DAY ONE: Friday, September 16, 2011
This would be my third year volunteering for ACL and I was very excited to be back. The line-up this year was pretty incredible. And now I was truly an expert when it came to parking, catching the shuttle, and protecting my extremely fair skin. lol And I had also managed to get all early volunteer shifts which led me to have an open afternoon & evening of music!! YES!! On the first day, I was a greeter at the Barton Springs entrance.
I had learned the year before that if I was at this entrance, I would be able to hear some music from the moment the fest began. The first couple of bands that played on the stages that flanked this entrance were Cults & Wild Beasts. I honestly don’t remember much about Wild Beasts, but I do remember Cults being fun and making me want to dance. They definitely had an audience for such an early set time. James Blake was the first act I saw after my shift ended. I guess I expected a little more from him after all the buzz I had heard about him. But honestly, he made me feel a little sleepy. He was a little too mellow for me. I think I ended up power napping and then walking over to the big stage to catch some Big Boi. I’ve been a long time Outkast fan, but I’ve always been more partial to André 3000. I do have to admit that Big Boi totally won me over with his performance. He was so energetic and connected with his audience. I had a blast watching him. Especially when he dug into his Outkast bag of tricks:
I really loved this show! After he was done I cruised over to see Cold War Kids. They’re not a mainstream band by any means, but I’ve always liked them for their unique take on music. I thought for SURE I would love them live. But I was actually disappointed in their performance. I think this was too big of a setting for their type of music. I’m pretty sure I would enjoy them more in a smaller venue. One day I’ll have to see if that’s actually true. The next band I was headed to see was Bright Eyes. I expected a very mellow show, but Conor Oberst really surprised me…in a good way. There was a lot of energy from both him and his band and they really pumped me up. I started watching the show sitting on the lawn, but ended it on my feet. He was great. His band was great!! Here’s just a sample of his show, “Lover I Don’t Have To Love“:
After his set, I bounded over to the next stage to catch Santigold. This girl is so GREAT! She does her own thing, dresses her own damn way, and is just one of a kind! I love it! And I was so psyched to see her live show. And she came out with the weirdest outfit and the weirdest dancers, but it worked for her. I had fun with her set and it was obvious she was having a great time too! Check out “Lights Out”:
I was surprised she didn’t have more people in the audience. She had a decent turnout, but I was still able to get fairly close to the stage, which was nice. After she was done, I made my way back over to see Coldplay. MAN!! I was so happy that I was finally going to see them perform live. My only complaint was that their set time was at exactly the same time as Kanye West. How could ACL do that to me??!! UGH!! So I had already decided that I would stay for the first half of Coldplay and then run over to catch the end of Kanye. You can imagine how torn I was about this. But I think I made the right decision in starting off with Coldplay and ending with Kanye. I loved the first half of Coldplay’s show. And I’m soo happy that I got to hear them play “Yellow”:
That was AMAZING!! That’s where it all started for me with this band. I was there from their first album and to hear them play that song made me so very happy. I still get the chills thinking about it. As hard as it was to tear myself away from their show, I did it and ran over to catch the last half of Kanye. And from what I heard, the second half of his show far surpassed the first half. The only criticism I have of Kanye’s performance was the choppiness of it and his constant need to call himself out as the greatest performer ever with the most hits. It was sort of awkward. And he also kept saying that he had time constraints and that’s why he wasn’t singing full songs. He would start and then suddenly stop, which is why it felt so choppy. But when he did put his all into a song, it was magical. I’ve also been a Kanye fan for years and this was my first time seeing him perform live. It was a very bare-bones show, but he did his thing. And I liked it!! Here’s a little medley of “Run This Town/Stronger/All Falls Down”:
I stayed till the bitter end! I honestly did not want to miss a thing!! It was a pretty fantastic first day of music. I couldn’t wait till the next day!!
DAY TWO: Saturday, September 17, 2011
After a long day of music the day before, I was ready for Day Two. Once again I was planted by the Barton Springs entrance for my volunteer shift. Today, the two bands I caught were Federico Aubele and The Belle Brigade. Federico Aubele was a little familiar to me, but I didn’t really know much about his music. It was very different. The best way to describe it is electronic music with a guitar twist. He was actually pretty cool. As for The Belle Brigade, I really don’t recall anything about their set. Today was an overcast day. And at one point during my volunteer shift, the heavens opened up and it began pouring for all of five minutes. Luckily I was prepared for this and just popped open my umbrella & continued passing out programs to the entering patrons. No big deal. Unfortunately, the rain didn’t end there. And when it was time for my shift to end and I was headed over to see Iron & Wine, it kinda began drizzling again. It wasn’t bad though, so I stuck it out. Iron & Wine was good. I actually expected more from their set, but it was ok. Here’s one of their songs that I really like, “Boy With A Coin”:
After they were done, I rushed over to see Fitz & The Tantrums. Having been so impressed with them at SXSW, I was itching to see them perform again. Unfortunately, the buzz was officially out about them now and the area around the stage was PACKED!! I couldn’t get as close as I wanted to which meant that I didn’t have nearly the live experience I had at the Day Stage at SXSW. That made me very sad because you just can’t buy the kind of energy these artists give off during a live performance. I missed having that connection with them again at this show. Not to take anything away from their performance because they were still as awesome as they were at SXSW, but I just didn’t have the same experience being so far removed from the action. But here’s a snippet of what they do, “Moneygrabber”:
Gotta love this band!! The next artist I was super-excited about seeing was Cee Lo Green. OMG, he had recently blown up around the world with his song “Fuck You”. I have been a long time Cee Lo fan and was expecting a lot from his live show. The first thing to go wrong was the sound. For some reason, the sound at this stage SUCKED!! And that not only disappointed me during Cee Lo’s show, but it worried me because this would be the same stage Stevie Wonder would perform on later in the evening. And this sound issue didn’t just affect the audience, but it obviously affected Cee Lo’s performance. He mentioned a couple of times that he needed the sound fixed, but nothing was resolved during his show. I was so disappointed!! Here’s Cee Lo doing “Crazy” from his band Gnarls Barkley:
It’s evident in this video that the sound was not right even from such a close vantage point. And since I wasn’t close to the stage at all, it was even worse. Such is life…I had two choices to struggle with after I saw Cee Lo. Chromeo or TV on The Radio? Once again, I was torn. And I didn’t want to split the sets because the stages were too far from each other. *Sigh* I finally decided on TV On The Radio. And I absolutely made the right choice. Not only did they blow me away, but they ended up being my absolute favorite band to see that whole weekend. Yup! They killed it!! They were awesome. Thinking I don’t have enough superlatives to describe how they moved me. I already was a fan before seeing them live. They are an incredible, technically advanced, and experimental band. I wasn’t sure they could capture their sound live, but they did more than just capture it, they MURDERED it!! This song, “Wolf Like Me”, was the song that not only made the audience crazy but got me jumping up and down like a wild woman:
I’m usually pretty calm at shows, especially when I’m by myself, but these guys made me let go without even thinking about it. They ROCKED! They were the best build-up to seeing Stevie Wonder, my next and last artist of the day. I bounced over to that stage, feeling great after being bathed in such incredible music. I was in the best mood and beyond excited for Mr. Wonder. While we were waiting for him to go on, I actually saw TV On The Radio’s touring drummer in the audience. I took that opportunity to tap him and tell him I had just seen them play & how incredible I thought they were! Like REALLY incredible. He sincerely thanked me. It was a really nice moment for me. Once Stevie got started, the audience went wild. Unfortunately, there were some very rude and very vocal people standing near me. They were talking such smack about Stevie’s political beliefs that it got annoying and quite uncomfortable. If his political beliefs bothered them so much, why were they even there??!! UGH!! Finally, they left and the rest of us in the vicinity collectively breathed a sigh of relief. We were all happy that the negativity they had carried with them was now gone. NOW we could enjoy the show. And that we did! Stevie pulled out most of his classics. I mean, he really sang everything a Stevie Wonder fan would want to hear. And he sounded great! Check out the final song in his set, “As”:
I was thrilled that I had the opportunity to see such an iconic artist. He’s a legend and I felt very lucky to see him perform. Not a bad way to cap off another incredible day of music!!
DAY THREE: Sunday, September 18, 2011
I made it to the last day of the festival!! YAY!! No sunburned lip, no issues whatsoever. I was content. I was also ending my volunteering responsibilities in a different station…the water refill station. Basically, we refilled patrons’ water bottles. I know, it sounds easy. But it was one of the most difficult and exhausting jobs I’d done so far. I was dehydrated and in pain by the end of my shift, not to mention EXHAUSTED!! Man! There were definitely some fun/funny moments in those four hours; I was working with some very entertaining characters, but time seemed to move very slowly. Some of the music I heard during my shift was by Yellow Ostrich, The Hand and The Heart, & The Vaccines. I didn’t really care for Yellow Ostrich. The Hand and the Heart were ok, not really my thing & I don’t remember the Vaccines very well. I wish I could’ve paid more attention to the music, but this water refill station was super active so I was a little…a lot distracted. When I finished at 3 I walked over to catch the last half of The Airborne Toxic Event. One of my friends had highly recommended them, so I was interested in checking them out. I guess they were good. I can’t say I became a fan that day, but they were ok. I stayed on to see Broken Social Scene and that’s when I kind of fell apart. They were mellower than I expected so I ended up sitting down, then lying down, then putting my jacket over my face and dozing. Yes, I dozed during Broken Social Scene. I’ve heard they put on a great live show too. I guess I was just that tired. I woke up before they were done, but I had already determined that I wasn’t gonna make it for Arcade Fire. As much as I wanted to see them, I was just spent. The weekend, while incredible, had kicked my ass!! I was ready to call it a day. And I did. My only regret was that I missed Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire.