Correspondence from Austin City Limits: Day 3

photo by Jim Bennett

It’s always easiest to get your money’s worth on the last day of a festival, as most people are either burnt out or too hung over to gear themselves up for another full day of standing and shuffling around in the heat. ACL this year was no exception, as for most of the day I could basically walk untouched up to within a few feet of any performance of my choosing. And I made sure to get out to Zilker Park especially early on Sunday, as Foals was playing at 1:15.

My friends still writhing in their beds, I was amazed at the small size of the crowd compared to Friday or Saturday, and despite being a little late for Foals, I was able to ease my way up to within 15 feet of the Honda Stage that they were playing on. I had only recently discovered Foals, but there are a few songs on the British band’s 2010 release Total Life Forever that are hard to keep from playing over and over. Their live show certainly didn’t disappoint either. The entire band, and especially front man Yannis Philippakis had a ton of energy. They played several prolonged jams, and Philippakis, who donned a black Bauhaus shirt, frequently wielded drum sticks that he used to bang away on a single tom he kept at the front of the stage with him. If you’re reading this before their Saturday show in Neumos for the City Arts Fest, I urge you to attend.

From Foals I had to walk all the way across the festival to see Portugal. The Man at 2:00. Portugal. The Man is one of those bands that never seems to stop touring, and because of this they’re incredibly tight and absolutely amazing live. Despite some early and minor technical difficulties with Zachary Carothers’ bass, the four-piece from Wascilla went on to play a solid set as always, jamming out such favorites as “And I”, “1989″, “People Say”, “The Sun”, “Guns and Dogs”, “Do You”, and many others. And like with Foals, I was able to easily walk up to the front. Awesome.

Gorgeous!

After Portugal. The Man, it was either The Morning Benders or Gayngs, which features Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. My decision was made for me when I learned that Gayngs had to cancel because their bus driver took all their equipment to Nashville. That hurts! I was perfectly content to, again, walk right down to the front of the stage for The Morning Benders, who looked incredibly young and sounded great. They were in the middle of “Stitches” when I got there, and later played “All Day Daylight” and “Excuses”. A somewhat funny moment occurred when frontman Chris Chu enthusiastically asked the crowd if they were ready to dance. This was followed by substantial cheering, but when they started into “Waiting For A War”, there was absolutely nothing going on that resembled anything close to dancing anywhere in the crowd. I guess it was still too early.

My friends had finally roused themselves by the end of Morning Benders and were able to meet me for Yeasayer, who was playing on the AMD Stage at 4:00. Unfortunately everyone else seemed to have roused themselves by this point as well, because we couldn’t get close at all. They led the set off with “Madder Red” and went on to entertain everyone thoroughly I’m sure, but we couldn’t tell because we could neither see nor hear, both of which severely diminish enjoyment of a live music show.

After wandering around for a while, we stopped by the smallest stage at the festival to see Henry Clay People. Their rollicking but fairly straightforward rock sounded pretty good, and though you really couldn’t tell they were from California from their music, frontman Joey Siara’s whiny brah voice was almost unmistakably from the West Coast. We had to leave Henry Clay People a bit early however, as getting into prime position for The Flaming Lips was a must.

I knew The Flaming Lips were known for the live performances, and in particular some of the shows they had put on at festivals around the country, but I don’t think I was really prepared for the magnitude of their show, which contained about 47 things I’d never even seen before. These included, the “space bubble” which he rolled out into the crowd with for a brief period during their first song, smoke bombs in megaphones, more poppers and confetti than I’d ever seen, most all of which was discharged by Wayne Coyne, interactive songs, dancers in orange getups that looked like they were out of an Austin Powers movie, an oversized gong, Coyne performing an entire song on the shoulders of a man in a bear costume, interactive songs, gigantic balloons, a camera in the mic stand facing Coyne, and a spaceship like entrance with the band members touching down on stage by walking through a radiating vagina, the list goes on. And at the center of it all was Coyne, who instructed the audience through the entire spectacle with the utmost care, making sure we knew what to do and how to participate and just that we were having the best time possible. As the sun was going down, they ended with “Do You Realize??” and the image of Coyne’s face on screen, looking like he was nearly being brought to tears by the moment, might have been the most beautiful moment of the festival. This show and LCD Soundsystem on Saturday were the 1a and 1b performances of the weekend, in my book.

The Flaming Lips

We were all on cloud nine after The Flaming Lips, and after getting some food we sat in the grass in front of the Austin Ventures Stage for Cage the Elephant, who played an amazing show and were incredibly excited at the opportunity to be at ACL. Shortly after we got there, lead man Matt Schultz said “In life you have those moments that are like mile markers. This is one for us. Thank you so much.” They then launched into “Back Against The Wall” and it couldn’t have sounded better. It’s great what festivals can do for bands, and it’s great to see bands who really cherish the opportunity they have and put on an amazing show. Their performance earned them at least one more fan.

Now it was time for the moment we had all been waiting for...The Eagles! Well...not really. I’d actually always considered The Eagles to be a bunch of douches, and seeing them at ACL didn’t exactly change my mind, but I will say that I was fairly impressed, if nothing else than by the sheer amount of hits they have churned out over the years. I felt like every song they played was another classic song that I had never known was an Eagles song. We were waiting around for “One of These Nights” and “Take It Easy” but didn’t hear either of them before we decided to leave. We were about 1.2 miles away from the stage anyway, so we didn’t mind beating the crowd. After leaving Zilker Park, however, walking down Barton Springs Road toward the city, we heard them ending their set with “Take It Easy” and all started to sing along as another amazing ACL festival was drawn to a close. Actually, I might have been the only one singing, but regardless, it was a nice moment to go out on.

photo by Jim Bennett

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One Comment

  1. Karin Baer
    Posted October 24, 2010 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Good reveiws, Ryan, I felt like I was there. Having just seen the Flaming Lips in Seattle, I can say you portrayed the concert experience accurately!

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