I had to find the harmony between posting my final thoughts on ACL too soon, and waiting too long and risk letting the experience dull in my mind. Luckily, I had a very busy week again, and so I’m just not getting the time to sit down and think about what ACL meant to me, what my favorite bands were, and my general impression of Austin City Limits for the first time.
I’ll start by talking about the bands I saw and the highlights of their performances.
Big Boi: I was far away from the concert and it was my first day at ACL, so my mind was not enveloped in the music at all. I had drifting thoughts, and I don’t really like Big Boi’s music too much in the first place, so I’m not going to lie and tell you that I gave his performance a fair opportunity. However, had I given his performance a fair chance, I know I still wouldn’t have liked his music. How do I know that? I’ve seen Big Boi perform before, at Texas Fest, and I disliked it immensely. I went to Big Boi at ACL because–and this happens a lot–I had time between the two concerts I really wanted to see, but didn’t figure I had to be at the following one too soon, and so I killed time by listening to a band with which I am familiar. I don’t regret seeing Big Boi, because I had nothing better to do, and Big Boi did play “Ms. Jackson,” which isn’t the same without Andre 3000…but still decent. He also played “So Fresh So Clean,” which is an awesome song to dance to, but besides that, I couldn’t focus because he was sweating a lake in his big black outfit (color black, not “black outfit”).
After Big Boi I saw Bright Eyes, about whom I had read plenty in Esquire Magazine, which for some reason really plugs his music. Anyway, I was satisfied with his music. He was an emotional performer, and at times yelled into the mic so genuinely that his yelling alone validated him having a band. As many times was the case at ACL, and I’d assume most music festivals, a band can be worth their salt if they just bring a lot of energy and make the show fun. A morose, emotional band has its place if it’s talented, but realistically, it’s a lot harder for a somber band with mediocre talent to make it to ACL than it is for an upbeat mediocre band. Bright Eyes wasn’t “upbeat,” but they had a lot of strong emotion in the whining singing, screaming, self-pitying lyrics, and vindictive promises. I liked it well enough, but I’m not about to go be there goofy groupie.
After Bright Eyes I waited in the line for porta-potties and got to hear Santigold, whom in retrospect I wish I’d watched instead of Pretty Lights. After I did my thang in the portable restrooms, I went to see Pretty Lights, an almost exact replica of Skrillex. It was a DJ who was perched atop a giant set of TV/light devices that displayed–you guessed it–pretty lights. His music was electronic/dubstep, not really distinct from anything else I’ve heard. That period of time was filler, but I wish I’d spent it at Santigold.
I headed over to Kanye West so I could get a good spot. At that time, I was just with Carli, which was good, because I needed to kill time with someone who is funny. We waited on the ground, squished like sardines, for an hour. Two people passed out onto me. ONTO me. Then Kanye performed, starting only fifteen minutes late. His entrance was amazing, with a cherry-picker raising him to the sky, lights illuminating him then panning to the stage where the tarpaulin had just opened. The backdrop fell and a picture of a Greek god filled the back of the stage. Kanye then walked through the crowd and onto the stage where a troupe of ballerinas danced. The ballerinas danced throughout the concert, and rocked every minute of it. When Kanye first walked on stage, they pretended to claw and reach out towards his feet, like he was divine, which was sort of the theme he created. Overall his show was great, despite my high expectations. He did do a few things that really irked me, though. Kanye was unprofessional. He mentioned that his voice was sore because he had “just gotten off a plane from London,” he ranted about ACL and complained about the two-year ban they had given him, he ad-libbed and improvised so much that he threw his soundtrack off and made the dancers make up routines on the spot, and he stopped two–two–songs halfway through, because the crowd wasn’t singing loudly enough. It’s like I’ve told people: “I love the idea of an artist being neurotic and crazy and eccentric, but not when I’ve paid to see him rap.”
Overall the first day was a rush of the unexpected. I hadn’t expected so many people to be there, nor did I expect there to be so many things to do and so many people at each concert. I thought there would be some concerts that very few people attended. I was sorely wrong. The first day I got there later than I wanted to, and waited in line for an hour to get a CD autographed for a friend, so I missed James Blake’s performance. I was just in awe of the volume the first day: the people, the amount of things to do, the amount of trash we made, the weed, the good music, and the amount of work that went into details and logistics.