Friday, October 8th
Honda, 3:00 p.m.
The sun was relentlessly blaring down upon Miike Snow and their abnormally large crowd. The combination of the innate drawing power of heavy electronic beats and the close proximity of the Honda Stage to the AMD stage made for an absurdly large crowd at Miike Snow. Dressed in all black, with a black banner behind them, the six man electro-pop crew was sweating bullets in the Texas heat. Multiply the heat and their costumes by their intense sound and that makes for one supremely blazing performance. I mean that past sentence literally and figuratively, but mostly literally. Miike Snow only had a decent debut album, and performed slightly above par at ACL. Maybe it was the heat, but the show seemed to slump a bit after they inched a few songs into the set.
ZYNC Card, 3:00 p.m.
An unreasonably small crowd (considering the 70,000 people at ACL) gathered to hear one of the best acts to come out of 2009. Sporting a new haircut, Girls‘ Chris Owens was almost too calm as he and his band ran through their fairly small catalog. Im sure that touring the same material for two years would be taxing on anyone, but they seemed downright bored. Dont get me wrong, it sounded spot on, and I always love seeing Girls live, but I think the rumors of disharmony that surfaced at Matador at 21 might hold some water. They need to get off the road and into the studio soon. Hellhole Ratrace, Laura, and Lust For Life all got the crowd pumped, but it was only an intro to the great day that was to come.
The Black Keys
AMD, 4:00 p.m.
One of the more prominent victims of the strange scheduling was The Black Keys. They did get the amount of standing space to accommodate the massive hoard that came to listen to their unique style Blues-Rock, but the early slot was perplexing to me. Why book such a large act so early in the day? No sense in playing the blame game, though, especially because The Black Keys took it in stride and rocked Austin to its knees. With hits from all over their vast back catalog, the Akron duo wowed everybody at the festival. Your Touch, I Got Mine, and newbie Everlasting Light all saw plenty of applause, and rightfully so. The Black Keys were one of the best acts booked at this years ACL, hands down.
Honda, 5:00 p.m.
Photo by Paul Woodruff
In theory, Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scallys dreamy pop tunes should not have fit in well with the blistering heat of Texas. Its a bit more suited for a mirthless trip to the moon. But for whatever reason, the sights and sounds of Beach House went down blissfully smooth despite the dusty Texas heat. LeGrands never sounded better, and when the band arrived at their climactic version of Norway, the crowd couldnt help but be sucked in by the stark musicianship and the star-show being put on as a background. The biggest cheers, surprisingly, were for their older songs Gila and Heart of Chambers.
AMD, 6:00 p.m.
Photo by Paul Woodruff
Local Austin heroes Spoon took the stage to what was easily the biggest crowd at the AMD stage all weekend. But 16 years and counting behind the plate has given Britt Daniel time to polish his poise game. Completely at ease onstage, the natural-born frontman led the crowd through a set fraught with hit after hit. The hour long set played like a greatest hits album with the exception of when he invited The Fiery Furnaces Eleanor Friedberger for a duet version of Someone Something. That song was not only poorly delivered, but it received noticeably less fanfare. Every single other song, however, riled up the crowd. I Turn My Camera On, The Ghost of You Lingers, Dont You Evah, I Summon You, Dont Make Me A Target, and countless others made everyone remember why Spoon remains such a constant presence in independent music. They announced that this would be their last tour date for some time, and what better way to celebrate a wonderful album and ensuing tour than at one of the biggest festivals on earth which just so happens to be in their hometown.
Austin Ventures, 6:00 p.m.
Mr. Amos Lee also fell victim to scheduling, easily out shined by Spoon, but thats to be expected for an act as small as his. Thats not to say his performance was anything short of masterful, though. His particular brand of music is something of a dying breed, and the fact that hes even keeping his head above water, let alone drawing a sizable crowd during one of ACLs premiere acts, speaks volumes about this mans talents. After he closed with Seen It All Before, he thanked everyone for sticking with him, and you could tell he meant every word he said.
Photo by Paul Woodruff
ZYNC Card, 7:00 p.m.
Poor Sonic Youth. Their entire crowd wasnt even half of Vampire Weekends. Im not a huge Sonic Youth fan or anything, but they are pioneers and deserve their fair amount of respect. But, in reality, Vampire Weekend deserves their fair share of props as well. They beat the hell out of the concept of having a sophomore slump by releasing an album twice as good as its already incredible predecessor. Contra remains one of the best albums of the year, however many times we have to hear the songs. This was my fourth encounter with VW this year alone, and I was still impressed with how tight their sound is these days. Contra tracks White Sky, Cousins, and Giving Up The Gun, when performed live, will never cease to impress me.
Honda, 7:00 p.m.
Photo by Jac Malloy
As mentioned, the majority of the people who could have been at Sonic Youth were at Vampy Weeks, for better or worse. Didnt phase Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, and friends, however. They played through a fairly solid set that was unfortunately a bit Eternal-happy. The Sprawl and Cross The Breeze represented the old days pretty well, but had there been any actual teenagers in the audience, I think a teenage riot wouldve occurred at the fact that they didnt play, well, Teenage Riot.
AMD, 8:00 p.m.
Fifty-five minute set, and still they were the best of the fest. In true Strokes fashion, the boys swaggered onstage nearly 15 minutes late, and proceeded to jump into an insane set that had people going bananas. Much different than their previous reunited tour dates of 2010, the band seemed to act as one cohesive machine. Nostalgia ensued as Julian Casablancas, clad in a leather jacket with a hoodie underneath, took the mic stand and made love to it during opener Is This It. He seemed to regain a bit of that lost youth that everybodys been yearning to see, and so did the other members of the band. Back to sporting Chuck Taylors and frayed jeans (except for Albert Hammond, Jr., in his signature white three piece), the boys were back.
Casablancas acknowledged their youth by introducing Someday as a song they used to play in empty bars. Throughout the show, they were pitch-perfect on every classic hit and had only one awkward moment, when everyone went off for an encore, except Casablancas who wasnt helping anything by his awkward rant about how cool The Thundercats theme song was (although his argument does hold water). They even played songs that they hadnt played since touring in 2006 Evening Sun, Between Love And Hate, and Trying Your Luck. It was a sizzling performance. Which is why I, along with the 10s of thousands of other fans, was perplexed when Casablancas announced 20 minutes ahead of schedule that this would be their last song and jumped into Take It Or Leave It.
On paper, they were allotted 90 minutes to do with what they pleased, yet they only used 55 of them total. Frustrating, sure, but it was still hands down the best set of the entire festival. Quality over quantity, I suppose. At the very least, it was a glimpse into the past that made me (a cynical a-hole) hopeful for the future of The Strokes.
Photo by Paul Woodruff.