Those people who are into music but usually overlook the Austin City Limits Festival in Austin, Texas are missing a well-run, immensely efficient, and musically inspiring event. Beginning in the summer of 2002, the event has been a catalyst for showcasing both indie bands and well known acts in an atmosphere that is as friendly as the city it resides in. The food court is a who's who of Austin restaurants and with that fresh local food comes a good value as well. The following is a recap of day one of the 2006 ACL Festival.
After attending last year’s event, which was chock full of more popular bands and featured a heavier British fare, I was interested to see how this year’s festival would compare.
The weather cooperated with an early morning shower followed by a mild 96-degree sun-laden day. The grounds at Zilker Park actually showed signs of greenery, compared to last year, which was reminiscent of the migration of Okies during the height of the dust bowl.
We checked out Ted Leo and the Pharmacists for the first act, and they impressed with a high-energy set that delved into swatches of mod, power pop, and Clash-like reggae. Ted’s on-stage banter reflected his dry Jersey wit and he ended his set with a microphone-banging blood trail on his forehead.
Wolf Parade was next, and the Montreal-based band lived up to most of the hype surrounding them, pushing through a set that featured rousing rockers, synth pulsing rhythms, and a Nick Cave look- and sound-alike on vocals/guitar. Unfortunately for the members of the band, the lead keyboard player seems to have a bit of a Billy Corgan problem, directing the sound guy and his fellow players through a litany of seemingly useless tweaks (“I need more Jupiter?”). Furthermore, the knob twiddler who produces the “ambience” for the Wolf Parade needs to take his Moog machine and boxes of wires a little less seriously.
Gnarls Barkley, an act which has grown hugely popular due to its catchy summer hit “Crazy,” pulled many of the festival attedees to their stage and they provided a fun, funky mix. Dressed as scientists, Gnarls began their set with a small clip of “She Blinded Me with Science”, which for those of us whose days of cool resided between 1984 and 1990, brought shivers to the spine if not color to the hair. Ce-Lo’s vocals were crisp and powerful throughout the show and their backing live band (featuring the aptly named string section, “The G String”) solidly replicated the computer generated beats made by head chemist Danger Mouse on their debut CD St Elsewhere. Ce-Lo’s blue onstage banter added to the excellent aura of funk that surrounded the stage.
The apex of day one was the Tragically Hip (although I am somewhat biased being Canadian and a huge fan – this is my church). The crowd was up for the band that has provided many of its fans a soundtrack to live by. Gord Downie, the lead singer, was up to his usual stream of consciousness rantings and band-leaderesque, gangly dance moves (if you can call them that). A strong set that mixed a couple of new songs from the band's forthcoming album as well as Hip standards provided for a large campfire sing-along.
- Knob Twiddlers Local 101 needs to revoke the Wolf Parade's membership.
- Laugh at the scary festival-goer with the Vikings mask; do not curse him.
- Follow Ce-Lo's words of wisdom, like "show us your t***ies."
- Guster needs to turn into a Led Zeppelin cover band, lest they drown in their own mid-tempo boring hellfire.
- John Mayer is the devil.
- Let's go Expos!
- Karma is present — the one who leads Nickelback is now a guitar tech for the Tragically Hip.