TVD Live: Austin City Limits, Weekend Two, Good Vibes Despite Nature’s Shortcomings

PHOTOS: SHANTEL MITCHELL | There’s no denying that the South is home to some of the best music festivals in the country: Bonnaroo, Voodoo Fest, and Jazz Fest, to name several. But there’s nothing quite like listening to some of your favorite bands and discovering new artists in the Live Music Capital of the World.

The past two weekends were host to Austinites’ favorite/least favorite time of year: Austin City Limits Music Festival. The festival boasts some of the few days out of the year when people have a viable excuse to get weird in the city where keeping it weird is a mainstream way of life, when wearing neon paint on your face is socially acceptable, and when artists ranging from FIDLAR to Wild Belle, Muse to Smith Westerns, and Jimmy Eat World to Thao & the Get Down Stay Down are all performing in one place—and in this case, on one day nonetheless. How any festival-goer can retain sanity is beyond me. But then again, losing it a little is kind of part of the ACL experience.

This year, over 130 bands performed on eight stages at Zilker Park, ACL’s annual grounds for the past 12 years. And with a diverse lineup featuring everything from pop to metal to folk and hip-hop, the festival no doubt drew a motley crew of attendants—a mishmash of Austin’s trendy, vintage-clad youth, fratty college students ready to fist pump all night long, “cool dads” who hang up the suits to relive their glory days, kids who are clearly up to no good in those cheeky hot pants, and uber-hippies who look like they’ve read Thoreau one too many times. Needless to say, ACL is absolutely an experience all its own.

For the first time in ACL history, this year the fun ensued over the course of not one but two weekends. A smart move, considering that tickets sold out both weekends. The lineup for each was practically the same, with the exception of less than 20 bands who performed on either one go-round or the other. I had the fortune of attending the second weekend, October 11-13, and (not so) lucky for me, it was the first time in a while that Mother Nature decided to flood Austin. Yet, despite being cut short by torrential downpours that transformed Zilker into a shallow lake on Sunday, the weekend was an eventful one, to say the least.

DAY ONE

Highlights of the day’s events included Local Natives, who gave a particularly riveting performance of “Heavy Feet” before a large, enthusiastic crowd. Considering this was at 4:30 p.m., which in Austin-speak translates into HOT, the band’s energy was quite admirable, as was that of the captivated audience. Other highlights included Vampire Weekend’s dynamic performance, which featured both songs off their debut album and “new shit,” all of which elicited many a dance move from the thousands who clamored to the festival’s largest stage to watch.

Arctic Monkeys also drew a large crowd, and rightfully so. Lead vocalist Alex Turner’s authority over the stage is pure, unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll bliss. The band played much of their 2013 album, a personal favorite of which was “Snap Out of It,” an upbeat, groovy little number that has had me singing for days since.

Surprisingly, another highlight of the day was Kaskade’s electrifying set, which, as the night fell, turned the area surrounding the stage into a fantastical discotheque, complete with trippy lighting and fog effects. I’m not always a fan of house music, but I was definitely sweating—ahem, glistening—after dancing the night away, literally, as the sun set over Austin.

Day One’s headlining stages later that night featured Depeche Mode and Muse, both of whom drew their respective masses of devoted fans. As I am not a Depeche Mode fan, I ventured over to Muse who, as expected, gave a stellar performance. I don’t typically enjoy Muse, but ok, Muse fans, I get it.

However, more noteworthy in my personal opinion was Purity Ring’s transfixing work of magic on one of the festival’s smallest stages, just prior to the night’s “main events.” Despite experiencing technical difficulties upon the onset of their show, lead singer Megan James returned to the stage to give a mystical, almost voodoo-like performance. As the day’s first rain came pouring down right as the show began, the multi-colored lights and foggy haze reflected off the shower, all the more setting the stage for James’ spellbinding, wonderfully chilly performance. Quite poetic it was, indeed.

DAY TWO

As the festival was already off to a great start after Day One, I had high expectations for Day Two. Thankfully, the lineup did not disappoint. Dan Croll commenced the day beautifully, with a fun, dance-worthy set of songs off his 2013 EP and—much to my delight—lovely new jams that foreshadow a promising debut LP.

After falling infinitely more in love with the charming Brit, I again braced myself for the 2 p.m. Austin heat at one of the festival’s main stages, where Walk the Moon moved the particularly young crowd to unified raving under the blistering sun. High-energy pop and Texas heat: a deathly combination? Perhaps. Worth experiencing? Absolutely. Although not quite as huge an enthusiast of Walk the Moon as is the group’s predominantly adolescent fan base, I did enjoy bobbing to their all-out flamboyant performance and getting a glimpse of the new music on which the band has been working recently.

The best parts of the day, however, did not entail bubbly pop bands, but rather an enchanting couple of singer-songwriters with some serious talent. Namely, Lissie, who rocked out with such a coolness about her you forgot for a second you were about to pass out from a heatstroke, and Shakey Graves, who gave my favorite performance of the entire festival—by a mile. The Austinite has been aptly praised as an incredible “one man show” for his ability to skillfully play guitar, sing, and pound a suitcase-turned-kickdrum with seeming ease.

Shakey Graves, aka Alejandro Rose-Garcia, has been on my must-see list for some time now, and I couldn’t have dreamt of a better venue in which to witness such a gem than in his beloved hometown, on ACL’s smallest stage. Rose-Garcia’s uncanny flair for storytelling through music and inspiring sense of focus provided for an absolutely stunning show and drew the largest crowd the normally quaint stage had seen all weekend.

Other highlights of Day Two included Passion Pit, who attracted a large, energetic audience at one of the headlining stages. The crowd, though, was somewhat abridged by the enormity of fans, myself included, who meanwhile posted up at the adjacent stage to await Kendrick Lamar. The fact that Kendrick performed at the festival succeeding a long line of rock, pop, and folk artists is again a testament to the diversity of the festival’s lineup. Indeed, there was something for everyone. One might therefore conclude that not everyone would enjoy Mr. Lamar’s style, but judging by the vast amount of people vibing to the dynamo’s catchy beats, there were very few dissenters.

As Day Two drew to an end, The Cure and Kings of Leon closed the show, the latter of which lured a slightly larger crowd. As I am a fan of neither, I enjoyed parts of both near the back of the audience—a point from which I had to squint to make out even the slightest human form on the stage.

Overall, although Day Three was washed out by typhoon-like storms (I would have much rather seen Typhoon, the band), the festival ended on a high, with many of the scheduled acts retaking root in several of the city’s live music venues. Atoms for Peace played a surprise show at the Moody Theatre. Props to Noah and the Whale for tweeting a request for a venue and thereafter playing a free pop-up show at the Empire Room. Modern technology, man.

In sum, ACL 2013 definitely did not disappoint, despite inevitable shortcomings. In the land of good vibes, free spirits, and pedicabs gone wild, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself among a diverse crowd who, more than having a profuse amount of tattoos, are united by a love for music. And lots of sweat.

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