Posted by: Travis | October 9, 2009

Austin City Limits Music Festival Weekend

Rachel and i spent last Thursday through Monday in Austin for the Austin City Limits music festival which took place Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was even more fun than i was hoping it would be, and my expectations were sky high (every email i sent to my parents for the past 2 or 3 months has included a countdown of days/weeks/months until ACL). After getting back to our cold, messy, dark, and lonely apartment Monday night, we pretty much unpacked the necessities and went straight to bed. After having a few days to decompress and go through the 200 or so pictures we took, i realized that these three pictures perfectly capture the three very different days of ACL:

ACL Day 1

ACL Day 1

Day 1 might have been the best day of ACL i’ve ever experienced. The city spent more than $7 million to lay down this beautiful grass. Given the dust bowl feeling of previous years of ACL, this was nothing short of a miracle. It was really soft and lush, just the kind of grass that makes you want to take your shoes off. Combine the new grass with sun, temperatures that barely topped 80 degrees, and hours upon hours of hanging out with my family and friends, listening to great music, and we had already gotten our money’s worth. For three days of this i’d be willing to pay twice what we did to make this trip happen. I was on cloud nine all day long.

ACL Day 2

ACL Day 2

I knew it was too good to be true. Despite the bad weather forecast for Friday, we escaped without so much as a drop of rain. On Saturday our luck ran out. Our friend Katie bought a one day ticket (my friend Jim came in from Houston for all 3 days). We got to the festival grounds around 1:00 and it was already drizzling. Save for a few minutes around 2:15, it rained pretty much all day long. Several times throughout the day we were standing in a downpour listening to a band go through a set just laughing at how ridiculous the situation was.

ACL Day 3

ACL Day 3

When you combine rain all day with 70,000 people walking around in a park, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going to happen the next day. My parents made the (wise) decision to skip the festival all together on Sunday. The rest of us, however, were not so smart. We showed up in the late afternoon to this scene after immediately walking through the park entrance. It was like walking around in ankle deep chocolate pudding. The cow manure in the dirt under the grass plus the hay they laid down to try and soak up all of the mud saturday night just made the whole park have this ranch/rodeo smell to it that was kind of gross to walk around in. We caught 2 sets, and then decided to skip Pearl Jam’s headlining set, instead going to clean up and then go to Chuy’s on Barton Springs before things got totally crazy after the festival wrapped up. Amazingly, we were able to find a parking spot and get in and out of Chuy’s without too much of a hassle.

Here’s a list of the artists we managed to see:

  • Sara Watkins– John Paul Jones came on for a few songs. It was very cool.
  • Avett Brothers– Blew me away, my surprise band of the festival. Picked up their album at Waterloo on Monday and have been listening to it ever since. Where in the world have these guys been!?!
  • Todd Snider– Goofy and kind of snarky, but great while chowing down on food.
  • Dr. Dog
  • The Wood Brothers– Love these guys. They were on a small stage and we worked our way up to about 10-15ft from them. The amazing thing was looking around and seeing all the different types of people that were totally digging it: young, old, hipters, nerds, little kids…great stuff.
  • Raphael Saadiq– Another huge surprise, he’s reinvented himself with this new Mo-Town sound. He and his whole band were decked out in black suits with black skinny ties.
  • John Legend– Only caught about 1/2 of his set, sound wasn’t very good. Opening with ‘Redemption Song’ out in the middle of the crowd was really cool though.
  • Kings of Leon– We were able to get about 50 ft from the stage, though we had to stand packed like sardines for almost 2 hours before they started to get there. They were damn good. Eddie Vedder came on for a guest spot. The funniest thing was how for every song off their latest record the crowd sang with every word, and every song from the albums before it, there were just a select few around us that knew the words. These guys are ridiculous popular right now.
  • Mute Math– Another huge surprise of the weekend. I had never heard of them before sitting down for their set, but i dug it. Poppy, fun, high energy music from New Orleans.
  • Grizzly Bear– The new kings of indie rock were kind of interesting, had some good moments, but overall didn’t do a whole lot for me. May have had something to do with the fact that it was pouring.
  • Henry Butler– Awesome set from this blind pianist fro Nawlinz. Normally the covered stage doesn’t get much love, but it was packed for his set. Sure, it may have been because it was raining cats and dogs, but everyone seemed to really enjoy his set.
  • Bon Iver– Pouring rain, never got close enough to see or hear very well. I was expecting one guy with an acoustic guitar, but he showed up with his whole band. They were okay, but i expected more.
  • Mos Def– Started 20 minutes late and was a little eccentric (like doing the first 15 minutes behind a thrown together drum set), but eventually came out, had fun, and rocked the crowd. I expected some shenanigans (everything he;s done since 1999 has been kind of weird), but people who were expecting the Mos Def from Black on Both Sides seemed a little upset.
  • The Scabs– Bob Schneider’s jazz/funk/blues band. I spent most of their set waiting in line for a porta-potty across from the stage they were playing, so i heard most of their set, but wasn’t very close to the stage.
  • Dave Matthews Band– Couldn’t even see the stage from where we were standing, though they were pretty good. We had been standing for something like 6 straight hours at this point and were getting pretty warn down. Watching his set on the jumbo tron i felt like i’d be better off putting on one of his concert DVDs, going out in the back yard with a camp chair and sitting in the rain watching it through the window. We left with about 30 minutes left in his 2 hour set because we just couldn’t take it anymore.
  • Ben Harper and the Relentless Seven– Ben Harper seemed a little uncomfortable at times, but played a strong set. His band was fantastic. I dug his shout-outs to Austin and Waterloo Records.
  • Dan Aurbach– Part of the duo that is the Black Keys, we caught a handful of songs from his set and enjoyed it. I’ll have to check out his record.
  • Girl Talk– I totally wrote this off as novelty trash, but we walked by on our way our saturday and everyone in our group just stopped at one point. While i’m not sure about it’s staying power, mashing 80’s metal, New Wave, hip hop, modern pop, and commercial rap music is a little intriguing. Add flashing lights and a stage full of sweaty, muddy concert goers dancing around the DJ and it was enough to make us stop, take a few pictures, and listen for a few minutes.
  • Wish i had gotten to see:
    • The Crooked Vultures
    • Phoenix
    • State Radio
    • Dead Weather
    • Brett Dennen
    • Alberta Cross
    • Levon Helm Band
    • Decemberists
    • Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears
    • Clutch
    • Toadies
    • Arctic Monkeys
    • Preservation Hall Jazz Band
    • Pearl Jam

Since it was going to be cheaper to fly out Monday evening than Monday morning, Rachel and i took the opportunity to use Monday as a day to just hang out around Austin. Ryan flew out around lunch time on Monday so we got to see him for an extra half day too. We got to see some family that lives in Austin for breakfast, as well as make trips to Mellow Johnny’s (Lance Armstrong’s bike shop), and Waterloo Records (one of my favorite record stores on the plant), for some new music. After dropping Ryan off at the airport, we also got to grab lunch at Freebird’s (home of the big ass burrito), walking around on the drag, and do some hanging out at Barton Springs, one of those iconic ‘only in Austin’ places.

Though i could have done without the rain and mud, it was great weekend. We got to see family and friends. We ate spectacularly well. We got to hear some great music from some of our favorite artists, as well as discover a handful of new bands, and we got to hang out around Austin. One of the main things we took away from the weekend is that we are both madly in love with Austin, and it only reinforced the notion that Austin is where we will end up someday down the road.

You can check out the best of my pictures from the weekend here.

My allergies really started acting up on the flight home Monday and by the time we got back to our apartment i was totally clogged up and unable to breathe through my nose. Since then i’ve been feeling pretty crappy: sore throat, cough, exhaustion, congestion, muscle soreness, etc. For a while there was a bit of a swine flu scare (apparently a bunch of the people that went to the festival have been coming down with H1N1), but i called a nurse at Kaiser and was told that as long as i didn’t have a fever, it was just a cold. I mismanaged my vacation days, so i’ve been having to work overtime this week so that i don’t have to use any holidays on our trip to ACL (otherwise i’ll have nothing left for Thanksgiving and Christmas), so i’ve been waking up around 5:30am all week long to get into the office by 6:30am and work long hours. Combine being sick, working long hours, and not having been on the bike, or doing any sort of exercise, in over a week, and i’m about ready for the weekend to get here.

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