On Saturday, October 9th, of Austin City Limits I was ready. I knew the layout. I knew which bands I was going to see. I remembered to bring a snack and an empty bottle for the free water (awesome, right?). I was not, however, ready for the massive crowd. There were people everywhere!
Since I’ve never been able to pull off the Moses schitck, I had to do my best to weave my way through the masses to check out the tunes. Luckily, everyone in Austin seems pretty mellow and friendly, so despite the constant-elbow-to-elbow thing, it wasn’t hellish.
I headed immediately for Broken Bells. I’ve been a fan of their record for the last couple of weeks, especially after I figured out that really was the guy from the Shins and not some jerk trying really hard to sound like him. At any rate, I was pretty excited to see them. The audience was enormous and grooving to the beat, making the band a fun way to kick off my afternoon.
Even more exciting to me was the prospect of seeing The xx, so I ditched the tail end of Broken Bells in an attempt to get a good spot. This turned out to not be a terribly effective ploy due to the aforementioned “there are a hell of a lot of people here today” issue I mentioned, but it at least meant that I didn’t miss the start of their set.
I’m amazed that a band as young as The xx can have such amazing presence. The haunting minimal music twined throughout the crowd, capturing everyone’s attention. They took advantage of playing a live set by drawing out lingering notes and silences, washing us with introspective stillness. The xx were certainly my favorite on Saturday, if not for the entire festival.
Next it was time to pick up some food. ACL did a great job of hosting many local favorite eateries, so everything was great. We opted for the Kerbey Lane queso and chips. Queso is a typical Tex-Mex thing that I never came across in California. Basically it’s gooey melty creamy whitish cheese that’s sticky salty decadence. Nom.
Monsters of Folk were strategically located near to the food stalls, so this made for an easy “what to see next” decision. They were full of passion and energy… they certainly did bring it, but unfortunately I wasn’t much of a fan of what they were bringing. At least the chips and queso were good.
This led us to head back over to one of the big stages to get swept up in the last half of Gogol Bordello, who I’ve always been curious to see. Wow! The music was intense, and swept up the audience, causing the people at the edge of the giant crowd to dance like crazy. When you see little kids, teenagers, college coeds, and adults all dancing to the same thing, you know it must be good.
Sticking with the “party bands I’ve always been interested in seeing but have never seen” theme I headed over to check out Ozomatli. Ok, first we got some beignets, which are sort of like extremely fluffy donuts. Did I mention the food at ACL was yummy? Is that my stomach rumbling? Be right back.
All right – so Ozomatli was a lot of fun. They had the crowd waving their hands back and forth in synch, jumping up and down, and so forth. If Gogol Bordello brings the “crazy out of control gypsy party”, then Ozomatli brings the “intense backyard Latino pool party”. Some of it wasn’t as much to my liking (e.g., the rap), but they were a ton of fun.
Restraining myself from going after food a third time, we headed over to attempt to get an early spot to see Muse. But what I ended up doing instead was to get totally waylaid by Deadmau5. Full disclosure: back in college I used to be a total techno head and for about a year I even refused to listen to any music with words. Yes, I’ve gotten over myself since then, but I’m still easily lured by electronics.
At any rate, as I was on the way to Muse, I glanced over to see what was going on off to my right. There were blinky lights. There was a giant Mickey Mouse projected on the big screen. And there was techno. Crunchy, delicious, pounding, deep techno. Deadmau5 had arrived, and with his arrival came feet moving, booties shaking, and fans screaming. He had a giant glowing mouse head on for a few songs, and then for some reason was dressed up like a classic eyeholes-cut-in-a-sheet style ghost. His lights were shiny and blinky.
After spending a few minutes happily distracted in the land of glo-sticks, I resumed my original mission: Muse. We attempted to set up a blanket a fair distance off, but gave up after the third or fourth gaggle of people attempted to walk on us. Protip: drinking + walking through crowds at high speed in the dark without looking where you’re going = stepping on innocent bystanders. Don’t do it!
Holy fucking lasers, Muse was epic! The whole festival had been transported into a 70’s arena rock show with bright lights and explosions. I regretted not having a lighter to wave back and forth at them during the slow bits. They put great energy into their set, and dazzled the crowd. This was a perfect ending for a truly fantastic day of music.
Words and Photos: Scott Boone
Check out our photos and review of Day One of Austin City Limits! Click here!