Despite potentially detrimental line-up shifts, the Austin City Limits festival maintained a stellar cast of bands that had all-access passes for the three-day festival sold out in early May. Boasting more diversity than ever before, the festival drew everyone from hippies to hipsters. Every day over 65,000 fans flooded Austin’s Zilker Park, creating a nostalgic love-all Woodstock-ian feeling that was only strengthened by the layers of mud caked on visitors’ feet. An unexpected deluge aside, ACL may have had its finest year yet, handling stumbling blocks gracefully and pulling together for an amazing weekend.
Sunday, October 4th
Mud covered, exhausted fans filled Zilker Park for Day Three of the festival. What started as playful running, sliding, and splashing quickly turned into tired, filthy, and annoyed. Fans longed for the lush green grass that carpeted Zilker a mere 24 hours prior as thousands of feet turned into prunes while waiting in mud puddles. The solid ending line-up, however, kept hopeless music fanatics from leaving the mud pit.
12:30 – 1:15 PM
After their 2008’s gem, Visiter, The Dodos built a solid and precarious reputation. Time to Die (QRO review), which was released a few weeks before their ACL performance, was received with grumblings of too much polish and a tame quality that Visiter had avoided. Despite that, The Dodos packed their set with cuts primarily from the latest album, which lacked familiarity among the crowd. The boys’ vibrancies made up for a washed-out early afternoon bunch by providing endless energy in their 45-minute set. They did, however, add the obligatory single “Fools” from their first album into the largely new set list.
1:15 – 2:00 PM
Here We Go Magic had a sparse crowd more apt to dodge puddles than pack close to the stage. Luke Temple led his newly formed band through songs off of their self-titled debut, performing clean versions of the technically packed songs. The band debuted new material, which sounded like a promising new album in the works, but the band failed to leave much of an impression as far as dynamics.
3:00 – 4:00 PM
Erika Wennerstrom can work a crowd. Her gritty, raspy vocals echoed of the days when Janis Joplin roamed Austin’s streets. Not to mention that seeing a woman play an instrument other than keyboards or bass is a refreshing mix up. Heartless Bastards blasted the crowd and woke everyone up from a slow, sludgy morning. Heartless Bastards’ attitude and gritty stage presence brought elements of a more classic style of rock, getting away from the trend of indie buzz bands and hipster favorites.
5:00 – 6:00 PM
Thick crowds swarmed the Xbox 360 stage in anticipation of Passion Pit‘s set. Forming nearly two hours in advance, eager fans waited for sugary, synth-dominated chops off of their explosive album Manners (QRO review). Although for many it was one of the most anticipated performances of the festival, Passion Pit fell way short of expectations. Michael Angelakos’ chirpy falsetto was awkward and cracked, overshadowing the accurate and easily recreated musical backings. A choppy version of single “Sleepyhead” left fans disappointed. Halfway through the set Passion Pit hit their stride, beginning with “Little Secrets” and keeping pace through “The Reeling”.
7:00 – 8:00 PM
Arguably the biggest crowd of the day, aside from the obvious Pearl Jam draw, was for an artist that doesn’t even use real instruments. As the hot summer sun started to sink and the mud sealed onto legs, Girl Talk drew mob-like crowds to his ‘non-DJ’ set. Gregg Gillis, surrounded by dancing fans handpicked from the crowd, improvised his sampled songs that have scripted college parties for the last year and mixed completely new concoctions, all while banners flashed, “I’m not a DJ”. The gyrating, dancing set lasted for an hour and half, concluding with confetti that stuck to sweat soaked bodies and a sing-a-long, non-mixed spin of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”.