FESTIVAL RECAP: ACL Sunday (Red Hot & Humid)
If you buy into the metaphor that weekend music festivals like Austin City Limits are marathons, then Sunday is the finish line – and at the end of the day, the “race” is over with you leaving Zilker Park sweaty, exhausted, perhaps a little broken, but utterly victorious nonetheless. Like the old saying goes, the only guaranteed way to lose is not to compete, and it’s not about where you rank at the finish but that you make it over the line. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, you go big or go home – put up or shut up… Insert cliché [here].
∆Alt-J: Sunday, Oct. 14th – 11:30am -12:15pm @ Barton Springs Stage
Sunday morning was beautifully clear and sunny, but there was also an inescapable heat in the air and with it, a palpable steaminess rising straight out of the soles of our feet. Yet nothing would deter the sizable early crowd massing in front of the Barton Springs stage just before 11:30am. They were there to see up-and-coming British indie band ∆Alt-J, and nothing, let alone (a lot of) humidity, was going to dampen their resolve. It was a good thing too because Joe, Gus, Gwil, and Thom brought the heat – An Awesome Wave of it in fact. When you play a festival with only one album to stand on, making ever song count is of the utmost importance, and this was a sentiment that you could feel the boys took to heart. By the time they got to third song “Tessellate”, the zealous crowd was amped up to get down to it. And then to top us off they took us on a very gratifying left-turn following my personal favorite off the album “Dissolve Me”, a cover of Kylie Minogue’s “Slow” set to the beat of Dr. Dre’s “Still Dre”. Now that came out of left field (Is there a left-field in cricket?) and seemed to make the girls standing to my right a little giddy to say the least. Hell, it made me a little light-headed. The start of bass-powered track Fitzpleasure was met with an equally intense reaction, as well as a guttural cry of “You fuckin’ rock” from the back. It was readily apparent that ∆Alt-J was feeling the love and maybe even caught somewhat off-guard by the high degree of their steamy reception. During an instrumental interlude in crowd-favorite “Breezeblocks”, one girl cried out “Come back to Austin”, to which singer Joe Newman mouthed emphatically “We will.” All I can say is it was over all too soon as the guys left the stage to boisterous applause, throwing up deltas like conquering champs. Later, Joe told me that this was their first festival in the States, but they hoped to be back for many more in the future. When asked to comment on the feel from the late morning crowd, his succinct response, written happily on my copy of An Awesome Wave, “Huge vibes.” That about sums it up perfectly.
Intro; Interlude I (Ripe and Ruin); Tessellate; Something Good; Dissolve Me; Slow(Kylie Minogue/Dr. Dre cover); Fitzpleasure; Matilda; Breezeblocks; Bloodflood; Hand-Made; Taro
Royal Teeth: Sunday, Oct. 14th – 12:15pm – 1:15pm @ BMI Stage
If you live a little more on the pop-y side of the musical spectrum, you really can’t help but enjoy the hyperglycemic indie pop carnival that is Lafayette/New Orleans band Royal Teeth. Come high noon at Zilker Sunday, Royal Teeth had attracted a respectable and very enthusiastically clustered band of subjects, all despite playing the smallish BMI stage and going up against The Boxer Rebellion in the same time slot. I’ve seen them a few times around the LA music scene, and true to form, their set at ACL was energetic and polished. I am a particular fan of their passionate cover of “Heartbeats” (The Knife), which inevitably invokes spontaneous foot-stomping and head-bobbing. They certainly get a lot of miles to the galloon from debut Act Naturally, an ironic name seeing as listening to it makes your feet want to do anything but… So if playing a festival of this caliber with only a five song EP to your name is a victory in and of itself, I’d say that based on this set the ballets are in, and it’s been a landslide. Oh wait, that’s right, you don’t get to elect royalty, do you?
Freelance Whales: Sunday, Oct. 14th – 1:15pm – 2:15pm @ Honda Stage
If you have never had a chance to see Freelance Whales live, let me start out by saying that you should keep an eye-out, for it is an opportunity not to be missed. Their distinctive brand of low-key folky pop-rock translates much more effectively to the stage than I would have been inclined to believe had I not heard it with my own ears as it were. It was fun to rendezvous with some older songs off debut Weathervanes that I hadn’t heard in quite awhile, particularly “Generator ^ First Floor”, “Generator ^ Second Floor”, and the beautifully narrative “Hannah”. However, it was new songs fresh off sophomore album Diluvia that left me wanting more. “Spitting Image” is delightful with lead vocals from Doris Cellar, and the hauntingly poetic “Locked Out” had me leaving their set singing, “We have the rations to go anywhere…” A noble sentiment to be sure.
Tennis: Sunday, Oct. 14th – 3:15pm – 4:15pm @ Barton Springs Stage
As the sun rose to its midday zenith, nothing could have been more ideal than chilling out to the decidedly good vibrations of mellifluous band Tennis, certainly a rising star in indie circles. Equal parts vocal charm and lyrical cunning, Tennis displayed an almost surreal capacity to captivate and pacify the corps of weary nomads that found itself drawn in by the subtle magnetism of their songs. Alaina Moore’s rich, honeyed voice permeated the air around Barton Springs, alighting on our sun-drenched exteriors like a soothing balm. Personally, it was the first time of the day that I was contented to hang back and let the fresh and untried – yet habitually redolent – songs of a band, known for better or worse as Tennis, gently wash over me in relative tranquility and all without thinking about where I need to go next and how I would maneuver my way there. So as I listened to the words of seductively alluring new song “Dimming Light” waft into the ether of afternoon, “you’re the one I’ve been looking for, you’re the one I’ve been waiting for…”, I couldn’t help but wish she was singing them to me (and not guitarist husband Patrick Riley). That would make me one lucky bastard.
Sorry no setlist, but I would highly recommend listening to Tennis’ debut album Cape Dory and recent release Young & Old for a taste of the action.
Two Door Cinema Club: Sunday, Oct. 14th – 4:15pm – 5:15pm @ Bud Light Stage
There’s no way for me to prove it, but I would put big money down that the late afternoon crowd at the Bud Light Stage for Two Door Cinema Club was the largest American audience for which this brilliant North Irish band has ever played. Of course, it’s impossible to say what fraction was there for TDCinemaClub, as opposed to those camped there indefinitely, waiting for the night’s main event. Regardless and all speculation aside, they used the hand they were dealt to its full advantage and hit a jackpot. The set was tight and fast, transitioning seamlessly from alluring track to beguiling track. Those that might resist indoctrination and idly stand by were slowly-but-surely coerced into joining in the collective and lend their motion to the undulating landscape. The dynamism of the scene unfolding before the stage was not lost on its occupants, as singer Alex Trimble was moved to remark, “ACL, this has been mind blowing for me. We played here two years ago on a much smaller stage than this…” From an early afternoon set on Austin Ventures to a prime time-slot on the main stage, in just two years. I guess it just goes to show, “something good can work and it can work for you…we’re moving up, we’re moving up…”.
Sleep Alone; Undercover Martyn; Do You Want It All?; This Is the Life; Wake Up; Sun; I Can Talk; Costume Party; Next Year; Something Good Can Work; Handshake; Eat That Up, It’s Good for You; Someday; Come Back Home; What You Know
The Lumineers: Sunday, Oct. 14th – 5:00pm – 5:45pm @ Austin Ventures Stage
This was a tricky set to get at, particularly with the massive tides of humanity converging chaotically around the Austin Ventures stage immediately following the conclusion of two giant shows – The Civil Wars on AMD at one pole and Two Door Cinema Club on Bud Light at the other. Truthfully, there was always going to be an issue of over-crowding for The Lumineers, who attracted a very large and unyielding crowd of folky followers to their small stage promptly at the 5:00pm start of show. However, it wasn’t until 5:15pm that a perfect storm of sweaty, drunken peoples descended upon their once tranquil oasis at the epicenter of Zilker, which lies in the most direct path from Barton Springs to Honda, immediately adjacent to the food vendors (or munchies mecca as I affectionately know it). And of course this all came to pass right as they broke into crowd-pleasing single “Ho Hey”, and what normally should have been a gloriously uplifting sing-along instead degenerated into a decidedly uncomfortable struggle against an irresistible onslaught. As I walked away, downtrodden both literally and figuratively, I heard wafting faintly in the air behind “I belong with you, you belong with me. You’re my sweetheart.” Another day, another hour perhaps, we shall be so lucky…
I Ain’t Nobody’s Problem; Big Parade; Flowers in Your Hair; Ho Hey; Classy Girls; Dead Sea; Slow It Down; Stubborn Love; Flapper Girl; Subterranean Homesick Blues (Dylan cover); I Love You (new song)
Red Hot Chili Peppers: Sunday, Oct. 14th – 8:15pm – 10:00pm @ Bud Light Stage
I don’t need to tell you that the Red Hot Chili Peppers rocked Sunday night’s densely packed mob of diehards to their molten core. That would be like trying to tell you that having sex is awesome; hopefully, you’re already aware. Instead, let’s focus on the crowd. They got there early in the day, bravely drank their beers in defiance of a sweltering sun and menacing dehydration, and they stayed put, waiting for admission to the promised land of milky Californication and honey-tinged Blood Sugar Sex Magik. And thanks be to those deviant gods of rock, for it was delivered up unto them, and they were glad. The setlist was pleasurably diverse and reads like a devilish deconstruction of the Chili Pepper’s storied discography, spanning all the way back to the early ‘90s up to recent release I’m With You. More impressively, they’ve maintained an impressively high degree of novelty within each monster set of late, despite playing a stacked pedigree of choice festivals (Hangout, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, & now ACL). Obviously, Sunday’s set was no exception and should serve as a lasting example of how to properly discharge a festival closer. After all, they came “specifically to mess with Texas.” And so, with Sir Psycho Sexy still ringing out freshly on the thick night, I walked away from Zilker with Kiedis’ words reverbating in my marrow, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the funk will make me freak. If I should die before I wake-ed. Allow me Lord to rock out naked…”
Monarchy of Roses; Dani California; Can’t Stop; Otherside; Look Around; She’s Only 18; Snow (Hey Oh); Throw Away Your Television; Tell Me Baby; The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie, Right on Time; Suck My Kiss; Under the Bridge; Californication; By the Way; Chad & Mauro & Josh Jam; Sir Psycho Sexy; They’re Red Hot (Robert Johnson cover); Give It Away.
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