest. Booking. Flight….NOW.
About the author
Wesley grew up in coastal Georgia and is a former resident of The Music City and The Big Easy where he helped get LMB NOLA off-the-ground after launching in January 2011. Over the past few years, he has also contributed steadily to JamBase and Relix Magazine. Recently, Hodges moved on to L.A. where Abita Beer is hard to find, costs about $6 if located and impromptu parading in the streets will most likely get you arrested on the spot.
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