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.
Saturday, October 3rd
Day 2 the deluge began. The steady drizzle that came in the morning turned to a downpour by the afternoon. ACL goers said goodbye to the soft, newly planted grass and hello to layers of mud and another full day of music.
3:00 – 4:00PM
After years of establishing themselves in the indie music world, Grizzly Bear‘s career finally seems to be garnering attention from a wider audience. The set, unfortunately, was somewhat of a disappointment. Their haunting sound and understated energy did not translate well onto the stage, and ended up as an undistinguishable song mass. One very good song, granted, but nonetheless not the riveting performance that the thick crowd was expecting.
5:00 – 6:00PM
Immediately following Bon Iver‘s performance, scattered “best show” accolades could be heard through the crowd. Justin Vernon’s voice poured out over the crowd like the steady rain that fell throughout the entire show, and gave flawless performances from Bon Iver’s entire repertoire. The highlight of their performance was a stomping rendition of “Skinny Love” that gave an entire new depth to an already perfect song.
7:00 – 8:00PM
The Decemberists took the stage with Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond – QRO album review) and Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond – QRO album review) in tow, and rightly so. The women have become key components to the recordings and live performances of their rock opera Hazards of Love (QRO album review), speeding through delicate love songs and heavy guitar jams. Colin Meloy & co. bring the story to life, playing the songs in the same order they appear on the album. While The Decemberists, as ever, were breathtaking, the real show stopper was Worden. Her powerful blues pipes slammed into the audience during “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid”, along with guitarist Chris Funk’s prog-rock inspired licks. Stark’s voice, while perfect for the tinny vocals on the album, fell flat in comparison to Worden’s huge presence.
8:00PM – 9:30PM
Electronic duo Ghostland Observatory closed out with a flashy, vibrant show. The Austin locals managed to keep a decent crowd away from the Dave Matthews, offering an hour and a half dance party with perhaps the most intricate light show of ACL 2009. Psychedelic cowboy Aaron Behrens hopped around stage with unstoppable energy, probably dancing more than anyone in the crowd. The show came to a point with “Sad Sad City”, an obvious crowd favorite during which audible sing-a-longs could be heard.