Festival Reviews

Austin Remains Weird: CoS at Austin City Limits ’10

on October 12, 2010, 11:03pm
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acl Austin Remains Weird: CoS at Austin City Limits 10You know the adage: Don’t 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 (McDonald’s, 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 won’t 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 it’s 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 someone’s toes). This festival truly belongs to the city, which makes it truly special.

It wasn’t 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.

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But we’re above logistics here at CoS, because at the end of the day, it’s still about the music. And that’s one thing this festival couldn’t have done more right.

Friday, October 8th

Miike Snow
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. I’m sure that touring the same material for two years would be taxing on anyone, but they seemed downright bored. Don’t 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 year’s ACL, hands down.

Beach House
Honda, 5:00 p.m.

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Photo by Paul Woodruff

In theory, Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally’s dreamy pop tunes should not have fit in well with the blistering heat of Texas. It’s 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. LeGrand’s never sounded better, and when the band arrived at their climactic version of “Norway”, the crowd couldn’t 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.

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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”, “Don’t You Evah”, “I Summon You”, “Don’t 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.

Amos Lee
Austin Ventures, 6:00 p.m.

Mr. Amos Lee also fell victim to scheduling, easily out shined by Spoon, but that’s to be expected for an act as small as his. That’s 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 he’s even keeping his head above water, let alone drawing a sizable crowd during one of ACL’s premiere acts, speaks volumes about this man’s 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.

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Photo by Paul Woodruff

Vampire Weekend
ZYNC Card, 7:00 p.m.

Poor Sonic Youth. Their entire crowd wasn’t even half of Vampire Weekend’s. I’m 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.

Sonic Youth
Honda, 7:00 p.m.

acjacmalloysonicyouth Austin Remains Weird: CoS at Austin City Limits 10

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. Didn’t 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 would’ve occurred at the fact that they didn’t play, well, “Teenage Riot”.

The Strokes
AMD, 8:00 p.m.

aclstrokeswoodruff Austin Remains Weird: CoS at Austin City Limits 10Fifty-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 everybody’s 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 wasn’t 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 hadn’t 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.

Saturday, October 9th

First Aid Kit
Honda, 12:00 p.m.

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Rabid Records label members, and sister duo First Aid Kit made a nice name for themselves on what would turn out to be a massively talent-filled day. The very first act of Day 2, they came on towing some unexpected confidence, especially for an act with as little experience as them. It actually reminded me of the first time I saw Fleet Foxes way back when. Strong, confident harmonies all following a confident melody. They played their still most popular song to date, “Tangerine”, with expertise, and debuted an ornate new song called “Lion’s Roar”, indicating that the follow-up to their debut, which dropped in January of this year, is close at hand. Best part of the show came when they covered labelmate (and technically label owner) Fever Ray’s “When I Grow Up” with a folk twist.

The Very Best
Budweiser, 12:30 p.m.

My favorite kind of performer is one that is having more fun than the audience. The Very Best‘s Esau Mwamwaya is exactly that kind of performer. He was all smiles in his 50 minute performance that was largely made up of Warm Heart of Africa tracks and samples of other popular tunes that he’d sing over. He did a rendition of “Paper Planes” that ended up being better than M.I.A.’s. He also sampled Yeasayer’s “Ambling Alp” and the late Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There”. I was hoping Ezra Koenig would show up to do “Warm Heart of Africa” with him, but he didn’t. All the same, that song got the party jumping and the crowd ready for the great things to come.

Austin Ventures, 1:20 p.m.

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The Brooklyn natives went on to a fairly large crowd on the second smallest stage at ACL. NINJASONIK was a fantastic breath of fresh air because there was very little hip hop happening at this festival. They came out with their crazy eccentric (and often hilariously obscene) rhymes and moved the crowd to a chant of “We are Ninja f***ing Sonik, we are Sonik f***ing Ninjas”, which they repeated over and over. They apologized for their explicit lyrics (somewhat unapologetically), saying “I know there’s kids in the audience, but we’re straightforward people.” Indeed they were. Other memorable chorus chants from their electric performance: “Somebody gon’ get pregnant!” and “We don’t do bars/We don’t do clubs/We drink PBRs/And we do drugs.” Gotta love it when a little known hip hop duo completely wins over a crowd they probably shouldn’t have.

Bear In Heaven
ZYNC Card, 1:30 p.m.

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Photo by Paul Woodruff

Whoever delivered all the acclaim for Bear in Heaven’s debut album stands as one the most generous men or women on Earth. On a good day, I only kind of like hearing this band. The sound acts as regurgitated noise rock over a shaky vocalist. Not much to it. They aren’t great showmen, either – barely saying the obligatory, “How you guys doin’ out there?” The hipsters made a full-fledged showing though, always keen on whatever the next buzz blog’s buzzin’ about. However, they didn’t seem happy to be hearing the music. Instead, they sort of just stood around with their hands in their pockets and looked at each other. Then again, maybe that’s just how hipsters celebrate good music. Regardless of the energy, the music stayed true to the dingy studio recorded versions, and “Lovesick Teenagers” won over the crowd; that is, if getting kids to shove their hands in their pockets and eye one another can be considered winning.

Pete Yorn
Honda, 1:30 p.m.

Ah, the sultry vocals of Pete Yorn. Somehow, his music just felt right in Texas, even though the majority of it’s about Jersey, where he grew up. The audience just reveled in his easy on the ears music, many taking the opportunity to sit down and slow the day down a little bit. Yorn put on quite a show, playing many tracks off his latest record, the eponymous Pete Yorn. But he didn’t forget to pay tribute to the tracks that made him who he is, playing “On Your Side” and “Lose You” from his acclaimed Musicforthemorningafter.

Broken Bells
AMD, 4:30 p.m.

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Unfortunately, I wish I could say better things about this once in a lifetime show. But there isn’t much to be said about Broken Bells. It may have simply been that they kind of got the short end of the stick on stage choice and time of day, but I think it had more to do with being a boring live band. Obviously, it was fun to see Danger Mouse, and it was instant Garden State nostalgia every time James Mercer opened his mouth, but this was a lackluster performance on the whole. The good news – “The High Road” sounds awesome live, and they even debuted new material indicating that the alleged new album may be closer than we thought. If that weren’t enough, they played an awesome cover of The Black Keys’ “Everlasting Light”.

Local Natives
Austin Ventures, 4:45 p.m.

Does it seem like Local Natives have been on tour since the day their album came out like 10 months ago? I swear they’ve been at every festival I’ve been at, and come through my local venues twice this year. Regardless, I had to see what kind of game they’d bring to this huge festival, and it was exactly what I expected tit for tat. They played their regular set, did it just like it sounded on the record, and had pretty minimal crowd interaction. The more I see this band, listen to their album, and really think about it, I think they’re another band who really didn’t deserve all the hype. (That is, if you buy into that sort of media hoopla.) Solid album, solid performance, but nothing special here, which is an act murderer when you’re directly up against artists who excrete creativity (i.e. LCD Soundsystem, Monsters of Folk – individually, of course, and  The xx).

acljacmalloythexx Austin Remains Weird: CoS at Austin City Limits 10The xx
ZYNC Card, 5:30 p.m.

Man, The xx have the music world by the balls right now. They have such a unique sound that everyone seems to love, and that point made itself very clear by the unthinkable amount of people that showed up to hear their sultry tunes. I will admit that I did get pretty excited when I heard the first notes of “Intro”, even though I’ve seen them twice in the past six months. Their debut was just so enthralling that it struck a chord with me. And by the showing of people at their ACL performance, I’m not the only fan of the album. The living statues of indie rock and roll got particular love from the crowd for the tracks “Crystalised”, “Heart Skipped A Beat”, and “Basic Space”. But their performance was the first domino to fall in a series of dominoes that turned out to be the biggest logistical screw-up done by the festival.

Photo by Jac Malloy.

Monsters of Folk
Austin Ventures, 6:00 p.m.

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Photo by Jac Malloy

Right next door, some of the most creative men of our generation came together to jam – or in other words, they put on a Monsters of Folk show. Donning their Sunday best, M. Ward and Mike Mogis looked right at home in their smartly chosen suits, as well as Conor Oberst, who sported a brown three-piece, the jacket of which he quickly disposed of to reveal that rustic vest look. The only one who looked like he’d been forced by his girlfriend to dress up was Jim James, who seemed a little out of place without his magic cape and moon boots. Attire and pretentious name aside, these truly are some of the best independent folk minds of our generation, and to see them collaborate live was a thing of beauty, although I was only able to stay for the first three songs (if I ever miss an LCD show it’ll be because I’m dead). They came out guns blazing with arguably the best track they created together, “Say Please”. Following this, they took turns at the helm, Ward playing “Slow Down Jo”, James fronting “In The Right Place”, and Oberst showcasing a bit of his solo work with an awesome re-worked version of Cassadaga cut “Soul Singer In A Session Band”. It was truly a spectacle for the brief time I was there. But reluctantly I slide away to join my new best friend, James Murphy.

LCD Soundsystem
Budweiser, 6:30 p.m.

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Photo by Paul Woodruff

Why was this set not at night? Why was it right next to The xx? Logistical nightmare part three. Bad move, C3. LCD Soundsystem‘s James Murphy acknowledged the terrible conditions himself by saying “I apologize for the asshole behavior of wearing sunglasses onstage, but if you could see what I see… Just forgive me.” The sun hit directly on the Budweiser stage, where all the hipsters from The xx had migrated, creating an unreal amount of human flesh. Not one to let his own fans down, Murphy and co. (joined by part time LCD part time Hot Chip man Al Doyle!) made up for the bad conditions, jumping right into “Dance Yrself Clean”, arguably the best singular track of 2010. However, ACL screwed up yet again, this time not getting the sound levels right, making Murphy’s vocals too loud and the synth (which is the most important component of the song) not nearly loud enough. It was no matter, however, and we all danced ourselves clean right there in the sweltering heat anyway.

The setlist continued with surprisingly few Sound of Silver tracks, or track, I should say. After giving his shout out to the “Drunk Girls” and proclaiming “I Can Change”, Murphy jumped into the always emotional “All My Friends” just as the sun set. From there it was an all out dance party with a seamless “You Wanted A Hit”/”Tribulations” medley followed by “Movement”, “Yeah” and finally “Home”. As far as top to bottom setlists go, this one wins best of fest.

ZYNC Card, 7:30 p.m.

Commence logistical nightmare part three. So, highly the infectiously danceable LCD Soundystem has just finished playing their 11 minute beat-building track “Yeah” and called it a night, so of course, everybody’s pumped to go see Deadmau5 and continue their dancing. Only problem: people coming in early to line up for Muse (oh, and crossing the sea of chairs). It was like a mass emigration of dancers with a small, very enthusiastic immigration of Muse-heads. It was utter chaos. Deadmau5 should have been on any stage but the ZYNC stage, which faced the Budweiser mainstage, but logistics aside, this is when things got real. Deadmau5 put on his usual dazzling display of lights and colors multiplied by a cube stage multiplied by an unbelievable mouse head multiplied by grade A house music. When he put on a ghost costume to usher in “Ghosts n’ Stuff” (and a little bit of “Moar Ghosts n’ Stuff”), the crowd went berserk. He maintained this same energy throughout the remainder of his show with tracks like “I Remember”, “FML”, and “Faxing Berlin”.

aclwoodruff Austin Remains Weird: CoS at Austin City Limits 10

Photo by Paul Woodruff

AMD, 8:30 p.m.

I know it’s, like, the cool thing to hate on M.I.A. right now, but she makes it nearly impossible not to. In 2008 when I saw her at Sasquatch! Music Festival, I was blown away by her natural swagger and obvious knack to work a crowd. She took the stage at that festival with all the confidence in the world. The music scene was truly at her fingertips and the world was her oyster. But somewhere between that day and October 9, 2010, something changed in Maya Arulpragasam.

Her album was tangibly less authentic than its predecessors (although it was better than everyone made it out to be), and her image was rapidly depleting. A big spat with the press, and she was sort of on the outs with everyone. I gave her the benefit of the doubt through this time, but I now see that I was wrong to do that.

She’s gone Lady Gaga on us, I’m afraid, her live show filled with overly elaborate pyrotechnics, unnecessary costuming, and minimal focus on the task at hand: the music. It was fun to hear classic M.I.A. tracks like “Boyz”, “Bamboo Banga”, and “Galang”, but her new material just doesn’t pop live. I gave it three chances. I was able to hear “Lovalot” (my favorite track from MAYA), “Teqkilla”, and “Born Free”, but I was unimpressed. Even hearing “Paper Planes” was sort of depressing. Especially because The Very Best did it better earlier in the day. Let’s hope she can pull herself out of this slump because she’s been a solid musician over the years.

Budweiser, 8:30 p.m.

Part four of the logistical nightmare. After Deadmau5, the hoards of people headed directly towards the Budweiser stage, creating further confusion in the mishmash of human beings and chairs (damn those chairs). It took quite an effort for me to swim upstream to catch a bit of M.I.A. so I could finish up with Muse. But I should have just stuck with M.I.A. the whole time.

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Photo by Jac Malloy

Three times have I seen Muse this year, and three times have I left feeling like I just saw an old friend who used to be really cool that is no longer very cool. At all. The Resistance easily makes my top five list for biggest let down albums of the past decade, and for some reason everyone seems to get that except for Muse themselves and girls in junior high. And for some other reason, I decided that I’d give Muse one more shot at redemption, which they blew.

When they opened with “Uprising”, I knew I was in trouble. But then they pulled “Supermassive Blackhole” out of their arsenal and I was pleased. Things improved when they unveiled “New Born”, but it was a slippery slope from there on out. It’s a dangerous territory to be in when you’re touring an album that’s downright awful and you have a pretty impressive back catalogue. Song placements can make or break you. And I’m afraid that in the end, it broke Muse. “MK Ultra”, “Undisclosed Desires”, and “United States of Eurasia” were the straws that broke the camel’s back.

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Photo by Jac Malloy

Placed far too close to one another and next to outright blasphemous covers of Hendrix’s versions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”, the setlist proved to be an epic failure. One which could not be saved, even by at three hit combo of “Time Is Running Out”, “Stockholm Syndrome”, and “Starlight”.

Sunday, October 10th

ZYNC Card, 11:45 a.m.

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Photo by Jac Malloy

L.A. art-rock up and comers Warpaint gave a dazzling early day performance. Despite not having much experience or even a debut album to speak of (it’s slated for release later this month on October 25th), the all-female band played a solid set to fair share of folks. Logistically, they lucked out because Ted Leo and the Pharmacists were on an adjacent stage immediately following their set, which brought many onlookers unfamiliar with Warpaint’s small body of work. The incredible harmonies on the track “Bees” was especially moving.

aclblindpilotwoodruff Austin Remains Weird: CoS at Austin City Limits 10Blind Pilot
ZYNC Card, 1:15 p.m.

Literally the only act that dropped my jaw early Sunday afternoon. Compared to day one and day two, day three was simply average. The allocation of talent over the three days was not proportionate in any way, but that’s not any of the bands’ faults, it’s the festival’s. So day three was a bit of a bummer comparatively. But a bummer at a music festival beats even the best day in the real world. Anyway, I digress. I’m surprised and disappointed that Blind Pilot hasn’t caught on with a larger audience yet. The audience at Zilker’s was pretty small, which is a shame because the Seattle folksters played some beautiful tunes as a cool breeze swept in to soften the rays of the blaring sun. “Oviedo”, “The Story I Heard”, and “Go On, Say It” were all received to big fanfare.

Photo by Paul Woodruff.

Portugal. The Man
Budweiser, 2:00 p.m.

This was a toss-up. On opposite ends of the park, Portugal.The Man and Devendra Banhart were playing. I’d tried my hand at experimental folk twice already at Warpaint and Blind Pilot, so I figured I’d go to see Portugal one more time before festival season was over. And I was greatly rewarded for doing so. They put on such an explosive live show. And they have such a devout following, who may have been the most impressive thing about the whole set. The 87 degree weather and the scorching sun did nothing to throw a monkey wrench in the sizable crowd that assembled to see The Man. Barnburners: “All My People”, “The Dead Dog”, and a sweet extended version of “My Mind”.

Austin Ventures, 2:20 p.m.

The smooth harmonies sifted through the sweltering heat to match the mood perfectly. Now I know that Dawes are from L.A., but the music fit the outdoor Texas setting like a glove. Lead singer Taylor Goldsmith announced (after a spot-on performance of “When You Call My Name”) that this was their first show in about a month. He explained that their absence from touring was due to recording a new album. They promptly went into a new song entitled “Far Away” to close the set.

The Morning Benders
Honda, 3:00 p.m.

Well, I had no choice at this point. Well, technically, I did have a choice. Either I had to listen to the crap band that had to fill in for GAYNGS after the tragic theft of their equipment, or go see The Morning Benders. Either way, I’d be wishing I was seeing GAYNGS. But after seeing (and hearing) that the filler band used a mini-supercross motorcycle as one of their go-to instruments (sounds cooler than it was), I bounced. At least The Morning Benders wouldn’t make me feel like I was at a monster truck rally. Everyone who was hoping to see Justin Vernon’s side project decided to do what I did, so The MB’s was doubly packed. But they stepped up to the plate and didn’t hit quite a home run, but I’d say got at least a ground rule double with the spotless version of their acclaimed Big Echo track “Wet Cement”.

AMD, 4:00 p.m.

Admonishing us with “Wait For The Summer” seemed like a cruel thing for Yeasayer to do, as there are like another nine months of chills ahead of us, but that’s what they opened with anyway. From there it was a thunderstorm of blissful power-pop that really picked the mood up for the day. Up until this point, there was not a whole lot of good that could be said about the day on the whole, due to a variety of reasons (mostly an unbalanced schedule that lacked anything entertaining). Yeasayer played a key part in lifting everyone’s spirits and getting us back into the jive. They stuck to their guts, playing some hits off Odd Blood “Ambling Alp”, “O.N.E.”, etc., but playing largely the good old tracks off All Hour Cymbals. Setlist aside, I couldn’t imagine a better primer for The Flaming Lips, who went on shortly thereafter.

The Flaming Lips
AMD, 6:00 p.m.

If you haven’t been to see The Flaming Lips, do so immediately. It’s not just a show, it’s an experience. The climax of the festival hit during the Lips incendiary performance, and it’s not mere happenstance. Wayne Coyne will take you on a zany ride you’ll never forget. He’ll preach to you (about how it’s important that we love each other and stay safe). He’ll make you laugh. He’ll get emotional with you (tears literally came to his eyes hearing the cheers from his adoring Austin fans during “Do You Realize??”).

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Photo by Jac Malloy

This was my second Flaming Lips experience, and the Oklahoma natives have a knack for working a crowd, no doubt about it. First, can I say how impressive it is to me that they drop the whole “I’m better than you, I’m a Rock Star” bull? Each of the members of the band, including Coyne, came out and set up their own equipment, with the help of an experienced team of roadies (there’s a lot of equipment involved in these shows). Next, I’d like to openly criticize the festival for not only putting The Flaming Lips while the sun was still out, but only giving them one hour. Wayne Coyne was even irked by this, saying, “Honestly, from the bottom of our hearts, we would stay here and play all night for you guys. But the festival’s giving us one hour, which we thank them for, and we’re going to make it the very best experience possible for everyone involved.” He then went on to say, “This is a beautiful night in a beautiful city. You’re all beautiful and we’re at a festival where the point is we all get to do whatever the fuck we want, and we get to do it together.” His preach was powerful, but not nearly as powerful as the ensuing music and visuals.

Although it was a largely un-danceable Embryonic-heavy set, the crowd was kept incredibly involved. This was partly due to Wayne’s signature bubble ride, the band’s entrance through a large vagina, and about thousand pounds of confetti. The only tracks that were non-Embryonic were “She Don’t Use Jelly” and “Do You Realize??”, which were both sung along to with unshakable gusto from the Austin audience. Too short, sure, but man what a show.

The National
Honka, 7:00 p.m.

thenationalacl Austin Remains Weird: CoS at Austin City Limits 10

Coming directly off the highest of highs from Flaming Lips closer “Do You Realize??” and coming into The National’s earthy, ominous tones is like going from an especially nostalgic acid trip to a high you get from some skank weed. Maybe that’s too harsh. But truly, how could anything The National had to offer compare to what the crowd had just experienced together? Once the initial shock of the brutal comedown wore off, people were able to enjoy The National’s show. Matt Berninger and friends played solidly (are they capable of anything less than great?) through a setlist that incorporated songs from their last three (incredible) albums. Obviously, there were some higher points (“Abel”, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, and “Mistaken For Strangers” come to mind quickly), but on the whole, they played a standard National show: packed with talent and flawless.

The Eagles
Budweiser, 8:00 p.m.

This was about the point in the night/three day experience that all the college age kids who had been partying way too hard threw in the towel. What was left was still enormous, from the entrance of Zilker Park all the way to the Budweiser stage, but it was mainly made up of people over the age of 30 and their children. I’ll give generation LOL their due credit, however. Peppered in the sea of graying faces were young music enthusiasts who wanted to see one of the most talented and influential acts of the 70’s play their relentlessly catchy folk-rock. And that’s exactly what they got. Kind of.

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Photo by Jac Malloy

The Eagles took the stage with an impressive dive into their beloved cover of “Seven Bridges Road” before pulling out the more recent songs, which were highly less regarded by the crowd, even though lead single “How Long” is a pretty solid track top to bottom. Then they did something that I still don’t understand.

They jumped into a six song course that basically used up a great deal of their best material. Back to back to back (x6), they played “Take It To The Limit”, a trumpet intro-ed “Hotel California”, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “I Can’t Tell You Why”, “Witchy Woman”, and “Lyin’ Eyes”. It’s like they used all their magic early on, and then left the crowd bored for a long, long time. After two or three more new songs, people began to shuffle out of the park by the multitudes. Why they would play all the songs everyone wanted to hear so early in the set is perplexing. It was like an invite to leave early and beat the inevitable downtown Austin post-show madness.

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Photo by Jac Malloy

For those who stayed and braved the not-so-good Long Road Out Of Eden material, though, they had a couple more tricks up their legendary sleeves. The band rolled out with closers “Heartache Tonight” and “Life In The Fast Lane” before coming back to a blistering encore of “Take It Easy” and “Desperado”. The legends finished out in style, rounding out what will certainly go down in the history books as one of the most incredible Austin City Limits festivals in years.

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