Monday, September 19, 2011

ACL Fest 2011

Well, my tenth year of ACL Fest has come and gone.  I had a good time again and heard some good music, but the victory was a little more hard won this year.  I've been sort of sick with allergies or a cold or something, so that brought my energy level down a little bit, and then the lineup was just a little weird this year.  There were still some good acts, but there weren't as many bands on the lineup that I was looking forward to ahead of time, which I guess can be be attributed to a my own lack of knowledge about some of the acts (especially the newer ones) combined with a number of repeat performances from the bands that I was more familiar with (Ryan Bingham, Coldplay, Cold War Kids, The Walkmen, TV on the Radio, and Arcade Fire, for example, have all played the festival before, and this year's headliner, Arcade Fire, has, I believe, played the festival on at least three occasions when I've personally seen them). On top of that, I don't know if Kanye West blew out the sound system on the main stage the first night or what, but the sound for Stevie Wonder was pretty awful (it sounded like there was a great show going on somewhere, but we just couldn't hear it very well, so we ended up leaving earlier than we had planned), and Arcade Fire was kind of muddy as well.  The sound problems bugged me, and I'm mentioning them because they're an issue that really needs to be addressed if ACL Fest is going to continue to market itself as a festival for serious music fans, especially when you're talking about the headliners at the end of the night.
On the whole, though, it was a good festival.  I don't mean to sound down on it (I only mention things like sound problems because they seem like they could and should be fixed in future years).  It was a fun weekend, and we're lucky to have a musical festival in our town!  We had a little bit of light rain, but it didn't get too hot, and the weather, on the whole, was really very good.

Quick recap of who we saw:
Day 1- Delta Spirit, the Smith Westerns, Ray LaMontagne, a bit of Kurt Vile and the Violators, Gary Clark Jr., Mavis Staples, and a bit of Kanye and Coldplay.
Day 2- Iron and Wine, Fitz and the Tantrums, a little bit of Cut Copy, TV on the Radio, and part of the Stevie Wonder set.
Day 3- Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses, Elbow, Manu Chao, a few Social Distortion songs, and Hayes Carl (we tried to see Randy Newman but left because of sound issues), and part of Arcade Fire.

Standouts for me included Gary Clarke, Jr., Fitz and the Tantrums, TV on the Radio, Ryan Bingham, Manu Chao, and, kind of surprisingly, Hayes Carl (didn't know much about either Hayes Carl or Gary Clark going into this).  I also liked Elbow more than I expected to.  Actually, when I think about it, most all of the music I'm listing here was good.  We didn't stick around long for stuff we didn't care for, and we found some really good music to listen to.

Anyway, it was a good three days!  Thanks to Amy for going with me and helping me have fun and thanks to Dan for giving us some nice parking!!

It's hard to believe it's been ten years.  I remember Jeff Wilson sort of talking me into going to my first ACL Fest, and I haven't missed one since.  Even though the festival experience can occasionally be a bit trying in its particulars (there were especially hot years, the year of dust, and the year of the mudbowl, etc. etc.), I'm really glad to line in a town that has such a strong community atmosphere and a commitment to live music.  I'm not sure I'll make it to all three days of every festival for the next ten years, but I'll keep going, and I'll continue to be glad that ACL Fest has become an enduring part of Austin culture.

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