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ACL report

I’m back from ACL. I got in around two in the morning and went straight to sleep. I’m a lot browner than I was before I left, but I managed to keep myself properly hydrated, even though it was fucking hot as hell in Zilker park this weekend.

Thursday: Getting there is half the battle

I had a lot of meetings scheduled for Thursday, but they all turned out to be fairly short and by 2:00, I was able to sneak out of work and run some errands. I was supposed to go to an art thing later on that evening, but I didn’t really feel like just hanging around Houston waiting when I could be on the road. I called my friend R., who was planning on going up separately, and asked him if he needed a ride. By 3:45 we were on the road, and after a brief stop at the ranch and another in Elgin for barbeque, we made it to Austin. Our friend J. had mentioned that she has a standing date with her friends on Thursday nights, and we were more than welcome to hang out with them. So we wandered over to downtown and hooked up with J and her friends at a bar. I swear, I haven’t laughed that much in ages. J.’s friends are a riot. We talked for hours, and then moved on to a few other bars and talked some more. At some point there was dancing. Around 1:30 we started to wrap things, up and I drove R. back over to his girlfriend’s house. I ended up staying over in the spare bedroom instead of going back to the ranch as I had planned.

Friday: Day one of festival

R. and I took off for the airport around one to pick up T., who was flying in from SF. We headed immediately to Zilker park and the festival grounds. T. is a hipster music fan, and he sort of keeps me abreast of what what's going on in the music world. I'd never met him before, but it was one of those deals where that doesn't really matter. I'm always amazed at how I never worry anymore about meeting people from the Internet. We got there a little after two o'clock, walked to the venue, and heard a little bit of Bob Schneider's set from afar. We were sort of standing there, on a hill, getting our bearings, when I hear someone say my name, and our friends M. and L. were standing right there. It was a fairly serendipitous meeting, though at that point it wasn't as crowded as it would get later. They had been at the Killers set, and they said it was really good. We went in search of J. and her fiancé A., had a little mishap in meeting up with her, and then set camp for the Blind Boys of Alabama. That was very cool, very mellow, and a very good opportunity for everyone to catch up. The Blind Boys of Alabama sort of served as a backdrop for our talking. With the exception of R., this was the first time I'd seen everyone since last year's ACL festival, and everyone always had a million things to catch each other up on. No one had met T. before, so we all had assorted getting-to-know-you questions.

After The Blind Boys of Alabama, T., R., J., A. and I stuck around for Neko Case, while everyone else went off to hear Sloan. Neko Case was very mellow, very ballady, and very much what I thought she'd be. I like her a lot, and I wasn't disappointed at all in the performance. I believe the first beer of the day was obtained during her set.

After, Neko Case, we schleppted over to the SBC Stage to hear Solomon Burke, who was just awesome. It was getting really, really hot at that point, though, and i was concerned for Solomon Burke. He's a big, big guy, and he was dressed in a red sequened suit. He kept going though, and the crowd really appreciated him. His set sort of reminded me of Al Green's set from last year, though it was in the middle of the day instead of late at night.

At some point, Claudia called me to let me know that she was coming. She was sort of up in the air about it, but she said she'd be there around seven or so. She had been babysitting all of the dogs, so she had to take them to the ranch and drop them off there before getting to Austin. I can only imagine what the four of them in the car was like. Anyhow, I was sort of keeping an eye out for her.

We took off to check out the food. Like last year, there were dozens of local vendors selling their wares. I ended up getting some nice blackened shrimp, and we all reconvened at a picnic bench nearby. T., L., and M. decided that they were going to go see Ryan Adams, and A., J., R. and I staked out a good place to sit for Rebirth. Damn, they're so much fun! New Orleans brass band just jamming for a full hour. I danced along, until I got too hot and had to sit down. At some point, right at the end of the set, Claudia called to say that she was there. I tried to meet up with her, but the cell service went out.

Unfortunately, in my zeal to listen to Claudia's call, I sort of separated from everyone else, and it's hard to meet up without specific plans. So I went over to Franz Ferdinand to try and meet up with L., M., and T, since I had a general idea of where they were standing. Oh, my! The crowd was unbelievably big for that group. They were playing on the smaller Bank of America Stage, and it was shoulder to shoulder people all the way up the hill. I'd never seen a crowd that big for an outdoor concert before. But they jammed. I love their album, play it all the time, and I thought that they were fantastic live. It was sort of hard to dance with all the people, but I definitely would have danced more had there been room.

After Franz Ferdinand, Los Lonely Boys started on the next stage over, and they were also packed. I sort of sat on a hill and listened to them while keeping an eye out for everyone else. I'd heard them last year, and what a difference a year makes. This time they were on the big stage, and they were packed. I didn't really hear anything new, but they had such a good energy, that it was hard not to love them. Claudia called me a little halfway through the set, and we arranged to meet at the onsite record store, R. called shortly thereafter, and we were able to get T. to meet us there also.

Claudia's friends, Claudia, T., R., and I then went and got some food at Chuy's and sat and drank ate and rehashed the day. We had a bit of a wait, but the bar was serving, so we could drink margaritas and sort of get the two groups of people to get to know each other. The food was good, the air conditioning was good, and the ability to sit down in a civilized manner was good. No one was terribly sunburned, and I think everyone was still riding the wave of a good day. After dinner, Claudia decided to stay in Austin with her best friend, and I took R. and T. back to R.'s girlfriend's house. I drove to the ranch and was greeted by four elated dogs.

Saturday, the day of smuggling

I woke up, played with the dogs a bit, went running, and then got ready for the day. My car charger screwed up, and i had to figure out a way to charge my phone, and I had to stop for barbeque in Giddings, but I got to Austin around 1:30. Through some miscommunications, I went to R.'s girlfriend's house first, found that R. and T. had already taken off for the shows, and redirected myself to the venue. There was a little bit of tension as my bag was searched, but they didn't find the barbeque.

I got there in the middle of the Josh Rouse set, and meeting up with the guys wasn't a big deal at all. I don't really remember the Rouse set, though i remember thinking it was good. We took off for a place to sit in the shade and devoured the barbeque. The Giddings City Meat Market really does have the best barbeque in the whole wide world, and it was worth the tension of whether or not it would be confiscated at the gate. After lunch, we headed to the music tent to check out the CDs, and I got my phone recharged at the Cingular tent. We then headed to cool down a bit and get more beer. Soon enough it was time to camp out for Modest Mouse, and we found a spot halfway between the Cingular stage and the Bank of America stage so we wouldn't have to move for My Morning Jacket.

I love Modest Mouse. I've been playing Modest Mouse non-stop since the new album came out a few months ago. For whatever reason, they make me happy, even though their lyrics can be downright depressing. The sound wasn't great where we were sitting, but I didn't care. I danced and hopped and sang along for every single song. It was awesome. The rest of the crowd seemed to like it too, and I was probably incoherent and goofy looking to T. and R. Oh well. I loved it.

We never were able to hook up with the rest of the group that day. We later found out that there were 75,000 there on Saturday, and cell service towards the end of the day was spotty at best. It turns out that A. and J. decided to take it easy that day, and L. and M. came rather late. I have no idea when Claudia got there and what she did for the show.

After Modest Mouse, we turned and listened to My Morning Jacket. We just sort of drank beer, talked and listened to music. I can't tell you really what My Morning Jacket was like, but I remember liking them. Afterwards, R. and I went down to the SBC stage to hit Trey Anastasio and T. went to check out Dashboard Confessional. Earlier in the day, I had commented how there were not as many hippies there as there were last year. We found the hippies at Trey Anastasio. I LOVED this set. It was such a happy, dance inspiring set, and there was just so much energy there. Lots and lots of pot smoke in the area, and I'm pretty sure that I got a contact high, on top of all the beer I was drinking. I probably could have left then and been perfectly happy with the day.

We decided that there was no hope in meeting anyone else, so we hiked up to the Cingular stage and staked out position for the Pixies. We had a fairly good spot, and my oh my were the Pixies awesome. They didn't have anything new, and they didn't really depart from any of the studio versions of their songs, but after twelve years, their set didn't sound any dated or irrelevant. The musicianship was tight, Frank Black didn't sound as if his voice had given out at all, and Kim Deal was almost gracious and humbled by being on stage. She's one of my favorite bassists of all time, and I think she plays deliberately sexy. Lord knows her bass lines turn me on. I'd never seen the Pixies before, but I have been a fan for years. I knew everything that they were playing, and it was sort of funny watching the 18 year olds who were still in elementary school when they disbanded jamming along. Sometimes I worry about comebacks. They’re not as good as the original, and it feels like the reunion tour is simply because the band members went through the cash and needs more. This was nothing like that. They were awesome.

Afterwards, we were running the adrenaline wave and met up with T. and Claudia at our previously designated rendezvous. The Pixies are Claudia’s favorite ever band, and she was high as a kite over having seen them. She saw them back in 1992 when they were touring with U2, and I think that was probably a majorly profound moment in her musical development. She literally was hopping around and yelling about how she’d just seen the Pixies. It was adorable to watch. She called everyone she knew to gloat about having just seen them.

I drove R. and T. back, and then I drove Claudia back to her car, and then we decided that it was easier for us to just drive back to the ranch together and leave her car in Austin. We stopped for food and got back to the ranch at about 12:30.

Sunday, the band’s back together

Claudia and I got into Austin around 12:30, and I dropped her off at her car. I picked up T., and we headed for the venue earlier than any other day thus far. Sunscreen was working well for everyone in our group, though T. ended up buying a cowboy hat for further protection. I’d been wearing cami tops, capri pants and my fuzzy banded cowboy hat all weekend, and my feet have regained the Teva tan that pretty much defined my college days. Considering how hot it was and how much sun we were exposed to, we all seemed to do rather well. I’ve retained the tan I had back when I used to lay out every day in college.

We got to the venue in time for most of Mindy Smith, and she was quite good, though after a while all singer/songwriters sound the same to me. J. called me to tell me that she was in the venue, and R. and K., his girlfriend, got there around the same time. We all met at the record store and then took off for the SBC stage to see the Roots. The Roots were the only hip-hop act in the whole show, and they were packed. The crowd was predominately white, but everyone was very excited about the show. (That is the one thing that bugs me about Austin. It’s a little too homogenous for me. Houston is such a diverse city that I get sort of used to muli-ethnic festivals. The line up here, though, was definitely geared to a certain crowd, and hey, there were a hell of a lot of anti-bush, pro-kerry, anti-war, liberal oriented tee shirts, stickers and buttons.) The guitarist was amazing, and I almost got the Robert Randolph feeling that I got last year listening to him. About twenty minutes into the set, I miraculously spotted M. and L. in the crowd, and we were all able to hook up again. Very randomly happened.

We all headed to the food tent and sort of vegged out there for awhile. I was supposed to meet Claudia at 4:00, but I couldn’t find her, and after listening to Antibalas for a bit in the background, we decided to head for Elvis Costello. I’d like to say that Elvis Costello was good, but the sound was just terrible. There was something about that stage. The only ones that sounded great there were Los Lonely Boys. Two songs in, we decided we couldn’t take it any more, and we went back over to the SBC stage to listen to the much mellower, and better sounding, Jack Johnson. Very good show.

After Jack Johnson, we meandered to the Drive By Truckers and set up camp. T. took off to go listen to Spoon. And I went back to locate Claudia, and actually found her this time. She was a little irritated with me for dragging her away from her friends, but she didn’t have to come with me. We got beer and she was a much happier camper. The Drive By Truckers were great to listen to. They’re from Alabama, and have a very catchy sort of southern rock sound. They attracted a rather large crowd, and I understand why. J. had to leave to go listen to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

We then headed to stake our claim for Wilco. The hippies were definitely back for Wilco. I love Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, I love Summerteeth, and I love Being There. I bought a Ghost is Born but I don’t know it as well as the others. On the first few hearings though, I think I like it quite a bit. Wilco is as good live as I thought they’d be. They are intense but mellow if that makes any sense. I think they’re probably one of the best bands out there right now, and I was really glad to hear them live.

R. and K. took off after Wilco, and the rest of us went to meet up with T. and set up camp for Cake. Another band I’ve really liked over the years but have never heard live. Miraculously, I spotted T. in the crowd headed for Cake, and we were able to push and shove ourselves to hear them. They probably should have been on a larger stage, and their sound problem was simply that they were set too low for such a large crowd. That remedied itself after a few songs, and we were able to really enjoy them. They have a new album coming out soon, and they played a few songs from it. They played two encores, which was rather rare for the festival. I think since they were nearly last, it wasn’t as big of a deal. On the balance, Cake rocked.

After Cake, we all decided we’d had enough, and we didn’t really need to see Ben Harper. I’d seen him last year and I really liked him a lot, but I was exhausted and I didn’t think he was worth staying to the very end for. It was already fairly late, and so I drove Claudia back to her car, took T. to pick up some stuff to take back to SF, dropped him off at K.’s house and then met up with M. and L. at a bar on 6th street for a drink. Around eleven, I hit the road. I stopped at the ranch to pick up the dogs, and rolled into Houston around two this morning.

I’m a little tired, but I had such a good weekend that the exhaustion isn’t really an issue. I loved this festival. There were definitely a lot more people than last year, but there were a lot more bands that I really wanted to see this year. Most of my time was easily occupied, and I didn’t feel badly that I missed anyone. I’m sure I could have had a completely full day if I’d chosen other bands to see.

The group I was with was great. Everyone was fairly easy going, and no one was prima donnay. We split up when necessary, and we didn’t really mind not hooking up if that’s how the festival gods wanted it.

ACL is definitely something I’ll do every year.


( 2 comments — Say something )
Sep. 21st, 2004 12:22 pm (UTC)
Elgin BBQ, Giddings BBQ, Chuy's .... *sigh*

So I've had my curiosity piqued and am checking out some the bands above and just want to know one thing ...

Can I go next year?

Suddenly very homesick for TX.
Sep. 21st, 2004 05:41 pm (UTC)
Yes! I've been trying to round up a Bronzer posse to go for two years now. I'd love it if you came next year!
( 2 comments — Say something )