Being the live music capital of the world, it’s no wonder there were tunes everywhere you turned.
We arrived early Thursday night to get settled in before the festivities started on Friday. Walking around town early that evening you could literally hear the music in the air. Every bar and restaurant was blaring whether it was coming from a DJ or live band. It was really great.
Deciding to take it easy that we opted for a night in and just decided to hang out on the roof terrace of our hotel with the guys we met from GOOM Radio who were in town covering the festival. The city of Austin was lit up beautifully with pumping beats coming from the bars on sixth street.
The festival stretched over Zilker Park and featured 40-plus bands each day strewn across eight stages including the kid friendly “Austin Kiddie Limits” complete with petting zoo and sandbox for kids to frolic and play.
Friday we couldn’t of asked for better weather. The 80-degree heat didn’t seem so hot with the nice cool breeze that was flowing. We had gotten there in time to see The Knux, the hip-hop brothers Krispy Cream and Rah Al Millio. They gave a high energy performance busting out rhymes about money, parties, and women. With the overlap of bands we found ourselves constantly running from side to side to get a snippet of all the music. In addition to The Knux we had seen a slew of other bands including: the raw NJ rock band, Parlor Mob, the Caribbean reggae beats of Mishka, the Walkmen from NY who weren’t as mellow as I found them to be on their Myspace page, and Dave Grohl’s side project Them Crooked Vultures who aside from the hard hitting drums were kind of a bore.
The highlights of Friday for me were French synth popers Pheonix whose lead singer Thomas Mars was in awe of the huge audience that came to see them play. During the performance he jumped into the crowd to get hugs and high fives from adoring fans. There was also the hypnotic performance of Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and while the sound from the Livestrong stage seemed a little low, southern rockers Kings of Leon, who at one point were joined on stage by Eddie Vedder on tambourine, gave a sweet, sensual rousing performance.
Later that night we went down to Stubbs to see the after party performance of The Virgins. Going out later seemed to be better than getting up to see their 12:30 performance the next day. The dance rock performance made me feel I was at home in a NYC club.
Saturday called for a chance of rain, but we were hoping that it would possibly be nice. Unfortunately, it started raining as soon as we got to the shuttle buses. AT&T was giving out free ponchos which was pretty awesome because I had left mine back in NJ. The rain started out slow and continued to rain all day. I felt bad about the rain considering there had been new grass layed down just last week. Walking into the festival we heard a bit of the dance party funk of !!! as we made our way across the festival to the Livestrong stage to watch Mute Math. The electro-rock quartet was exciting and trippy. The next two hours were spend running back and forth across the festival grounds to see LA rockers Airborne Toxic Event, the folk-pop/blues/hip-hop/reggae soul sound of Citizen Cope, a snippet of Irish rockers Bell XI, Canadian roots-rocker Sam Roberts Band, and Gaelic punk rockers Flogging Molly. We finally rested for a bit in the pouring rain to hear …And You Know Us By the Trail of Dead who were very hard hitting heavy but just a little too loud for my liking.
We were wet and tired but determined to go on until the headliners hit the stage. We attempted to see Mos Def but missed it due to the hour line at the bathrooms. While waiting we heard the whole set of country rockers The Zac Brown Band which seemed to consist of a lot of cover songs. We made it to see the folky indie rockers The Decemberists who sounded really great. That night the headlining bands were Austin’s own Ghostland Observatory and Dave Matthews Band. We went to see a bit of DMB first then headed over to Ghostland on the way out of the festival. I was never a real big fan of Dave Matthews but I must say it was an exciting performance. He does put on a good show. Ghostland had an amazing light show complimented the fun dancy mix of punk rock, digitized funk and techno beats; not to mention the entertaining and funky gyrations of lead vocalist Aaron Behrens.
While it turned out to be a nice hot day on Sunday, the washout on Saturday left Sunday to be a huge mud fest. Luckily almost all the bands we wanted to see that day were on the one side of the fair grounds and we were able to avoid the mud piles for most of the day. Due to a late night party on the roof terrace and trying to help this random girl in the hallway find her way home, we didn’t make it to the festival until 3 p.m. that day. Luckily, we were able to catch the performance of the London rock trio White Lies. They played a great set reminding me of an English version of The Doors. We ran over to catch a bit of State Radio on the Austin Ventures stage, however, the music was so overpowering on the bigger stage it was hard to differentiate the sounds. I enjoyed the high pitched vocals of eclectic electronica band Passion Pit and despite the blistering sun beating down I enjoyed the rocking alternative sounds of Arctic Monkeys. Next was Ben Harper and his new band Relentless7. The mix of rock and soul was a delight, but I could hardly hear the vocals on Harper. The highlight of the evening came for me when Girl Talk took the stage. While I can’t listen to these rock/rap mash ups on an album, they have an appeal live I just can’t get enough. Original grunge rockers Pearl Jam closed the night with their old hits and new songs. Eddie Vedder has a great voice and it made me feel like I was back in the 90’s.
Austin City Limits was a great show! I can’t believe how fast the three days went by. I was blown away by the organization of the festival. It is truly unsurpassed. Everything had run so smoothly it was amazing. I’m definitely looking forward to next year!