Day Three of Austin City Limits was on Sunday, October 10th, and it was way too hot. Sensible event-goers were hiding in every bit of shade they could scrounge up. They had certainly not misplaced their hats. In this, I was not at all sensible.

First off was Yeasayer, who I’d been introduced to a couple months back by a good friend. They did not disappoint, winding clean melodies around us, and then kicking it up to get everybody dancing despite the heat.

Today I noticed that not everybody was actually there to enjoy the music. Some sort of bizarre escape tent had been set up that was showing two different football games on big screens. Apparently some important Sunday games were on, since the tent was full of boyfriends and fathers who don’t have their priorities straight with regard to live music. This must be a weird Texas thing.

On my way to the next stage, I picked up an awesome ice cream cookie sandwich from Tiff’s Treats. A scoop of vanilla ice cream was sandwiched between two gooey chocolate chip cookies, which gave me flashbacks to Diddy Reese in Westwood. Yum.

I found myself a great spot for Midlake. In the sweltering late afternoon, “great” was defined not only by “near to the band” but by “strategically positioned such that the stage is blocking the sun”. They kicked off their set with psychedelic guitar drones that sounded as though a bunch of sitars had been transplanted from the 60’s just for the occasion.

I didn’t know Midlake too well, and I ended up being pretty impressed. The music was folky with shimmery psychedelic flourishes. Tim Smith has a great voice that reminds me a little of Tim Booth from James, yearning and earnest. The guitars and flutes provide a background of gorgeous melodies, and the bass bits evoked Peter Hook at points. They were fantastic, and the crowd was completely into it.

Right after Midlake ended my camera managed to break, so you’ll have to forgive me for the blurry iPhone photos. While I was sulking I heard the very opening of Martin Sexton. He decided to start out with a Hendrix-like rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Festivals should really impose a limit on that – Muse had actually done that at some point the night before. Sexton’s was pretty disconcerting because he transitioned it right into a twangy country number that I hastily scurried away from.

I hung out listening to Rebultion from a long way off. They were grinding and dubby. Pretty fun, but they were eclipsed from the spectacle that was about to emerge opposite their stage.

With a booming guitar intro, the Flaming Lips descended upon the audience. Some old dude with a white beard read us a poem. Wayne Coyne came out in his usual giant plastic space bubble and crowd-surfed in it whilst singing the first song. Inflated multicolored bouncy balls were suddenly everywhere in the audience. The visuals were crazy and trippy, showing color cycling women dancing. On stage right there were a bunch of male fans dressed up in bright orange jumpsuits, and stage left had female fans in orange miniskirts and tight tops; they were all dancing like crazy for the whole show. Wayne sang with a megaphone that was streaming red smoke. Then he did a number riding on someone dressed up in a bear costume. There were streamers, confetti, and a giant disco ball. It was totally crazy and awesome, like Devo on acid. I loved every minute of it!

The National‘s setup was in stark contrast to the Flaming Lips. They were dressed conservatively, and their lighting was minimal – just a handful of spots that tended to stay purple or blue. But they managed to rile up the crowd as much or possibly even more than the Flaming Lips did. Matt Beringer belted out his choruses, way over the top compared with the subtle nuances of his studio work. Most of the songs they did were off of “Boxer” and “High Violet”, with only a couple deviations. Matt gave an intense performance, and came out to the edge of the audience during “Mr. November”.

The National’s cutoff time was 8pm so that the Eagles could go on as the big festival closer. When 8pm rolled around nobody went anywhere, and a chorus of “Screw the Eagles!” was repeated. The National came back out and performed a lovely drawn out rendition of “About Today” as an encore after making a comment about the Eagles having given them permission to go a few more minutes.

As I headed over to check out the Eagles I heard “Hotel California” starting up in the distance. That was really the only song of theirs I knew, and it wasn’t exactly inspiring me to check them out.  I promptly changed course for the exit. Screw the Eagles, my feet hurt.

pro-tips for next year:

I ended up trying three different transport options, for science! On the first day I showed up without knowing what I was doing and found out there isn’t actually parking anywhere near to the venue unless you’ve got a bike. I ended up paying some guy who lived nearby $20 to park in his driveway. That was actually pretty lucky – most of the other nearby houses were asking $30. It was convenient but expensive.

The second day I parked in downtown Austin and took a shuttle to and from the venue. Parking in downtown was $10, and the shuttles were free and frequent.  The line to get on a shuttle at the end of the festival moved fast; we probably only waited 15 or 20 minutes. Whoever figured out ACL logistics should get an award, everything ran extremely smoothly. The only hitch was after we got the car – downtown Austin was completely packed, and it took us a half hour to go four blocks to get out of the gridlock.  This ended up being cheap and not too annoying.

On the third day I got a drop off and a pickup from my girlfriend. This was by far the easiest way to avoid the traffic. In order to avoid downtown hell, I ended up walking a half mile so I could get picked up on the other side of sixth.  Free and easy.

One other comment is that you should figure out your timetables with your teammates in advance of showing up at the festival. The cell phone reception was absolutely awful because the networks were overloaded. It was so bad that I was unable to even text message reliably, even though I had full bars!

Words and Photos: Scott Boone

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