You already know that we went to an Austin City Limits taping a week ago. The ACL festival happened to start the very next day so we had four nights in a row of great live music. The 2007 ACL festival wasn’t as great as other years that I remember, but it was still pretty darned good.
First, the weather was hands down better than any other year that I’ve been. The days were in the high 80’s to low 90’s with several large clouds looming. No threat of rain, just mild (for us) temperatures with occasional shade. Each night it dropped into the 70’s. Incredible. That’s quite a bit different than the 2005 festival when we hit 108 degrees. The result was that you didn’t exhaust yourself going from stage to stage to see your favorite bands. It was absolutely perfect. Several performers commented on how hot it was, and I would think to myself, “what are you talking about? This is PERFECT!”
Before I go through the list of the bands that we saw, I’ll cut to the chase and let you know that the best performance of the weekend was The Arcade Fire, hands down. They played all of their hits, and they sounded great. You know how some bands sound different (ie, worse) live than their recordings? I was concerned about that with Arcade Fire because their music sounds “produced”. It just wasn’t so, they had all of the instruments on hand, and they were properly mixed. They sounded absolutely great. They also put on a great show, getting the crowd stirred up, they had some nice visual effects, and generally were very entertaining. The only bummer of the performance was that because this is a festival they had limited time on stage. They did go over their alloted time by 20 minutes, but still.
Okay, so here goes:
Peter Bjorn & John – we caught 3 or 4 songs toward the end of their set, and they sounded great. I wish that I had arrived 30 minutes earlier so I could hear the whole set. B-Dub introduced them to me via his blog, now I want the CD.
Joss Stone – I hadn’t previously heard anything of hers, but I did enjoy the set. Her music is slow & sexy R&B. I really like her voice. I would never have guessed that she’s a Brit from listening to her music, but she totally has the accent. This was a great show. She commented several times on how hot it was.
LCD Soundsystem – I had never even heard of them before. We heard 2 or 3 songs walking between stages, and they were good. I’m intrigued.
Queens of the Stone Age – these guys RAWK. I had heard a couple of radio cuts, but never listened to a CD. They are just awesome. Great driving guitar chops and metal-ish vocals. I want to hear more.
The Killers – I own, and enjoy Hot Fuss, but haven’t much cared for their latest CD. I can’t explain what changed, or maybe its that they didn’t change, I don’t know. It just doesn’t work for me. All of that aside, they put on a great show. I don’t know that I’d pay to see them apart from a festival, but if they’re ever at another festival I’ll go out of my way to see them. They’re quality entertainers.
Bjork – I have liked Bjork since she was with the Sugarcubes, and she did not disappoint. Her music is very eclectic, you have to listen to some weird stuff to get to stuff that you like, but I do like it. And she put on a great show as well. One of the instruments was this cool table thing that looked kind of like a radar screen but controlled electronic sounds and was very visual. Don’t worry trying to understand that, I really can’t describe it. The point is that it was really cool and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen. This show was great.
Blue October – they’re music is catchy but a little depressing, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out, I really like them. They put on a good show, and I recognized more songs that I thought I would. Plus, I didn’t know that they’re from Austin. I really enjoyed them.
Damien Rice – I had heard a couple of his songs in random places. He’s good. I really like his music, though if you see him you should know that he likes the word “f-ck”. He said it many times, both in talking with the audience and singing. Other than that, it was a great show. I want to hear more of his stuff.
Arcade Fire – my review is above. If you want a different answer ask my girlfriend and then stand back. This is one of her favorite bands, and their performance exceeded her expectations. She loved the show and gets pretty animated when talking about it. After she calms down a little you’ll be able to ask some follow up questions.
Muse – once again (this is their second year in a row at ACL festival) they rock. I -gasp- left Arcade Fire a bit early so that I could hear some of Muse, and I wasn’t disappointed. For only three people (plus a keyboard player in the background), they can put out some amazing sound. The lead guy has solid vocals, rips through amazing guitar parts, and is a talented piano player as well. Their light show was fantastic as well. This show was energizing, I would definitely pay to see them on tour and you should, too. If you’ve never seen them live, you need to.
DeVotchKa – I know, I had never heard of them before either and they were great. They kind of have a modern polka folk music sound, but its much better than it sounds. I’m not going to go buy any CDs, but they put on a great show.
Bloc Party – I had never heard anything by them, but I liked them. Very brit-pop-ish in a fun way. I don’t feel the need to hear more, but I did like them.
My Morning Jacket – I was starting to get tired of being outside at this point. Maybe I didn’t give them enough of a chance, but they didn’t do it for me. Their music is kind of southern rock, which is not what I was expecting, and they had girls in grass skirts dancing with a pineapple in their hands, which I totally didn’t get. I’m sure if I had more energy they would have been great, it just didn’t work for me.
The Decemberists – we heard them from a distance while waiting for Bob Dylan. They put on a good show. I wasn’t super into it, but I did like what I heard.
Bob Dylan – you already know what I’m going to say here. No one could understand him. The music was great, I totally recognized every song that we heard, but the lyrics were completely unrecognizable. Dylan wore a hat through the show so no one could see his face, either. We joked about whether or not it was really him because between his hat and jumbled lyrics it could have just as easily been a stand-in. I don’t mean to jest at Dylan’s expense, I’m a fan and would consider going to one of his shows again, it was just funny that he wrote the songs and yet no one can understand him singing them.
That was the weekend. All in all it was great. Not my favorite ACL ever, but still very good. I’m still bummed about missing The White Stripes. I can’t imagine what’s its like to be in a successful two person band after failing in marriage, but their music is so great that I’m going to be super bummed if I don’t get to see them.