This was my first trip to ACL (Austin City Limits). I entered the gates at about 11:30 AM to the sounds of Texas staple, Asleep at the Wheel singing “Miles and Miles of Texas.” What a great way to welcome me into the lovely Zilker Park on this insanely humid and hot morning. I was greeted by one of the endless supply of friendly and helpful volunteers that helped direct me into the grounds. Even as things got more and more crowded, I had no trouble finding someone to help me with any questions I had. I immediately saw the giant frame for everyone to take their picture at and right next to it “The Capital” which had all the schedules for the next threes days. This music festival which is now in its 12th year has become a draw for people from all over the globe. There is amazing art, food, people watching, and, of course, the music.
My ultimate goal for Day 1: See Shovels and Rope. I headed to the Austin Ventures stage where they were going to be the third act of the day. When I approached the area, there was an Austin band, Sons of Fathers, already in the middle of their set. I ended up enjoying what I heard. They had a stand up base and an accordion, so who couldn’t appreciate that. Next up was Desert Noises from Provo, Utah. This band’s style is something that I really appreciate. These guys put on a great show despite their acknowledgement of the difference in weather between Austin and Utah. It was during their set that I was able to make my way up to the barrier in the direct center of the stage which is where I remained planted until Shovels and Rope came out for their set.
Oh My God, Becky!!!! It was unbelievable!!! This married couple out of Charleston, South Carolina put on one of the most absolutely soulful, steamy, sexy, raw, and just plain fun sets I have ever seen with amazing performances of “Birmingham” and “Hail Hail.” They traded places and instruments back and forth including two guitars, a beat up drum kit, and a little keyboard. I cannot hear Cary’s voice without Loretta Lynn coming to mind. She has raw vocals that are sung with sass and sometimes with a smile mixed in with them. I would recommend catching this duo live no matter what your musical taste is.
A break in the shade was needed after this set so I picked up a Sweet Leaf Tea and a boxed water and parked it in the shade to catch the last few songs of Jimmy Eat World on the Samsung Galaxy Stage. They were finishing up in a grand fashion with old favorites “The Middle” and “Sweetness.”
Next up on that stage was Local Natives, my number two goal of the day. I have yet to be able to catch these guys live even though I have been an avid fan since their debut album. They had just recorded a set for the TV show Austin City Limits the night before and I had heard nothing but good things about it. I was not disappointed at all. Their phenomenal harmony sounds unbelievable live. They filled their hour set with beautiful songs from their new album as well as favorites from Gorilla Manor, like my personal favorite “Airplanes” and “Who Knows Who Cares.” I cannot talk about this show without mentioning the ASL interpreters at this show. There were several shows where they were available, but one of the ladies that did this show was beyond belief. She must have been a fan of the band herself because she put so much passion into the words and energy of each song that I could not stop watching her. The band even had to take a second and acknowledge her because she was just a sight to see.
The 6:30 set was British rock group Arctic Monkeys. I have seen these guys before, and Alex Turner always does a phenomenal job with his accented vocals. The sun was setting on the park, and the crowds were beginning to roll in. I was lucky to see the first half of their set up close at the barriers, but then moved back to the edges of the crowd to just sit in the grass listen to good, familiar music and people watch. The crew that worked the cameras on stage that provided the shots on the large side screens did a great job on every show I made it to. There were some beautiful shots of Turner’s recognizable silhouette against the beautiful orange Texas sunset. They opened with new hit “R U Mine?” and filled the next hour with gritty guitar rock that had the thousands of crowd members jumping and singing along.
From my great spot towards the back of the crowd, I was able to lay down and listen to the entire set by the Black Angels from the Bud Light Stage. I am not super familiar with their music, but lead vocalist Alex Maas has such a distinct voice, and it is nice to see a successful “local” band get to play on one of the large stages so late in the day.
My final band of the day, Queens of the Stone Age were the closing band on the Bud Light stage, and, by the time they started, the crowd was completely jammed, anxiously waiting. I tried to hang around towards the front, but this tiny girl can only handle being squished so much, plus I had already had the pleasure of seeing them in Dallas five days prior. After the first two songs, I had to take a step back to get some air. As the familiar intro to “No One Knows” began and the intricate graphics on the LED backdrop began to show a giant storm blowing around the bands initials, the real rain actually began to fall. Homme commented that they were already going, no stopping now. This band has one of the greatest light shows out there right now. The amazing clarity of the graphics and the beautiful artwork are an amazing backdrop to the endlessly talented Homme as he holds court on center stage with his deep velvety voice and true rock and roll music.
I ended my 10th hour of the day by heading out the gates in the pouring rain with the legendary Dave Gahan serenading me for my entire walk back to my car. It was a fabulous way to end my first festival experience. I went home ready to come back and start all over again for Day 2!
Photos and article by Reanna Streater