Photo Credit: Jennifer Alejos
This past weekend thousands of Austinites and out-of-towners came to Zilker Park for the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival. The festival allowed music lovers from all over to see well regarded bands such as Muse, The Cure and Phoenix along with lesser-known bands Smith Westerns, HAIM and Toro Y Moi.
This year is the first year that the ACL Festival expanded into two weekends, giving fans the option to go either weekend or to go twice. Over 130 bands played this year and although many go to see their favorite artist live, it also gives festival goers the opportunity to see artists they have never heard.
The festival began with the new and upcoming acts of Wild Nothing and Smith Westerns and took off with nostalgic favorites Jimmy Eat World and Pinback.
Smith Westerns started promptly and opened with energy despite performing at the hottest part of the day. Lead singer Cullen Omori wore a backwards baseball cap which lent to the band’s 90s sound reminiscent of Pinback or The Smashing Pumpkins. Their live performance highlighted a Led Zeppelin influence that may not be apparent in their studio recordings.
A sizable but humble crowd gathered for Pinback, who played an electronic, more upbeat version of the classic “Fortress,” perfect for bringing a burst of energy to festival goers during the afternoon. Lead singer Rob Crow gave the microphone to an attendee in the front row and came out into the crowd, lending to their high-powered performance.
A large crowd gathered for Vampire Weekend who played a diverse set from many of their albums as fans sang along to favorites “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma.”
Vampire Weekend’s lively performance was followed by Arctic Monkeys, who started 30 minutes after Vampire Weekend with the popular “Do I Wanna Know?” and the classic “I Bet You Look Good on The Dancefloor.”
Depeche Mode and Muse closed out the first night. Depeche Mode’s setlist fit well with the festival, giving some fans the opportunity to listen to an 80s favorite live. Muse started off a little late after the generator went out, but this didn’t dissuade fans from waiting to hear “Madness” or “Time is Running Out.”
Saturday brought in new band HAIM, who released their debut album, “Days Are Gone” days prior to their appearance at ACL.
The Los Angeles based band remained humble amidst the buzz, showing admiration to the crowd for being there. With some artists it’s apparent how much they love what they do and the music they make. HAIM is one of those bands. The energy and emotion Este Haim puts into her performance makes it difficult for anyone not to dance along.
The crowd was there either because they heard one of HAIM’s singles or to simply try them out, but it was clear that the crowd stayed because they discovered a new favorite.
Wilco opened up with “I am Trying to Break Your Heart.” Although Wilco’s sound is different live, their haunting but comforting sound somehow translates perfectly from studio to live performance. Lead singer Jeff Tweedy seemed to be channeling Tom Petty in “Shouldn’t Be Ashamed,” which gave the song a new sound.
Just as a cold front moved in and the sun set, a large crowd gathered for Kendrick Lamar, which made the stage seem a little too small for the only hip-hop artist. Lamar amped up the crowd, which reached beyond the stage and into the crowd waiting for The Cure. The crowd moved in unison to songs “Swimming Pools” and “Money Trees.”
The Cure gave an unforgettable performance Saturday night, proving they’re a band worthy of many live performances to come. Fans of all ages were waiting with anticipation to hear classics “Just like Heaven” and “Lovesong.”
Despite being the band’s most popular song, “Just Like Heaven” played effortlessly with enthusiasm from the 35-year-old band.
If festival goers come for the music, they will stay for the food. ACL Festival knows it will be hot and people will be hungry so they bring in local ‘Austin Eats’ from Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, P. Terry’s Burger Stand and Southside Flying Pizza as well as cool treats from Amy’s Ice Creams, GoodPop, Daily Juice and Snowie.
There are tents with picnic tables available, but part of the festival experience is sitting in the grass with a pulled pork sandwich in one hand and a watermelon popsicle in the other.
ACL even knows that festival goers may come unprepared or may have underestimated the heat so there is a general store stocked with first aid supplies like bandaids, allergy medication, sunglasses, sunscreen, flip-flops and more. Anyone could show up to the festival completely unprepared because everything they would ever need is there.
The art market allows attendees to see Austin culture with custom clothing, jewelry and art by local and international artists.
Phoenix played many songs from their newest albums “Bankrupt!” and “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” but pleased long time fans with “Too Young” and “Long Distance Call.” Phoenix doesn’t seem to realize how popular they are as they are so humble and surprised when a massive crowd forms for them.
Neko Case appeared on a small stage, opening with a quicker paced “This Tornado Loves You.” It’s difficult not to get mesmerized by Case’s beautiful voice, especially in “Deep Red Bells,” which seemed hauntingly beautiful with exaggerated chords. The scheduling made it difficult for Case’s band to compete with larger stages, Atoms for Peace and Phoenix, but this didn’t ruin the performance for fans.
Lionel Richie mentioned perfectly at the beginning of his act that there were two types of people there to see him: those who listened to him at the height of his success and those who grew up listening to him. Many were surprised to find that Lionel Richie would be headlining the festival this year, but once Richie got on that stage it made perfect sense. Richie’s energy and enthusiasm spread to the audience playing songs “Penny Lover,” “Easy” and of course favorites “Hello” and “All Night Long.”
If Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World” then Austin City Limits Music Festival is evidence of this. Every year ACL brings the best of live artists together for one weekend, or in this year’s case two, to a large mass of people who want to feel the bass on their chests and listen to their favorite bands in person.