Day1 of ACL was great. After taping up my blisters and fueling myself with two of Torchy’s Tacos finest morning selections, I made my way back to the hollowed, still not dusty grounds of Zilker Park for Day 2 of this year’s ACL Festival. Below is how the day unraveled…
- The opening round of performances featured a killer grouping of sweet, female talents. Across various parts of the park; Lissie, Basia Bulat, Caitlin Rose, First Aid Kit and the out-of-this-world Grace Potter, were all strutting their feminine stuff. Each of these acts brought something decidedly different to the table during the morning, as the temps began to rise into the high 80′s. Bulat strummed a uke while Lissie introduced some rocking Bohemia to the crowds. Grace Potter oozed sex-appeal in her sparkly dress that failed to cover up too terribly much. The soulful southern rock in which her band, The Nocturnals, deal in provided a distinct and forceful wake up call to the entire park.
- The 2:30pm slot presented me with a tough choice. Lucero and New Jersey’s The Gaslight Anthem were scheduled to rock stages on opposite ends of the park form one another. Both bands were on my previously composed list of acts that I wanted to catch, but of the two, Lucero is the one I had seen shred in a live setting before. With that in mind, I made my way to the Budweiser stage and secured a pretty close spot near the stage for the band that has basically been handed the crown as latter-day heirs to the Springsteen throne of good ol’ American rock. Such hype is well-deserved, I might add. The punk flourishes that brighten up the anthemic, hard-charging odes to screwed-up love and life on the fringes were ideal and do enough to actually separate them from The Boss, more than most people seem to notice.
- While Saturday’s set of shows didn’t provide me with the same I-can’t-believe-I’m-seeing-this type of thrills as Friday evening had, there were still two performances that proved to be revelatory, regardless. The 4:45 pm set from L.A.’s Local Natives was spot-on. Relying on material from their enjoyable debut, Gorilla Manor, the group rode their harmonies and interesting take on chamber-rock for all they were worth. “Sun Hands” might have been the single best performance of a tune all weekend, for my money. The climactic cacophony that ends the song was pure, frenzied madness.
- The other set which proved to be eye-opening also proved to be the weekend’s most thoroughly thought-provoking for me. Former Pedro the Lion leader, David Bazan, has had a decent dose of press ink cover his transformation from a faithful, Christian follower to a skeptical agnostic since the release of his latest, very personal album, Curse Your Branches. From a musical perspective, Bazan’s enjoyable indie-rock set was reminiscent of a stripped-down, raw version of Bobby Bare Jr’s set on the same BMI Stage at the same festival, back in 2008. Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, it was hard not to be sucked in during the 40 minute show which took place as the sun finally began its descent. The lyrics that made up the majority of Bazan’s set, which roll out like a pained, vulnerable catharsis, became the focal point, quickly enough, however. For a guy like myself, who, shall we say, has beliefs that align more with Bazan’s past than his present, I found myself not being repelled, but using his art as a means to understand him and his struggle-ridden journey. When Bazan sang “Hard to Be,” where he questions God, it wasn’t offensive in any way, it was enlightening and relatable. How often in a festival setting will an artist create an environment that is closer to a living room concert, instead of a rock show in the middle of 75,00o sweaty souls?
- Matt & Kim? More like, Meh & Kim. Sorry, oh bouncing 17 year-olds, I don’t get it.
- Closing out my ACL experience for 2010 was the U.K.’s current kings of all things epic: Muse. And epic, their show truly was. Opening up with their us-against-them anthem, “Uprising,” the most powerful of trios belted out tunes that matched the wonder and ferocity of their laser and video-filled stage show. After a handful of stadium-sized rockers, I walked across the park to catch a glimpse of M.I.A, but with her video-screens not projecting any images to the back of the crowd where I stood, hearing only the beats from the stage was pretty anti-climactic after being slayed by England’s most arena-worthy imports.
So, there you have it. Unforseen circumstances led me to skip Sunday’s performances, unfortunately. While there were certain acts that I was excited to catch – Frank Turner, The Morning Benders, The National and Band of Horses, to be more specific – I was able to leave, knowing that I had enough festival intensity to last many times the two days that I enjoyed so thoroughly.
Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob