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Concert Review: Austin City Limits Music Festival 2009: Day Two

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Today was the second day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL), and it was wet. Not just a little wet, like when you have to walk through a drizzle to get the mail or something, but well and truly wet. Despite my very best efforts and constant use of my umbrella, things got wet.

The notes I’d carefully taken on each band? Yeah, the legal pad I wrote them down on is really, really, wet. The writing is absolutely unintelligible. The ACL booklet that has all-important information like each day’s lineup and miniature biographies on each band? It’s a pulpy mess. I’m just glad I decided not to take my laptop with me today.

Given all that, today’s coverage of the festival will be a bit briefer than yesterday’s. Cut me a little slack if you would.

2:00 PM – !!!, AMD Stage

!!! (pronounced “chick-chick-chick,” give or take) is a great band to see live, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with them. Their overall sound is a sort of funk/club band sound, which as pointed out by their lead singer, is an interesting choice of music for the early afternoon.

Half the fun of seeing !!! wasn’t even the music they played, it was the shenanigans of the lead singer. He was literally all over the place, prowling the stage and periodically going down onto the ground to make a little crowd contact. There were several points where he actually stuffed the microphone into his mouth while singing. It doesn’t sound that great, but it was funny to watch.

My favorite part? When he stole a fan’s umbrella. This is what he said after finishing the song: “You may be wondering what you’re doing here. You may also be wondering, what is that guy doing with a purple umbrella? You might also be wondering, isn’t that my f***ing purple umbrella?”

Not to worry, he returned the umbrella soon after.

3:00 PM – The Airborne Toxic Event, Xbox 360 Stage

The Airborne Toxic Event was a pleasant surprise. I really hadn’t heard much of them before today, but what I did get to hear I really enjoyed. They sound a bit like The Honorary Title, but with more of an electronic sound. Overall, they’ve got a great sound, not dissimilar to a mixture of Shiny Toy Guns and somebody like Blue October.

Also, quote of the day: “It’s not raining anymore. This next song is a good one, so why don’t you all dance in the rain?”


4:00 PM – Flogging Molly, AMD Stage

Oh, Flogging Molly. This was my first time seeing them, and believe me, they didn’t disappoint. Wielding a can of Guinness, the lead singer walked up to his mic and said, “Guinness; it’s a good breakfast.” And really, what more do you expect from a celtic punk band? The rest of the show was a series of their most popular songs, ranging from raucous titles like “The Likes Of You” and “Tobacco Island” to quiet, more soulful tracks like “The Worst Day Since Yesterday” and “Float.”

Oh, and here’s another fun quote, if somewhat politically incorrect: “Speaking of arseholes, here’s a song about an Englishman.”

Coming from an Irishman, that’s comic gold.

5:00 PM – Bon Iver, Dell Stage

My friends and I went to see Bon Iver, sort of. We headed over to the Dell Stage, with a pit stop at the port-a-potties, but managed to lose one guy along the way. The next fifteen minutes were spent looking for him and trying to meet up with another group of people at the same time.

This isn’t typically too hard, but it was raining, and that always complicates things. Everywhere you look is a sea of umbrellas and ponchos, which makes identifying people somewhat difficult (on a side note, you know you’re in Texas when it isn’t unusual for people to wear cowboy hats on top of their poncho hoods).

In short, I spent more time looking for people and less time actually listening to Bon Iver. It’s sad, but true. By the time we got everything sorted out, it was time to head over to the next show.

6:00 PM – Mos Def, AMD Stage

Mos Def has been around for a long time. It shows in his music, too, but not in a bad way. Over the years, he’s managed to amass a sound all his own, heavy with multicultural influences from all over the world. His most recent album, The Ecstatic, is a vast work that covers everything from Hispanic sounds, to music from the Middle East, to American soul and jazz, is a great indication of how far he’s come. It was a trip getting to see him live.

7:00 PM – STS9, Xbox 360 Stage

This was about as close as ACL got to straight-up techno or club music, and it showed. Glowsticks and various lights came out, around half the audience let out their inner rave, and I’m pretty sure the guy dancing in front of me was on ecstasy.

8:00 PM – Ghostland Observatory, AMD Stage

Ghostland Observatory was, to put it lightly, a trip. All the craziness inherent to their music was only amplified by the fact that a) it was live, and b) they had an intense laser show. I admit that my attention was waning by that point in the evening, and most of their songs served more as ambient sound than actual direct entertainment. Near the end of their set, a portion of the University of Texas’s Longhorn Band joined in and created a huge backup ensemble.

Leaving the festival, it was painfully obvious that the ground which was only yesterday covered in healthy green grass had devolved into so much mud. I’m guessing that something around 25-30 of the 46 acres of Zilker Park were a massive mud pit by the day’s end, which made getting around an interesting experience (I had the flip-flops sucked off my feet by the incredible suction power of the mud on several occasions).

On the whole, it was a great day, involving some great music, great food, and much-needed relief from the sun (I’m pale, and the first day was enough to inflict some serious burning). Two days are down, and one’s still to go! Check back in a day for my coverage of the third and final day of ACL!

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About Brian Murff