Open the Flood Gates: Festival Fans Pour into Austin

Written by on October 20, 2011 in Live Reviews, October 20, 2011 - Comments Off on Open the Flood Gates: Festival Fans Pour into Austin

Festival AtmosphereSince Central Texas has been experiencing the worst meteorological drought in recorded history, and, consequently, the most devastating wildfires in our states history, water has been in short supply this summer but music is never in short supply here in the “Live Music Capital of the World.” This was proven once again as thousands of people flooded the Great Lawn at Zilker Park in downtown Austin, Texas on September 16th, 17th, and 18th to witness 132 acts perform as our city played host to the 10th Anniversary of the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

From the very start of the first day of the festival, it was obvious that this would not be just any old music fest but one that would go down in the record books, just like the rest of our unusual summer had.  Learning from past mistakes and weather challenges, C3 Presents and the Austin Parks Foundation took great care in planning for this event, making sure that every precaution was taken to ensure the safety of the participants and audience.  Although the weather did actually cooperate for the festival – the temperatures kindly fell below 100 for most of the time and there were rain showers scattered over the three days – the organizers were ready with extra medical personnel on standby and lots of free water at the CamelBak filling stations. Just days before the festival started, and on the heels of several devastating wildfires in our area, the city enacted a smoking ban for all city parks. Although this could have been a real problem for an outdoor festival in Austin, I am happy to report that most attendees seemed to honor this request.  The festival proceeded without any fire incidents.

The overall lineup for this year’s fest was phenomenal. There was something for every attendee, no matter their age or music style preference. Once again the fest was spread out over eight stages of various sizes staggered throughout the park with the two main stages placed at opposite ends. Each day, the late morning and early afternoon hours were filled with local and up-and-coming acts, many whom I’m sure we will be hearing more from in the near future. Early evenings were for more nationally known acts. The headlining acts each night are all world renowned.

Asleep at The WheelCee LoKanya WestStevie WonderStevie WonderFrancisca ValenzuelaEmpire of The SunEmpire of The SunDale Earnhardt JrCowboy and IndianFriday’s early acts were as diverse as it could possibly get and included The Barton Hills Choir from the elementary school right up the road from the park, Country Star Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, Cults, Brandi Carlile, Delta Spirit, and Latin sensation, Francisca Valenzuela.  Midafternoon brought on notables such as Ray La Montagne, Smith Westerns, Big Boi, and Cold War Kids.  Later in the afternoon, one of the hottest acts of the summer, Foster the People, took to the Google+ stage while Bright Eyes, Charles Bradley and Gary Clark Jr. found other appreciative audiences at their stages. As evening fell, Santigold, Sara Bareilles, Mavis Staples and Pretty Lights vied for the audiences’ attention.  To close out Friday night, luck attendees had the choice of catching either Coldplay on the AMD stage or Kayne West on the Bud Light Stage.

Saturday brought out another round of excited fans and more incredible performances. Early acts included The Warrior Gospel Band, Telekinesis, The Antlers, Cowboy and Indian (including actor/musician Jesse Plemons from Friday Night Lights fame), and The Belle Brigade. As the day progressed, Young the Giant, Iron and Wine, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Skrillex found enthusiastic audiences. Early evening brought out more diversity as Cut Copy, Chromeo, Wanda Jackson, Courtyard Hounds, TV on the Radio and Cee Lo made appearances.  As the night drew to a close, the audience had a tough choice to make.  My Morning Jacket headlined the AMD stage while the incomparable Mr. Stevie Wonder made a rare Austin appearance, gracing the Bud Light stage.

Cee LoSunday’s performances were just as diverse as the first two days of the festival.  The day started out with the likes of Yellow Ostrich, Ruby Jane, WAX, and Seth Walker.  By early afternoon the audience had grown larger in attendance and was treated to the Greencards, Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr, The Walkmen, Mona, The Lee Boys, and The Airborne Toxic Event.  Late afternoon brought out more acts including AWOLNATION, Chiddy Bang, Broken Social Scene, and Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses. Early evening gave us bands that included Death From Above 1979, Gomez, Jack Ingram, and Fleet Foxes. As evening came and the fest started to wind down, Manu Chao La Ventura, Social Distortion, Hayes Carll, Randy Newman, and Empire of the Sun thrilled the audiences.  The headlining act for Sunday, the band receiving the only solo spot of the festival was one of the hottest acts on tour right now, Arcade Fire. They played to a very enthusiastic audience of approximately 75,000 from their spot on the Bud Light stage.

This was by far the best planned and presented ACL Festival.  There was something for everyone at this fest from a children’s area with performances and booths to occupy the little ones, to a farmer’s market, to cooling stations, to a chance to make a charitable contribution to help our friends and neighbors who have recently been affected by the wildfires. And let’s not forget, there was also some very awesome “live” music – Austin style!

Review by Margy Moore
Photos by Scott Moore/ Limelight Imaging