You know the adage: Dont mess with Texas. Never have I realized what this phrase truly meant until this weekend. Somebody must have broken that cardinal rule and dared them to throw one of the biggest music festivals in North America because they did exactly that, yet again. Another phrase I was introduced to was Keep Austin Weird, meaning keep the big corporations (McDonalds, Wal-Mart, etc.) out and let the little guys have a chance. Yet another phrase I was introduced to this weekend was Alabama Hot Pocket, but we wont go into what that means in the interest of keeping CoS fairly family-friendly.
In all seriousness, though, Austin stayed true to both its claims to fame; it maintained its DIY aesthetic and its no BS policy. The combination of these two ideals created the glorious Austin City Limits Music Festival. Considered one of the four biggest music festivals in the country (Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Bonnaroo being the other three), it played house to seven stages, over 130 bands, and somewhere around 70,000 people. Needless to say, it was an event that needs some serious re-capping.
This festival is unique in its nature because its such a united front. Everyone is completely in agreement when it comes to the importance of this festival. Entering Austin, there are signs everywhere you turn in support of the festival. Businesses change their marquees to support the onslaught of people, people set up shops all up and down the ways in an out of the festival, and even the airport was nice enough to welcome all foreign ACL-goers with a pleasant sign as soon as we stepped off our respective planes. The city genuinely wants this event to happen, and they genuinely go all out. Even within the festival, things are different. People are more pleasant, more accommodating (not like Coachella, where I felt like I might get cut at any second for accidentally stepping on someones toes). This festival truly belongs to the city, which makes it truly special.
It wasnt all fun and games, however. The logistics were unbelievably bad. The festival layout was straight out of an M. Night Shyamalan film that is to say it was big, bizzare, and full of holes (ba-zing!). We may as well have all been blindfolded and left to the sense of feel to find our way anywhere. The lines in and out were misleading and literally miles long. The stages were far too close together, which made for frequent sound-bleeds, which is a big no-no at any reputable festival. And worst of all, they allow (take a deep breath) chairs. This was my first ACL, but it was not my first festival rodeo. Sweeping in and out of massive gangs of camping chairs reduces mobility to about a half of what it usually is at festivals. Getting from stage to stage was an absolute cluster-cuss. The set times were way too long for some bands and way too short for others, and the placement of hype bands on adjoining stages made for some confusing and maddening situations.
But were above logistics here at CoS, because at the end of the day, its still about the music. And thats one thing this festival couldnt have done more right.