Starting way before the whispers of a line-up have begun, Austin City Limits is already selling tickets. Loyal customers blindly buy three-day passes, banking on the consistent line-up delivery each year. In its 10th year, the Live Music Capitol of the World’s festival has risen to prominence and can easily stand its own against classics like Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Lollapalooza. Featuring legendary acts and indie darlings side-by-side, this year’s line-up, Friday-Sunday, October 8th-10th, went unmarred by last year’s cancellations and downpour.
Lucero (2:30 – 3:30p.m., AMD Stage)
In their first ACL performance, Lucero brought out a sizable if passive crowd with their country-rock fusion. The band wasted no time kicking their afternoon set into gear, launching into punchy chops that had boot-clad cowboys and tattooed hipsters bobbing their heads side by side. Ending each of their songs with a “thank ya,” Lucero simultaneously rocked and charmed their audience.
Mayer Hawthorne & the County (3:30 – 4:15p.m., Austin Ventures Stage)
Since Jamie Lidell’s (QRO album review) performance in 2008, ACL has lacked the quintessential white boy with soul. Luckily, Mayer Hawthorne was 2010’s solution to this missing link. Early on in the set the breakout R&B artist drew crowd involvement, asking for dance moves, hand claps, and shouted responses that were gleefully reciprocated. Hawthorne’s soulful voice poured over the crowd, its sultry feel complimenting the sweltering middle afternoon heat well. Hawthorne was comfortable with the crowd, confiding that he had recently signed an autograph in a record store, only to be asked if he was Michael Buble. Cutting in Snoop Dogg’s (QRO photos in Austin) “Beautiful” into his set catered to the new converts to the Mayer Hawthorne experience, but the smooth choices from their own repertoire were enough to lock in fans.
Local Natives (4:45 – 5:30p.m., Austin Ventures Stage)
I will try my hardest not to wax poetic about Local Natives, although I have to admit that I have been gushing about their live show since catching them at South by Southwest (QRO recap). Apparently the news had spread. Compressed crowds at the tiny Austin Ventures Stage stuck around after Mayer Hawthorne’s show, waiting for the recent indie rock superstars to begin their all too short set. The show length, however, seemed to work to their advantage. Every song they played seemed so calculated and perfect in its placement and execution that any longer could have depleted the perfection that was their set. Songs off of their debut Gorilla Manor dominated the time, but they peppered in some new songs along the way. Local Natives’ sound was made for live crowds. Their harmonies soared flawlessly over the crowd with a kind of spellbinding and organic solidarity that is impossible to shake.
LCD Soundsystem (6:30 – 7:30p.m., Budweiser Stage)
ACL seemed to have bands in two categories: hip new buzz bands and old stock rock. While both of these niches had a lot of draw and variance, there were few that rested on the in-betweens, in other words, the burgeoning indie rock classics that are just seasoned enough to be nostalgic but are still making new material. LCD Soundsystem fit this bill perfectly. They were just removed enough from the emerging electronic and dance acts to be the only ‘classic’ dance party at the festival. A neat combination between the new (This is Happening – QRO review) and their old material made for a well-formed set that kept the crowd on their toes.
deadmau5 (7:30 – 8:30p.m., Zync Card Stage)
It seemed like the dance party created by LCD Soundsystem would have been continued just a football field away at deadmau5, and I’m sure it did for those fortunate to be somewhat near the sound booth. The crowd flowed back through the field, mixing with an already forming fan base for Muse’s (QRO album review) closing set. Although the DJ had all his usual tricks, the sound didn’t translate as well in a festival type setting. Moving collectively as a unit, the crowd moved up and down, back and forth in time with the music, but the energy seemed to dissipate the further the crowd extended back. Overall, deadmau5 seems to resonate better where his electronic aren’t free to disappear into the open sky.
M.I.A. (8:30 – 9:30p.m., AMD Stage)
M.I.A. took to her second ACL performance with a considerably larger amount of fan recognition. The execution, however, came off a lot less theatric than her previous performance and more of complacent. Her show may as well have been finished after “Paper Planes”, and even that offered faint vocals that failed to break over sloppy back tracking. M.I.A. was carried by the flurry of activity going on around her onstage, but as a semi-rapper semi-soprano her voice failed to hit home with the same intensity as it does on her recordings.