What a beautiful bounty of weather we've been having in Austin lately. Are you jealous? Well, dammit, you better be. So what better way to ring in the amazing autumn coat than with Austin's biggest festival draw - Austin City Limits. (And yes, I know what South by Southwest is...)
This year, the festival sold out months in advance with headliners Phish, The Strokes, M.I.A., Muse and The Eagles. But the biggest draw of the kick-off to the weekend would come midday.
Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. After getting myself settled (read: downloading the new Matt and Kim in preparation for today's set and aftershow), I headed to see Givers - a home state favorite and one of my picks for this year's Absolute 100. What a dazzling set to kick the weekend off. The bright timbre and jazz of the hour was a great compliment to the even brighter, cloudless sky.
After grabbing some lunch, I headed to check out The Mountain Goats. Curious to see a festival setting of a band whose lyrics and storytelling are heavier than their music, they put on a great set fit for some relaxation on Zilker Park's grassy knoll.
While I don't believe in the massive hype of Girls' last album (a record that was just good guys, not the next best thing), I wanted to check out how it played out live. While it was another lawn-lounging set, it was a bit flat and uninspiring. Halfway through the set, I found myself more in conversation with my out-of-town friends with Girls' set playing background. For the last ten minutes, on Eda's recommendation, I headed to check out Angus and Julia Stone. Their set was absolutely harmonious. Kudos to the two for taking on multiple instruments and radiating perfect vocal counterpoint between the each sibling.
I decided to try and check out the end of Miike Snow's set...and that's where the sidewalk ended, and the massive midday crowd began. Crossing the park, there was something of a herd of people; a plethora of attendees; a damn football field of Black Keys fans waiting to catch the band's set. Easily (maybe even a bit more than Phish) the biggest crowd all day. Yours truly had a horrible spot. Even where I was standing, the band played out a driving hour set. It literally sounds like Dan Auerbach threw his amp down a flight of stairs to produce the nastiest tones possible. Easily one of the best sets of the day - to those with a good view/close ear.
Towards the end of The Black Keys set, I headed to snag a good spot for Beach House. Last year, I saw the band open for Grizzly Bear's ACL aftershow, and I was skeptical about how the band's rich tones would play out on the big stage. Upon the first keys played against Victoria Legrand's voice, my skepticism was quickly washed away in the lush sound from the stage. (writer's note: Beach House is not emo.)
I used to "like" Spoon. Then I enjoyed Spoon immensely. Now I am absolutely in love with the band's R&B blend of traditional pop-rock. The last time I saw Spoon was on the main stage of Voodoo Music Fest in 2007, and while a solid set to my ears, there wasn't much movement on the eyes, as the band stood cramped in the middle of the stage. Their performance this evening was far from staunch, and was as loose as the jams coming from the stage. By the way, I'm pretty sure Rob Pope is still using the same bass he used in The Get Up Kids. Talk about keeping it nostalgic.
The most anticipated set of the day for me (nope, not Phish) was Sonic Youth. While the set started pretty straight forward (Why the hell is Kim Gordan not playing bass?), the band began to unwind as the Sun began to settle behind them and the stage lights matched the craze of the eventual set. (Yes, Kim did pick up her signature bass [skills] later. It would have made Mark Hoppus blush.) Easily the best set of the day. To see Sonic Youth still put on a blistering set was spiritual in the vein of seeing The Pixies last month.
To end my evening, I had a bit of a Gonzo journalism moment to go see Phish. Sifting through the crowd, I ended up running into some Arkansas fans (one of which was missing two front teeth) and ended up being fed booze for about an hour as I was also given glow sticks and began rocking out to the smooth guitar licks and cover of the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey. For an hour in a half, amongst these partied out college kids, elder couples and dozens upon dozens of glow sticks, I could feel the chill of Thompson down my back.
(writer's note: I was not granted photo access. I will be doing photos from the crowd.)