Monday, September 17, 2007

Austin City Limits Music Fest- Day 3

Note: I intended to capture all kinds of pictures while in Austin but, unfortunately, left my camera back at home. What follows is mostly the photography of CHW and some from the ACL website. The words are mine, except for the ones I stole.

Good Morning Austin! Today is the day we have all been waiting for, as there are so many bands playing that we want to see, and some of them playing at the same time. I am going to go make some eggs and coffee and power up for the day. I will post more tonight when we return...

...just got back from a long Day 3. Up early and out the door, we arrived at the park just as Yo La Tengo were starting up. You could hear them as we locked the bikes up, and we all had that look on our faces like we knew we were in for something. Yo La Tengo is a band that I have listened to quite a bit, but I didn’t know what to expect live. This was one of the best shows of the weekend for me, if not the best. They even did a fantastic cover of The Beach Boy’s “Little Honda”. Huge sound from this threesome.

Next up was The National, whose album The Boxer has been getting much play on my player lately. Along with Blonde Redhead, The National brought the weekend’s best power-pop.

Decided to check out STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector Nine) at the last minute, but we still made it for the last 30 minutes of their set. Instrumental, electronica that would sound great in a dark lounge, or my basement. Nice change from all the rock.

Still reeling from the Yo La Tengo show, I knew I needed to chill for awhile before the double climax of My Morning Jacket and Wilco. We did listen to some of Ian Ball (lead singer of Gomez) and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, but I also walked around by myself for some time and just took in all the sights.

After regrouping with my mates, we hit the beer garden and decided to try and get a good spot for My Morning Jacket . When we arrived at the stage, it was already packed and we still had 30 minutes before the boys from Kentucky hit the stage. We spent the time watching the group of high school students in from of us smoke enormous amounts of weed, and then they proceeded to zone out, oblivious that MMJ were about to rock our world. I hope they didn’t get trampled when the masses exited, because it didn’t look they were going anywhere soon.

MMJ came out wearing swim trunks, swimmies, masks, snorkels, etc. Sticking with the tropical theme, they even had hula girls carrying pineapples. Very cool. Andrew Bird joined the band for two songs, and then disappeared offstage, probably to hang with Drew Barrymore, who was reported to be in the park. At this point our group split up, and three of us decided to try and catch the last 40 minutes of Wilco. Like gazelles we wound our way across the park and actually got pretty darn close to the stage. Jeff Tweedy, clean and sober, is at the top of his game right now, and he has surrounded himself with some of the best musicians in the industry. Nels Cline is a wizard on the guitar, and Tweedy seemed positive and happy. Glad we caught this one. They closed with “Casino Queen” and “Outtasite (Outta Mind)”, classic.

On our way back to meet with the rest of the gang we watched part of Ghostland Observatory, a band I don’t know much about. The sun was just starting to go down, and so were the temperatures. Cool light show, and it looked like the audience closest to the stage were at a rave. From where I stood up on the hill all I could see were bodies bobbing up and down to the music. Someone told me that they heard there were 60 thousand people in the park today. That is almost twice the size of the town I live in.

Met up the other two in our group, and about 40 thousand others all trying to get a spot for Bob Dylan. Maybe I was just tired, but I had a feeling that Dylan wasn’t going to be worth sticking around for, and I was right. We tried to listen to a few songs, but from the opening bars of "Rainy Day Woman" I could tell his voice was shot, so we threw in the towel and made our way back to the bikes, caught the end of the Red Sox/Yankees game at a local sports bar, and ate way too many wings.

Lots of bikes on the road tonight, and on our way back to the house we witnessed a guy getting hit by a truck. I heard it first and thought it was two cars, that is until I saw the bike flying across the roadway about 30 yards ahead of me. Turns out the kid was okay, he was cut up pretty bad, but it could have been much, much, worse. I feel sorry for the driver as well. Shitty way to end such a great three days.

Tomorrow I am back on a plane to Boston. It’s been a hell of a weekend with some of the best guys you could imagine, but we all must get back to family, work, and life. Austin has won me over, and there is no doubt I will be back in the future.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Austin City Limits Music Fest- Day 2

After last night, I needed a down day to recuperate. We didn’t get to the park until almost 3:00pm and headed over to the stage where Steve Earle was to play. Seeing Steve Earle was one of the few acts that I told myself I would not miss this year. I have been a big fan of his music since high school when Guitar Town came out and I was immediately sold on his brand of story telling. He can play the Texas singer role, but he also has that punk ethos and can really rock out with his band. This time around he played an acoustic set, and for much of the show it was just him and his guitars, except for when he was joined onstage for a few songs with his wife, Alison Moorer. Never being one to settle, Earle had a DJ backing him on some songs, which worked for the most part. Should be interesting to hear how it sounds on his new album. Part of me wished he had played with a full band, but seeing this legend was still the best part of the day for me.

After Steve Earle, we jetted over to catch Andrew Bird, another artist I really wanted to see live. I was expecting a mellow show from this violin player and his band, but I was pleasantly surprised by a sound so unique and original I don’t even know how to describe it. He would loop tracks from his violin and guitar and layer them on top of the drums and bass from his bandmates. He also had a spinning gramophone machine that looked like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Very cool sound, and an artist I will definitely keep up with from now on.

After riding back to the house, we caught a ride to La Rena for some outstanding Tex-Mex and margaritas, then headed over to the Flamingo Cantina on 6th Street to listen to the sweet roots sounds of The Meditations. Turns out there are a lot of rastafarians in Texas.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Austin City Limits Music Fest- Day 1

Saying it was hot today would not be doing the heat justice, by the time we left our rental house we were all completely swimming in our own sweat.

We got to Zilker Park about half way into Jesse Malin’s set on the AT&T stage. This was a great way to start the festival for me, Malin and his band definitely brought the rock and got me in the mood for what was to come. We then headed over to catch the traditional bluegrass sounds of the Del McCoury Band. Watching them play in their wool suits made me even hotter so we left after a few songs and caught the end of the Heartless Bastards. Didn’t know anything about them until today, but count me as a fan now.

Next up was Pete Yorn, who I had heard good things about, but I really couldn’t get into his brand of rock. A few songs into Yorn’s set we look behind us and notice this huge plume of black smoke and flames coming from the tree line. Someone joked that it must be Willie Nelson’s tour bus, but I could tell something serious was going down. For a brief moment I though we might have to evacuate the park, because the flames were getting larger and the smoke was filling the air. Pete Yorn stopped playing and some ACL staffer came on stage and urged people to back away from the fire (no shit!) so the fire department could get through. Five minutes later they had the fire under control and Yorn was back to his show. We learned later that a propane tank had caught fire which ignited the trees. Hope no one was injured.

One of the bands I really wanted to check out today was Blonde Redhead, and they did not let me down in the least, just three musicians who created a wall of sound filled with insane guitar loops and heavy percussion. This will probably be one of my highlights of the weekend. After Blond Redhead we decided to check out Joss Stone. Now I will say that when I first heard Joss two or three years ago I was really impressed, I dig the retro soul thing that she does, but her live show didn’t do much for me. Sure, she is easy on the eyes, and she can definitely sing, but I have to wonder if so many people would be into her if she didn’t look the way she does. Another disappoint for me was M.I.A. I was expecting some crazy hip-hop/world music from her, but all we got were what seemed like the same beats and some ranting. At the end of her show she invited her entourage of family and friends up on stage for a dance party, that must have been pretty cool for those folks.

Last up for our first day was Spoon. I am a fairly recent convert of this Austin band, only owning the album Gimme Fiction and a few tracks I downloaded from their new one. You could tell that they have many local fans who turned out so see one of Austin’s finest. It was a great way to end the day at the same stage we started at.

After riding our bikes back to the house for some much needed air conditioning and cold beers, we went down to 6th Street to see Stephen Marley at Emo’s. Zap Mama was just finishing up her set when we arrived, so we headed to the back patio for a few more drinks, thinking Marley would be up soon. After a short break Zap Mama returned to the stage and played almost another full set. We then found a good spot on the floor close to the stage and watched Marley’s band set up. After a lengthy sound check the band looked ready, but Stephen was no where to be found. Now it is common knowledge that reggae bands are known to be on “rasta time”, but waiting for almost and hour and a half got real old. The crowd shared our feelings, the tension in this hot club was almost as thick as the ganja smoke that hung heavy in the air. At 1:15am Stephen did emerge and all was quickly forgiven. He played a mixture of his own tunes and songs from his father, and for that hour I could almost imagine what it must have been like to have witnessed Bob Marley in the 70’s. Stephen not only looks like his father, but he sounds just like him as well, glad we waited it out because it was so well worth it.