ACL: day 2

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The second day of ACL was crowded. The festival’s mobile app kept on sending out messages, trying to prepare everyone for a cold front in the late afternoon that didn’t actually occur until right around 8 p.m. The weather was nice when the day began, as I walked around, catching pieces of Dan Croll and Max Frost play good ol’ fashioned rock 'n' roll in the early afternoon. After a moment checking out the craft beer tent, a very nice addition to this year’s fest, I headed to the Honda stage for Autre Ne Veut.

Autre Ne Veut’s live performances are always notable for the intensity of singer Arthur Ashin. He skulked around the stage and writhed on the floor, belting out a string of highlights from his latest album, Anxiety. While his act is much more suited for a dark club at night than a mid-afternoon slot at a festival, Autre Ne Veut entertained the small yet enthusiastic crowd gathered to see him.

From there, I was able to catch about half of HAIM’s set. The much-hyped L.A. band gave an equally intense performance that also rocked out a bit more than I had expected, based off their debut album. One of the sisters jumped off the stage toward the end and ran through the median in the crowd with infectious joy and energy. Once she reunited with the band on stage, they all began pounding on drums for a frenzied take on “Let Me Go.”

I spent some time walking around and grabbing lunch afterward, but caught a little bit of Delta Rae and Lissie in the meantime. Delta Rae sounded good, playing the kind of indie-folk you’d expect to see at ACL. Their lead singer explained how they almost had to cancel because one of their singers blew out her tonsils earlier this week, which led me to admire their flexibility while also cringing at the thought of how painful that must be. Lissie played upbeat folk-rock, closing her set with her cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness.”

Next, I watched about half of Silversun Pickups' set. The band has grown with each album they’ve released, and while I haven’t been a fan of the last two, I was impressed by how tight and controlled they sounded live. They made a note of how they had played Austin a lot lately, and the large crowd didn’t seem to mind.

We then decided to try and grab a good spot for Grimes, which was packed 20 minutes before she took the stage. The crowd was exceptionally young and seemed to be enjoying various substances. When Claire Boucher took the stage, she explained how her keyboard wasn’t working but vowed to make adjustments and play on. A few songs in, her backup dancers came out and the keyboard situation was fixed, so the music began to settle into a nice groove. She played “Oblivion” halfway through and the entire crowd danced along. Apart from that, the set was less energetic than I was expecting, and I feel like Grimes may be an act much better suited for a club show.

A band perfectly equipped to play in a festival setting was Passion Pit, who came next, playing to a crowd at least the size of Vampire Weekend the day before. The lead singer opened by explaining that he was sick but starting to get better, and based off the articles that ran last year in Pitchfork detailing his severe depression, I was a little worried about him. The band delivered a hugely energetic set that reminded me of Cut Copy’s from two years back. Passion Pit ran through hits from both of their popular albums, finishing with “Sleepyhead.” They sounded amazing live and were easily one of the best shows of the day.

Another artist who knows how to work a crowd is Kendrick Lamar, who had pretty much everyone at the festival under the age of 30 gathered to see him. I’m not sure why ACL decided to schedule The Shouting Matches against him, or why they didn’t put him on the main stage, as trying to walk around areas like the bar or the restrooms was nearly impossible. ACL really underestimates the draw of rap, but hopefully the huge draw that Kendrick had will teach them a lesson. Anyway, the show itself was great, as he played all the popular tunes from his incredible debut good kid, m.A.A.d. city, as well as a few older singles like “The Recipe” and “A.D.H.D.” People farther back in the crowd were dancing and singing along the words to songs like “Swimming Pools” and “Backseat Freestyle.” Kendrick did his part to get the crowd hyped up with his great stage presence and many call-and-response moments. At one point, he said that rather than this being a show or a festival or a concert, it was an experience. As I looked out on the thousands of people gathering around, it felt like one.

Finally, my night ended with The Cure. Robert Smith came out in the same makeup he’s always worn, and sounded just as good as he ever has. While the band members and the majority of the crowd has gotten a lot older in the decades since The Cure’s greatest albums were released, it was still special to see one of the best bands of the '80s play to a crowd of tens of thousands of enraptured fans who were definitely reliving their youth. The audience was super into it, and at one point I was back in the crowd singing along to “Friday I’m In Love” with about five other people just happy to see one of their favorite bands. I left a little early to get a head start on the traffic, but I got to see “Love Song” and “Just Like Heaven” performed by the band who wrote those hits, so it really couldn’t have gotten any better.