Austin City Limits Music Festival: The good, the bad, the crowded

All Photos by Kristian Jaime Photography

"T'was the night before ACL Weekend 2 and all through the park
stages were being rebuilt, as Austin's skyline danced in the dark.
Tents, booths and vendors prepared at the ready
for following day when streams of people would come at the steady. 
C3 prepares again for final weekend quite serious,
as musicians and fest go-ers alike prepare for this musical experience."

ACL Weekend 1 is in the rear view mirror as the Austin Parks Department cleans and prepares for the madness all over again tomorrow for ACL Weekend 2.

The tinge of crispness in the October air made the intense body heat of thousands of people a little more tolerable especially for the closing acts of each day.

This Sobre Sound reporter unfortunately didn’t make it out until Saturday of the three day festival and walked right into Father John Misty’s fantastic set after haggling with various people up and down Barton Springs Dr. selling tickets for those of us who wait last minute to do everything. So, if you didn’t get a ticket but still want to go, there’s hope for you, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny but there is still hope.

The one thing I noticed right off the bat was that ACL is not only a place for music but for Internet culture as well where ironically, there was absolutely no signal or 4G access (lack of reception at Zilker Park or ingenious way to get people to actually enjoy the concerts in front of them?).

Flags and other identifiable objects (like balloons and cardboard cutouts) used to have members of one’s group find them in giant crowds have gotten creative over the past few years bearing blown up images of altered emojis, popular memes and clever sayings (“Doobie? Or Not Doobie?” being a personal favorite).

 As much as I appreciate a good pun and being impressed by today’s graphic designing capabilities, the flags and identifying markers are a trend I hope does not catch on. It’s hard enough standing behind the group of 6 foot something athletes; let’s not have giant flags blocking the view of the stage as well, people. Apart from an inflatable shark and balloon octopus on sticks getting into a scuffle upon waiting for Classixx providing the crowd with entertainment, they're a fad that is highly ingenious but highly annoying.

Another observation I made was that this is a different generation of music go-ers. For example, the crowd had no problem singing Hozier’s songs right back at him, but when he started covering a slightly more upbeat version of the Beatles’ Blackbird, hardly anyone’s mouth was moving, even when he said “If you guys know the words, sing this with me."

 However apart from my disappointment with today’s generation, lack of reception and distain for how ridiculously packed this festival is… it’s worth it.

Like any music festival there is that small moment of panic where you’re left with the decision to choose one musician or band over another because they’re playing at the same time, for example, mine was Chance the Rapper playing at the same time as Kurt Vile. I panicked slightly, tried creating a guesstimation timeline as to when they’d be playing the songs I wanted to hear but then found a nice shady vortex of a spot where I could enjoy both AT THE SAME TIME.  I could tune one out slightly and either jam to Chance singing about how he has the juice or get a feel for how Kurt, normally a solo artist sounds with his backing band the Violators.

On Saturday, A$AP Rocky put on a great show after he went on stage and the crowd started singing happy birthday to him. He was visibly pleased and hyped and has come a long way from the first time I saw him three years ago at the MTV Woodie Awards as a performer.  The A$AP crew paid tribute to their late command Yams as they performed “Shabba”. Perhaps it was all the birthday love he was feeling, but he shared milk shakes with the crowd and touched on racial issues while keeping the vibes positive.

“I look out in the crowd and I see people of all kinds, black, white, brown, yellow… and it’s truly a beautiful thing,” he stated.

 Right after, I was able to catch Drake and as much as I wanted to see him, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed in his performance.

Yes, the man has the ability to capture and hold a giant audience and it feels like he’s talk to everyone individually.

Yes, the visuals, fireworks, and over all stage presence was great.

Yes, mine and the minds all around me were blown when Future got on stage and they started performing songs off of ‘What a Time to Be Alive’

Yes, Drizzy does indeed put on a great show.

BUT it is quite apparent that Drake does have an ego on him and it’s kind of a buzzkill. He was so into hearing a giant crowd singing his songs that it was mostly us in the crowd singing his songs throughout the entire set.

 I sing enough Drake lyrics in the car and shower; I went to that show to hear Drake sing them. Apart from that there a came a time where a DJ appeared and asked the crowd “if we’re really Drake fans” by that point Drake had walked off the stage and the DJ started spinning a mash up compilation of old Drake songs such as “Best I Ever Had” and “Over”. What would have made that really cool is if Drake was actually singing as the DJ changed songs as opposed to some weird intermission.

The Strokes were 10 minutes late so I took that as an opportunity to run over and catch the Weeknd. Sexual tension was already ominously in the air by the time I arrived when he started playing “Often” Although I didn’t catch Deadmau5’s performance, The Weeknd hands down had the best stage set up, visuals and sound that I saw the entire festival and those going to weekend 2 should definitely catch the performance. I’m sure quite a few babies were made that night after that performance.

After I heard the song I had been wanting to by the Weeknd (“The Hills”), I hauled it as fast as I could, as if I were running straight into Julian Casablancas’ arms themselves, to catch the end of the Strokes. The stage was dully lit with blue and red lights that danced around them making it hard to see them other than on the two giant screens on other side of the stage, but over all a great performance that second weekend fest-go-ers will not get to enjoy.

 Despite the insane crowd and what I felt was a lackluster performance from a performer a lot of people are going just to see, the entire festival experience was well worth it.