ACL 2011 Recap

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Austin City Limits Festival celebrated its 10th edition on Friday. The concerts were interrupted by the rain in the afternoon. Festival patriots braved the weather and held their flags high in the name of music.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

This weekend was the 10th annual Austin City Limits Musical Festival in Zilker Park. Thousands of music fans from across the country and around the world descended on the park for three days of grand performances. This year’s headlining acts included Coldplay, Kanye West, Arcade Fire and Stevie Wonder. Three Daily Texan reporters attended the festival and following are the best (and worst) of each day’s events.

Friday

Julie Rene Tran

The sky teased festival-goers between splits of clouds, hot sun streams and faint breezes Friday afternoon when Zilker Park welcomed thousands for the Austin City Limits Music Festival’s ten-year anniversary.

The day slowly crescendoed in mass and energy as early acts, including Hudson Moore, Cults, Futurebirds, An Horse and Theophilus London played. But minutes after 1 p.m., by sheer — perfect­ — coincidence, much-needed rain showered on cue when Wild Beasts lead vocalist Ben Little sang his first note. Brightening the green of the grass and cooling off the heat of the day, the crowd began to move.

Despite the quick, bountiful shower, the rain did not turn the park into a muddy party like previous years. C3’s park maintenance crew made sure there were no returns of dust bowls or pig pens. With the grass intact and the Texas heat dissipated, the day became perfect for lounging on the west field to the accompaniment of James Blake, Ray LaMonatage, Kurt Vile and the Violators and Cold War Kids. Just as well, it was a jumpy playground on the opposite end with the beats and lyrics of Big Boi, Foster the People, Nas and Damian Marley.

The Dark Knight, aka actor Christian Bale, was first spotted backstage at Bright Eyes. Hovering before the crowd behind the prompter screen, he occasionally broke his stoic demeanor with a wave. Though the minor distraction quickly resumed to the talented Conor Oberst, this was not the last Batman sighting.

Of course, despite the day’s lineup, the crowd wasn’t pumped until main acts Coldplay and Kanye West took their stages, both drawing in their respective fan bases. Fortunately on time, rapper Kanye West pulled the big guns with drama — ascending on a platform in the middle of the crowd and slowly strutting down the runway to the stage.

Coldplay stuck to their classic roots. The British rock band played all of their hits, including “Yellow,” “The Scientist,” “Clocks” and their most recent, “Viva La Vida,” and a touching tribute to the late Amy Winehouse during an encore, with a rendition of “Rehab” that transitioned perfectly into “Fix You.”

While there were giant bouncy balloons and dream catcher flashing lights at Coldplay’s show, West put on an expectably big production. Composed of three acts, the show was complete with “Black Swan”-esque ballerinas.

Although the crowds didn’t really liven up until the closing acts, Kanye and Coldplay kicked off what proved to be a enthralling weekend.

Saturday

Aaron West 

Saturday’s festival provided the soundtrack for an even more notable Austin event: It rained. Not a lot, of course, but enough to count as actual weather and not some kind of sad joke.

Some festival-goers took to it better than others. Around 2 p.m. the Waterloo Records tent was packed with about 100 rain-sensitive folks avoiding the brief downpour, but others — presumably a mix of Austinites who knew better than to complain, drunk people who didn’t care and smokers who had been waiting for the perfect moment to light up — braved the moisture and danced, chatted, trudged, inhaled and waited (sometimes miserably) in the open.

However, it was the time spent sitting on damp blankets, waiting for the next act, that truly tested the mettle of concert attendees. People who hadn’t planned ahead hunched together beneath the umbrellas of those who had and waited for Iron & Wine to take the stage, more than a few of them complaining that this wasn’t the time or place for a rainstorm. Samuel Beam of Iron & Wine rejected that notion, however, and delivered a show arguably better-adapted for a cloudy day, while Cut Copy capitalized on the sun that came out about halfway through their 6 p.m. set and got the crowd grooving with their funky-sharp electronic dance tunes.

It didn’t get quite as sunny at the Bud Light stage, though, where sound issues got in the way of what otherwise could have been some legendary performances — both Cee Lo Green and headliner Stevie Wonder were forced to wade through sound quality problems. Fans during Wonder’s set could be heard yelling “Crank it up!” And probably not just because of Bud Light’s acoustical troubles: My Morning Jacket, the Kentucky psychedelic rock band with a country twist that was privileged with playing opposite Wonder, was rocking so hard and loud at the AMD stage that the sound was bleeding from across the park.

Not that the crowd at the AMD stage minded. They jammed and rollicked their way through the nearly two-hour show that spanned the length of the band’s eclectic discography — topped off with a guest appearance by the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band for a brain-melting rendition of “Holding Onto Black Metal” that sent the audience into a frenzy.

After My Morning Jacket, as the AMD crowd wandered dizzily away from the stage and toward the exit, several marveled at the timing of the day’s weather, for better or for worse, while Stevie Wonder played “Superstition” from over at the Bud Light stage. They had a point: The first rainy day all summer on the day that more than 70,000 people were guaranteed to be outside? Superstitious is one way to put it.  

Sunday

Ali Breland

Sunday ended up being the hottest day of ACL 10th anniversary festival. Crowds waited at the Google+ and Dell lounges in higher numbers than previous days to escape the heat. But seasoned festival-goers bore on despite the heat, with droves showing up for mid-afternoon and late afternoon acts Chiddy Bang and Broken Social Scene.

Before them, early afternoon breakout acts Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and The Airborne Toxic Event put on remarkable sets that rivaled performances of the big-name acts. Burgeoning hip-hop stars Chiddy Bang played a mediocre set; Chiddy flubbed his freestyle, usually a highlight of his live shows. Chiddy usually thrives off of a few devoted fans, but was not able to adapt to the festival atmosphere. However, they saved their show with hits like “Truth” and “The Opposite Adults,” their breakout song that samples MGMT’s “Kids.”

Toronto’s Broken Social Scene ended up standing out amongst the other midday acts, delivering a brilliant set of indie rock that may be their last for a while — the group told The Daily Texan that this will be their last North American tour for the near future.

Also from Toronto, dance-punk behemoths Death from Above 1979, played an incredible set of destructive, beat heavy rock. The crowd responded favorably, keeping up a swirling, sweaty mosh pit for almost the entirety of the set.

Out on the Bud Light stage, Fleet Foxes played an incredibly energetic and uplifting set, despite relying mainly on acoustic instruments. During their set, it briefly rained after a looming overcast, cooling the day off enough to bring the easily perturbed out of the tech lounges. On the opposite end of Zilker at the AMD stage, Manu Chao La Ventura gave a performance indicative of their veteran ACL status.

As many camped out for 2011 Grammy Winners Arcade Fire, Empire of The Sun played their trippy Australian indie-rock. Despite lacking a deep catalog of worthwhile tracks, the group’s spectacular lights show was rivaled only by Friday’s performance by the aptly named Pretty Lights. Their encore came off as slightly contrived but was welcomed nonetheless.

The evening’s greatest moments came from Arcade Fire. The band put on an amazing performance after having been seasoned by a sold-out outdoor tour and several ACL performances.

From the moment the vintage ‘80s film trailers played, the crowd watched mesmerized. They opened with the fittingly titled, “Ready To Start.” Supplemented by an enthralling encore, the indie super giant’s performance against the backdrop of the Austin skyline was an all too perfect way to end the festival’s tenth anniversary.