ACL Day 1: Vampire Weekend, The Black Keys & more
Friday marked the beginning of Austin City Limits (ACL), the other major music festival in Austin, TX. Earlier this year, I made it to SXSW, Austin’s more famous major music festival. Spanned over 6th street bars, it was a totally different experience than (at least) Day 1 at Austin City Limits. During SXSW it was difficult to find one band, get to the next bar before capacity was filled–but ACL, spread over one large field is easy to move around. Well, actually it’s easy to SEE where you should go–getting there is the other half of the battle. A battle not easily won by anyone, except those equipped with lawn chairs and blankets.
I’ve heard there are safe zones, immediate to each stage where people are free of said accessories, but I’ve yet to see them. Before any set, the stages are heavily surrounded. From the main "AMD" stage where a mass of people surrounded the likes of The Black Keys, Spoon and The Strokes, to the smaller side stages like ZYNC which featured Girls, and Vampire Weekend–people set up camp long before each performance (with hour gaps between shows)–and stayed put.
While finding a spot and a view was difficult, life wasn’t that bad when it wasn’t 107 degrees. Having moved the festival to the first week in October, rather than the last in September, festival goers weren’t blasted by Texas’ summer heat.
After arriving a little after three, I made my way to see Girls. One of my editors had spoken highly of them to me, and I thought hell–why not? The San Francisco based group to my surprise is comprised of a bunch of dudes. Though one of band members has deceivingly long hair, there was nothing misleading about their talent. Guitar riffs, lifted over the crowd, and spilled down warmth (combined with the sun’s heat). A perfect beginning.
Midway through Girls, I left to catch the end of Miike Snow. I found myself smack in front of what must have been a six thousand deep crowd, one sixth of which were hand waving to “Animal.” It was incredible seeing such a mass movement–but hell was I going to move a lot closer. Miike Snow has come a long way since I last saw them at SXSW, playing at a bar with a crowd no larger than five hundred.
On the near stage, The Black Keys geared up. The crowd, twice the size, had been growing as Miike Snow played. The group walked on the stage, with a Wu-Tang beat in the background. You say what?! It was perfect, since in my mind I’m still obsessed by the thought of Blakrocc (more than the actual results). I listened to them play “She’s The One,” “Everlasting Light,” and a few other tracks–before getting antsy under the sun’s heat.
After taking a break in the media tent, I made my way to Vampire Weekend. Even fifteen minutes before their set, the crowd was enormous. As their set began, I was enveloped in the crowd, yet I was content as I was immersed within the group’s African guitar riffs, and upbeat tones. “Cousins,” off their recent album, Contra, sounded WAY better live. I was amazed. As they played “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma,” it reminded of ages ago when I saw them open for Cold War Kids at a small venue in San Francisco.
The sun had set, and while The Strokes took the stage–I had grown weary from my run ins, run aways, and run at ACL–so I closed my laptop–and called it a night.