This weekend was the third annual Austin City Limits Music Festival. It was my first time to attend what I hope will become an annual tradition. Incredible!
Five of us Royal Laners attended sorta together -- Blake, Phil, Nathan, Kenny, and myself. We stayed in different places and had different arrangements, but hung out a lot of the time there. I stayed with Dan DeLeon, ym at Highland Park.
First I want to comment on the festival itself. It was so cool and so Austin. The food court was all local restaurants. It was reasonably priced and the food was great (a vegetarian could have had a blast). There was stuff on sale and it was all local craftspeople, local record store, etc. The only nationally corporate presences were a Gibson guitar tent, ATM's from Bank of America, and hospitality tents with lots of free goodies from SBC and Cingular who were the sponsors but not in an obtrusive sort of way. The beer for sale was Heineken, Lone Star, & Amstel Light (I don't think that Shiner or Ziegenbock, who are from the area, make cans but only glass bottles which are forbidden in the park). The whole thing was very well laid out, organized, and efficient. You could park downtown and take a free shuttle to the festival and back. These ran all day and were very efficient. The city and police and all seemed to be cooperating with the festival and assiting it instead of being moronic.
It was really, really hot, though. The hottest days of the year in Texas were this weekend, which is weird.
But the music was great. 130 artists performed on eight stages through three days. Though I overheard or saw bits of various artists, these are the ones I really sat and listened to, along with some comments:
Sheryl Crow -- I've never really liked Sheryl Crow, to the dismay of some friends, like Tim. But she was quite enjoyable live.
Soundtrack of Our Lives -- Though I had heard their name, I'd not heard any of their music. This was one of the best performances of the festival and it was early on Saturday. They really rocked.
Old 97's -- I really like their music, but this performance was just mediocre.
Modest Mouse -- Recently Nathan burned me an album, and I liked it. I was hoping to be wowed by them and to decide they'd be a new favourite band, but their set sucked ass. I think it was just the wrong setting. I think they would have played better in a small venue where you could chill out while listening. Instead they drew a huge crowd full of annoying people who wanted to see them for the first time, probably, and who got in the way of those of us who had camped out at the Cingular stage all day preparing for the final performance of the day.
Dashboard Confessional -- This was my second time to see them, and their stage presence has improved dramatically over the last year. Plus they rock even more and aren't as whiny as they used to be.
The Pixies -- Now I was never into the Pixies when I was younger, but know their influence on my generation. This was probably the most anticipated performance of the festival and was really great. Even not knowing all the music, I felt its energy and power.
Calexico -- On my way over on Sunday morning the radio folk recommended going to see this show, so I did. And I'm quite glad of it. They were fantastic. I thought their mix of sounds was unique. I rushed right over to teh Waterloo Records tent and bought their album, Feast of Wire. And the cd is great too. It is more mellow than the live performances, which really got you moving. I highly recommend this band if you haven't heard them.
Ben Kweller -- His was a fun show, though I was around a lot of people who were moving and talking the whole time, and that was annoying.
Elvis Costello -- Same annoying group of people, so I wasn't enjoying myself at all. I finally got up halfway through the set and went over to the complete opposite side of the park and leaned up against an embankment and just laid there listening and that was MUCH better.
Wilco -- Clearly the best performance of the festival, and it drew the largest crowd (over 100,000 people were in attendance at the entire festival every day according to one report I heard). They played as the sun was setting and it was the perfect music at the perfect moment.
Cake -- Oddly was on the third stage though they had a massive audience, too large for the sound system of that stage and it was difficult to hear. The crowd kept yelling for them to turn it up, but I don't think up front they could hear us on the edges and in back. About half the crowd ended up leaving. Cake themselves seemed pretty down and depressed about life, the music industry, etc. and so I don't think this was the best set they could have done.
Ben Harper -- I sat way back in the back on a ridge and just mellowed out at the end of three wonderful but tiring and hot days. It was a great way to end, and he sounded fabulous.