This past weekend was the ACL Music Festival, and it was awesome. I have to admit that when I initially saw this year’s lineup, I wasn’t too excited. Now that it has passed, I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Here’s the bands that I saw, in order:
Thievery Corporation – total jam band. I don’t know a single song of theirs, but they’re still very fun to see. I was just getting warmed up for a weekend of music, so this was great background music as I had a beer and visited with friends. It was Friday night, and I was still in work mode, so this transition was needed.
Van Morrison – die hard fans may be offended, but I didn’t really enjoy him. Most of his set was new material, which I don’t know. I wanted to hear Moondance, Brown Eyed Girl, Domino and other hits from that era. We left early.
The Shins – this was my first show on Saturday, and they were fantastic. I really like their style, mellow but popish in a modern way. They put on a good show, and their music is just so fun.
Aimee Mann – I’ve been a fan of hers since Til’ Tuesday released Voices Carry, so of course I had to see her. She played songs that spanned her entire career, which was just awesome. I was a little alarmed by how skinny she is. But who cares? The girl is talented, and her band sounded great. This was a really fun show.
The Raconteurs – Okay, this was my favorite performance of the weekend. When they started, I had a cup of iced tea in one hand, and a sausage wrap in the other. I quickly realized how excited I was to be at this show, and lunch was going to get in the way. I think it took about 45 seconds for me to finish lunch. I was with B-Dub, and we were parted from the rest of our group. After about 15 minutes we just kept getting closer to the stage. Dueling guitar solos, loud drums and bass, aggressive riffs, overdubbing, they’ve got it all. They were absolutely fantastic. Jack White and their drummer Patrick Keeler make the band, though the front man Brendan Benson is also capable of some quality guitar work. I was hoarse at the end of the show from screaming. They were just phenomenal, I loved it.
Explosions in the Sky – my girlfriend wasn’t really into them, so we didn’t stay long, but they were great. They kind of have this melodramatic dreamy sound, which is really nice. I think we heard maybe 2 or 3 songs, but they were great.
Willie Nelson – I think his show was probably great, but we were so far back that we couldn’t hear very well. We were so entertained that we got up to shop for t-shirts and never came back. If I hadn’t already seen him this year, I might have made an effort to get closer. I love you Willie, but it wasn’t working for me on Saturday night.
Ween – nevermind. I wish I had gone over to see Matisyahu.
The New Pornographers – First, they aren’t nearly as scandalous as their name might suggest. This is the new band of Neko Case. They were pretty funny actually. I’d say their music is aggressive pop, and I like them. They kind of remind me of the Breeders. They were funny because of their banter with the audience.
The Flaming Lips – Oh. My. Gosh. This show was also fantastic. Not only is their music awesome, they really put on a show. They had about 20 dancers on stage, half were men dressed up in Santa suits, and the other half were women wearing green alien masks and shiny purple tutus. And it didn’t stop there. They had these huge confetti cannons that they’d fire every once in a while, and they kept releasing these huge balloons that looked like floating lemons. Front man Wayne Coyne poured some fake blood on his forehead and asked women in the audience to throw tampons on stage (how on earth could I make up anything THAT ridiculous?). And then there was the music! They got the whole audience singing a couple of times. And they played all of their hits. I’m telling you, it was off the hook. I didn’t want it to end. If they ever come back to Austin, I’m going.
MUSE – Despite the continued efforts of many friends, I did not know any MUSE songs before I saw this show. I’m now a believer, they were also great. Think 1985 hard rock complete with keyboards. They were very loud, and they sounded great. They had some nice heavy effects on the bass, and the guitar was nice, too. I would see them again.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – This was such a disappointment, not because of anything that happened on stage. It started raining about 5 songs into their show, so we left. The band sounded great, and in typical fashion Tom had a nice interaction going with the crowd. He even said that they planned on playing late. I was so bummed. Its probably karmic realignment since we walked out on Willie.
Honorable mentions – I didn’t see these shows in their entirety, but caught them in passing as we walked through the park. I liked what I heard. Gomez, The Tragically Hip, John Mayer, Nada Surf, What Made Milwaukee Famous, Kings of Leon, Son Volt.
Take a look at that list. It really was a great weekend. And, to top it all off, the weather was perfect, with the obvious exception of Sunday night. It was in the 80’s and low 90’s throughout the weekend, there was always a breeze and some clouds hanging around, and they really did a great job in preparing the grounds this year to prevent the dust. This was my third annual attendance, and I’m looking forward to several more. I still think this is the best deal going for live music.