Ok, I told you that in order to introduce you to all of the bands on this year’s ACL Fest bill, I would have to cheat a bit here and there. So, here’s a bit of a cheat as I use this week’s video post to slip in an extra (and non-Texan) preview/intro…
Elbow, from The U.K. are a big friggin’ deal accross the Atlantic, yet they’ve failed to make a simliar splash here in the states, even with their latest album, Build a Rocket, Boys! being perhaps better than the one that nabbed them a Mercury Prize a few years ago, signifying the year’s best British or Irish album. They’ll be in the states this fall, so look for them at ACL!
In our never-ending quest (OK, it will end on September 15, actually) to discuss, preview, and introduce you to every act that will play during this year’s Austin City Limits Festival, we are here again to shine a little light on an act that you may or may not be yet familiar with. In fact, in the case of Nick 13, you may be aware of this man’s work without fully realizing it, even.
As the leader of a band named Tiger Army that most seem to deem as “psychobilly,” Nick 13 has specialized in trippy, cosmic shades of country music, especially as a solo artist. Looking every bit the tattooed, greased-up punk, Nick 13′s coolness extends beyond his exterior and into the heart of his tunes. His self-titled solo album was released this month and is simply stellar. Again, it’s safe to use the term cosmic when describing the tone of what is otherwise a prime, stone-cold country disc.
While this new record is good enough to give any artist ideas of making a side project their main gig, word has it that Tiger Army fans have nothing to fear. A native of northern California, Nick 13 has stated numerous times that the band will be back soon enough. Of course, an ACL slot is no small feat. Recent gigs at SXSW and at the Stagecoach Festival (the country little brother to Coachella) have certainly primed his solo act into one that is ready to handle any doubters that may shout for tunes from his other band.
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
Yo. So our wondrous Bethany has gone through the tenuous effort – whilst packing for her own trip to the ACL fest - and has worked hard for those of you who may be visiting Austin for the first time for the Austin City Limits Music Festival.
Bethany, take it away:
“So this weekend is ACL weekend. And, judging by the forecasts, those attending will get to enjoy a buffet of Texas’ finest weather. A little rain (maybe)…a little sun (definitely) … a little chilly in the evening.
So, as grandma would say, take a sweater. But also take SPF 50 sunscreen, and reapply liberally. Don’t take the kind in aerosol bottles. There are blessed few shade trees, and you’re only allowed to bring small umbrellas. Last year, I got really effing burned. I molted weeks later. Take a bandanna, too, because sometimes the wind will kick up, and you’ll inhale a metric ton of dust and sneeze/blow orange into your Kleenex for the next week.
ACL did a really, really good job of keeping the portajohns clean and stocked with TP last year, but that could be different this year. You never know. But if you don’t want to carry a giant roll of TP with you, Target and Wal-Mart carry smaller packs of TP that are considerably more discreet, and fit in a pocket.
But a few more insidery veteran tips:
1. Bring a big water bottle. But bring an empty plastic or aluminum one. You’re not gonna wanna schlep around a big full one, but there are free water stations to fill up bottles. You can pay $2 for a bottle of filtered water, but that hardly goes with the whole reduce/reuse thing.
2. Take some cash, but the Waterloo Records tent generally takes Mastercard and Visa, too. You’ll need cash for most food and drink, but bigger ticket items like tunage and ACL gear can be paid for by credit or debit card.
3. Take the opportunity to shop local. One of the coolest things that ACL does is set up an entire outdoor bazaar full of local vendors. Last year, I snagged a scarf that doubled as a wrap and a straw hat.
4. Don’t be suckered by the $20 and $30 lots. Sure, they’re closer, but you’re getting hosed because when everyone leaves, you have to wait, and wait, and wait for pedestrians and other cars to get out of the way. Park near Republic Square and take the shuttle for free, or if you’re less patient and less enthused about feeling like cattle, park farther away and take one of the handy pedicabs. Or bike.
5. Do buy at least one CD from the Waterloo Records tent, of a new band you hadn’t listened to until you dropped of exhaustion in front of the stage sometime that afternoon, and discovered you loved.
6. Don’t drop a deuce in the portajohn. Please. Whatever you have to do to avoid it, do it. Your fellow ACL-goers will appreciate it.
7. Cute signs and flags are pretty much encouraged. They serve as a a way for you to find your group again, and provide opportunity for you to display your personality. Let your freak flag fly. But – BUT – keep the damn flag out of the view of the stage when the headlining act is playing. People get cranky and stabby when Bart Simpson blocks their view of the triangle solo during the Foo Fighters set, for instance, like last year.
8. Bring both a blanket or quilt, and a foldable chair. Sometimes you’re going to want the chair (you’ll have to sit farther out), but if you want to be closer to the stage because you really really love Black Joe Black, bring the blanket. I mean, you’ll only be sitting while you wait for the band to take the stage, but considering the stages are way, way apart, sitting when you can is nice.
9. Bring yourself a stick deodorant, like Speed Stick. Especially if you plan on wearing a cool sundress. Skin plus sweat plus lots of walking equals chafing. Some judicious application on a gal’s inside thighs will help avoid the “long bowlegged walk back to the car” syndrome so many ACL newbies face.
10. Don’t wear stripper shoes. It’s in a park. It’s got dirt and divots in the grass and all kinds of walking hazards, and stripper shoes will only compound that problem. Leave your pirate hooker shoes at home.
11. Take advantage of the ACL’s program to earn free swag. Grab a plastic bag, pick up some bottles and recyclables, bring it back full, get a t-shirt. Last year, it was like having a butler. I’d finish a drink, look around, and someone would be there to take it. It’s like having minions. And if you’re currently minionless, this means a lot.
But mostly, have fun. If it’s your first time, you’ll be amazed at how well this festival is run. The grounds are generally spotless, and the food – OMG, the food. Some of the best restaurants in Texas purvey their wares at ACL, and you get to try it at a very, very reasonable price. Let’s just say ACL food is good, less greasy, and cheaper than a certain fair’s. *cough*“
So that’s THAT!
Want more tips? Hit the ACL Web site, and also sign up for the festival’s Twitter updates and texts.
Editor’s note: If you miss Sarah Jaffe, you’re an idiot!