“Does anyone have a pick,” Cole Alexander of the Black Lips asked as he walked out on stage for the bands 3:30 set at Austin City Limits this Saturday. No picks flew up to him, but he luckily found one in his pocket. “We’re The Black Lips, and we play rock n’ roll!” Alexander shouted as he stroked the opening chords.
The Black Lips weren’t the only ones playing rock n’ roll; 41 other bands, representing various genres of music, rocked out for thousands of festival goers throughout the day. The sun shined down on the scene from a cloudless sky, quite a different setting from last year, when relentless rain turned Zilker Park into an ankle-deep mud bath. And, how could rain clouds dare put a damper on so many happy people, satisfied by the simple pleasure of indulging in their love for music.
I was among the happy throng, and got to catch several great sets. I started off the day with Lissie, a country/folk singer from Rock Island, Illinois, who delivered a soulful and steamy set that evoked the mood of a hot and sticky midwestern summer. Ironically, Lissie’s cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” a hip-hop song, was the show-stopper that left everyone cheering and swaying with their arms in the air. From there, I headed to NINJASONIK, a rock and hip-hop group from Brooklyn. They proved that they belonged at ACL as they chanted “we mix hip-hop with rock!”
The aforementioned Black Lips put on a satisfying, and surprisingly tame show, considering they are known for getting kicked out of venues for their wild antics on stage. It was soon time to get a good spot for upcoming act LCD Soundsystem, so I left the uproarious southern-rock band’s set a little early to wade through the crowd gathered for the Silversun Pickups. The Pickups left the stage with a surging wall of glorious distortion behind them, after which the crowds surged forward in an attempt to get as close to the stage as possible.
LCD Soundsystem was not the night’s headliner, but they played like one, turning the stage into a platform for utter and complete catharsis. Lead singer James Murphy, dressed in a simple flannel-print shirt and jeans, sporting light scruff on his neck and chin, started the show with “Dance Yourself Clean” from the band’s latest album This Is Happening.
The crowd commenced with dancing, bobbing to each and every pulse of the base and synth. It only got better from there, as Murphy sang “All My Friends” while the setting sun washed the rising moon in orange glow. As the steady drum beat of “Movement” filled the audience’s chests, the set morphed into an epic production; the darkness gave way to purple glow and disco-ball glitter that shined from the stage. Balloons and giant beach balls bounced across the crowd, and a brave few crowd-surfed as Murphy let it all out on stage. It was a magical moment, and one of the best performances of ACL so far.
The night was capped off with M.I.A providing Zilker Park with world beats and flavor, and Muse, who broke hearts with their emotional brand of rock. M.I.A put on a wild production, with what looked like ‘80s stock graphics flashing on the screen and nearly ten dancers on stage. She climbed on top of speakers and walked through the audience to get close to the fans.
Muse was the last band to finish their set, and Matthew Bellamy’s sweeping vocals echoed across the park, unchallenged by any other sound. It was an epic end to a great Saturday, and music fans left the festival with smiles on their faces and the reverberations of their favorite bands in their minds and hearts. Now, one day of the festival remains. Look for a recap of Sunday at ACL soon.