FESTIVAL RECAP: ACL Saturday (Rockin’ in the Rain)
Saturday at Austin City Limits is historically the big day out, when EVERYONE with a 3-day pass makes the pilgrimage down to Zilker Park and the most single day passes are used and abused. And with the likes of guitar villain Jack White and the iconic, legendary, mythic Neil Young and fabled partners Crazy Horse taking up the big letter spots on AMD and Bud Light stages, you’d have thought we were destined/doomed to see record-breaking crowds. Then came the rain and everything changed. Can I get a Hallelujah! Saturday was, in the words of poetic madman J. Tillman, “a hungover person’s paradise.”
Downtown Austin (in the A.M.):
Before I even got to the festival – a little later in the day than usually after my late-night fun – I received a prophetic omen from the gods of rock that it was going to be my kinda day, one that I felt must be shared. As I walked down E. Cesar Chavez toward the corner of Bravos St., who did I spy on the opposite corner? None other than Black Keys’ prodigious drummer Patrick Carney, carrying two iced coffees towards a destination I knew not. Purely on instinct, I clasped my hands around my mouth and in a high-pitched squeal yelled, “I love you, man.” Without skipping a beat, he immediately picked up his pace, walking faster in the direction opposite from me. Ahhh, I hope the other iced coffee was for Dan…
The Whigs: Saturday, Oct. 13th – 2:00pm – 3:00pm @ AMD Stage
I’ve been a fan of garage rock band The Whigs for sometime now and not just because they hail from the Southern music mecca of Athens, GA (though it doesn’t hurt, right?). I’ve really enjoyed their evolving discography over the years, particularly 2010’s In the Dark, and the setlist was a greatly appreciated mix of all three older LPs with a pleasing dash of new material from recent release Enjoy the Company. I was specifically happy to hear “Black Lotus” as the second song because I was literally begging right then for someone to “take my mind and erase it please.” I would also be remiss to not mention that Julian Dorio is just an extremely talented drummer that you will want to see live on stage one day if you haven’t already. And he’s a really nice guy too, having met and talked briefly with him a few years ago.
Already Young; Black Lotus; Tiny Treasures; Couple of Kids; Like a Vibration; Production City; Half the World Away; Hundred / Million; Gospel; Right Hand on my Heart; Waiting; Rock and Roll Fever; Need You Need You; Staying Alive
Dry the River: Saturday, Oct. 13th – 2:00pm – 2:45pm @ Austin Ventures Stage
My one true regret from last weekend’s ACL is that I did not go and see at least half of Dry the River’s set over at Austin Ventures. All I can tell you is I walked straight there from AMD upon leaving the Whigs, hoping to get a good early spot for Father John Misty, and that is when I got my face melted by Dry the River’s blistering finale “Lion’s Den”.
I’ve been listening to their debut album Shallow Bed a lot since I got home, and I’d suggest you do too. And please don’t repeat my mistake; if you ever get a chance to see this dynamic English folk rock band, do it damnit.
Father John Misty: Saturday, Oct. 13th – 3:15pm – 4:00pm @ Austin Ventures Stage
It’s hard to summarize exactly what a Father John Misty set is like to the uninitiated. I can say that an impromptu prayer circle preceded first song, “Funtimes in Babylon”. And singer and primo-instigator J. Tillman came out wearing heart-shaped sunglasses before explaining that he likes to “bum people out.” Watching him dance and strike poses during second song and personal favorite “Only Son of the Ladiesman”, I can’t help but think this must be what a male version of Rick James’ super freak is like. After that and prior to third song “Nancy From Now On”, Tillman returned to the front of the stage with a full bottle of Tito’s Vodka in hand to proclaim, “I’m ready for anything now. Just try to fuck with me.” And faux-pleaded, “ Will someone just stop messing with Texas. Leave Texas alone…” Favorite line from next song “I’m Writing a Novel” maybe sums up the total experience best thusly, “we could do ayahuasca, baby, if I wasn’t holding all these drinks.” So what’s Father John Misty really like? Beats me, but I highly, highly recommend seeing them if you can. Or at the very least, buy Fear Fun, put it on in a dimly lit room by yourself, and sexy dance the night away. As a side note: My two-word message to Big K.R.I.T. fans over at the Honda Stage: NOISE POLLUTION. But then, to each his own I guess…
Maybe check this out from Friday’s show at The Parrish?
Funtimes in Babylon; Only Son of the Ladiesman; Nancy From Now On; I’m Writing a Novel.
Metric: Saturday, Oct. 13th – 4:00pm – 5:00pm @ AMD Stage
Walking back over to AMD just prior to the beginning of Metric, you got a distinct sense of how many more people were already at Zilker than at the same time yesterday. Still, an intense obstacle course of chairs and lounging bodies couldn’t keep me from bum-rushing the dense cluster of bodies populating the area in front of the stage. I needed to be able to see Emily Haines with my own eyes when she took the stage, and can you blame me? The set started off strong with first song of new album Synthetica, “Artificial Nocturne”, and it’s safe to say Metric had me at hello if you know what I mean. Except for two exceptions (“Empty” and “Dead Disco”), all the songs in the set came from Synthetica and 2009’s Fantasies, and as a result, all the songs played well together in progression, coalescing to generate a sense of static electricity in the air. At least the hairs on the back of my neck stood up during “Gold Guns Girls”. An acoustic farewell with “Gimme Sympathy” was “dedicated to dedicating your life to rock ‘n’ roll.” Rock on. The goddess of irony (Alanis Morissette?) must have been laughing though, because, just as Haines finished singing “come on baby play me something like ‘here come’s the sun’”, the bottom dropped out and down came the rain…
Artificial Nocturne; Youth Without Youth; Speed the Collapse; Empty; Help I’m Alive; Synthetica; Breathing Underwater; Sick Muse; Dead Disco; Gold Guns Girls; Gimme Sympathy
Big Gigantic: Saturday, Oct. 13th – 5:00pm – 6:00pm @ Honda Stage
Big Gigantic is consistently an enormously good ole time, and Saturday evening at ACL was no exception to the rule. I’d describe the beat-heavy, bass-bumping roller-coaster ride engineered by Dom Lalli and Jeremy Salken as a thrilling kick to the brass balls if there ever was one (and you wanted it to happen over and over and over…). Watching the pulsating crowd from the top of the hill overlooking the Honda Stage, I couldn’t help but be a little jealous I wasn’t in the thick of it, ya know? Particularly during the brief but intense intermittent deluges of chubby rain that soaked the willing participants. In fact, the falling rain only seemed to make them drive harder as they could be heard chanting “I need a dollar, a dollar is all I need”, somehow audible over the pounding back pulse of the music. Did we get wet? Yes. Did we mind? HELL NO.
The Shins: Saturday, Oct. 13th – 6:00pm – 7:00pm @ AMD Stage
You’ll have to forgive me if I get a little sappy when I talk about the Shins because they were probably the most prominent band of my personal playlist in the old high school days. Also, James Mercer is a lyrical deity of my music pantheon. So it shouldn’t be surprising that I never miss seeing them given a fair chance, but that’s not to say all their past live performances have been exemplary. I felt their appearance at Bonnaroo this summer was somewhat underwhelming for a variety of reasons I won’t address here (since this is about ACL). All trepidation was put squarely aside however as we were blasted with an incredibly energetic rendition of “Kissing the Lipless” to open the set, which was quickly followed by fan-fav “Caring Is Creepy”, hot new single “Simple Song” and fellow vintage fruit “Know Your Onion!”. The start of the set was almost identical to Bonnaroo’s, but I swear, the feel of it was completely different in the best way possible. The high point came during “Phantom Limb” when the jubilant (and wet) crowd became a spontaneously choppy surf of hands waving in the air as if they were “stepping over what now towers to the sky.” Even Mercer remarked, “That was awesome.”
Kissing the Lipless; Caring Is Creepy; Simple Song; Know Your Onion!; Bait and Switch; So Says I; The Rifle’s Spiral; Pam Berry; Phantom Limb; Saint Simon; No Way Down; Australia; Port of Morrow; 40 Mark Strasse; Sleeping Lessons
Bassnectar: Saturday, Oct. 13th – 7:00pm – 8:00pm @ Honda Stage
Again, the Honda stage looked like it was getting’ nasty from my loft perch on the top of the AMD hill. After all, that’s what Bassnectar is best known, no – famous, for right? Getting’ nasty and assaulting your auditory canal with freshly crafted wickedness. He’s certainly one of the most creative mix-masters of his chosen genre. The set started right out of the gates with a remix of “Intergalactic”, summoning the beast within everyone to come out and play, and into “Wildstyle Method”. Tikki Tikki Tembo bitches. The vigorous crowd in front of the stage below throbbed as a single organism as Lorin Ashton urged us all to say! yeah! and be “Infinite”. Stand out track for me was the hard-droppin’ remix of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” because as we had all just learned firsthand, weather changes moods… and we like to sing along… but we know not what it means, know not what it means and I say yeeeeaaaahhhh.
When Jack White walked out on stage in the dark, accompanied only by a band of beautiful, incredibly talented, young female musicians known as The Peacocks, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What’s it like to be that cool?” And then you know what happened? Jack proceeded to answer that question, out loud and with guitar in hand, for an hour and fifteen minutes Saturday night as he blazed through Jack White, White Stripes, Raconteurs, Danger Mouse, and Dead Weather songs in front of an awestruck crowd of soggy disciples. Jack sang, played guitar, jumped, played piano, skirted the stage, pulsated in blue light, and played more rock god guitar. AND IT DID GET LOUD. So how do you “Top Yourself” when you’re Jack White? I guess you alternate songs from different incredible bands that you’ve created as outlets for your extraordinarily diverse musical talents. Try this: “Hypocritical Kiss” into “Stready, As She Goes”, then Danger Mouse-produced “Two Against One” and get a little more intimate with “We’re Going to Be Friends” and finally rock out with “Screwdriver / Blue Blood Blues”. Damn son! Ultimately, you finish them off with “Ball and Biscuit” and “Seven Nation Army”. You know, leave ‘em satisfied but wanting more. “God bless Neil Young. Y’all’ve been wonderful. I’m Jack White. Thank you.” The crowd leaves singing to themselves, “ohhh oh oh oh ohhh oh.”
The Hardest Button to Button; Freedom at 21; Love Interruption; Weep Themselves to Sleep; Cannon / John the Revelator; Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground; Trash Tongue Talker; Top Yourself; Hotel Yorba; I’m Slowly Turning Into You; Hypocritical Kiss; Stready, As She Goes; Two Against One; We’re Going to Be Friends; Screwdriver / Blue Blood Blues; Ball and Biscuit; Seven Nation Army
You know as well as I do that festivals are genuinely all about making the hard choices when it comes to schedule conflicts. Many decisions come down to simple convenience as much as they do personal preference and desire. I spent the entire evening in the AMD/Honda Stage area, so I stayed there for Jack White. And I’m glad I did; it was a great show. But that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t have loved to see the entire two-hour set of Neil Young and Crazy Horse also because, well, Neil is the shit…
Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Saturday, Oct. 13th – 8:00pm – 10:00pm @ Bud Light Stage
Jack White ended fifteen minutes early, I ran my happy ass over to the other side of Zilker to see the end of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. And boy howdy, what an ending it was! As I walked up (after having grabbed a necessary road beer on the way), they had just begun to play classic “Down By the River”, a solid oldie track from the boys to be damn sure (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere). However, I didn’t realize at the time that we were embarking on a marathon jam session of epically Crazy Horse proportions. By my watch the song started about 9:35pm and lasted past 9:50pm, and let me assure you, there weren’t no filler – just pure shredding on guitar between verses. If that wasn’t enough, set/encore finale turned out to be “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”. Rock’n’roll may never die, but they KILLED IT dead by the end of that song in the best possible sense of the words.
Love and Only Love; Powderfinger; Born in Ontario; Walk Like a Giant; The Needle and the Damage Done; Twisted Road; Ramada Inn; Cinnamon Girl; Fuckin’ Up; Psychedelic Pill; Down by the River; Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)
I heard mixed reviews of the set from a cross-section of fans: “It was life-altering.”; “It was boing.”; “Why didn’t he play more of the old hits for a festival show?”. I’d have to reserve judgment, except to say the last two songs of the “encore” were phenomenal and screamed Neil Young is HERE at the top of their lungs. For those who felt he should have played more crowd-pleasers or jammed out less, you should realize it’s not that he doesn’t conform to public expectations purposefully because he thinks he’s too much of a rockstar/legend to owe you anything. On the contrary, he became a legend by doing the exact opposite of conforming or at least in spite of not caring about expectations. Neil is going to be Neil, true to form, and you need to deal with that. I just take comfort in being allowed to go along for the ride with the knowledge that if I’m on his side, he’ll be on mine. If that’s not enough for you, then perhaps EAT A PEACH.
Curious about the red hot happenings on Sunday? Click HERE to see what we got…
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