Report/Photos: Austin City Limits Fest 2012

 

October 12-14 in
Austin, and once again we had boots on the ground at Zilker Park
(not to mention a few choice after-fest shows in the clubs). Here are a few
highlights. Photos follow immediately after the report. (above): potential
troublemakers

 

Photos and Text by Michael Passman

 

Every year in October since 2002, 70,000+ people pile into
downtown Austin
for Austin City Limits Music Festival. Named after the long running PBS show of
the same name, ACL Festival has been sold out for a number of years now with an
ever diversifying lineup of Americana, electronic, country, classic rock,
r&b, jazz, and alternative acts from around the world.  The formula is
simple with eight stages on 46 acres of Zilker
Park, one of Central
Austin’s downtown parks.

 

        Included in
the festival are local restaurants, merchants, and artists selling their
products, a kiddie stage aka Austin Kiddie Limits, and an infinite number of
porta potties that might exceed the number of lawn chairs people brought this
year.  Although not the largest music festival in the US, it’s
probably the most diverse with acts ranging from The Baylor Choir to The
Stooges, so for those who love diversity and want to see something new, this is
the best festival to do it.  If nonstop music from 11am to 10pm is not
enough, there are ACL related aftershows at local venues every evening.

 

        ACL Festival
2012 kicked off Thursday, the 11th, with The Black Lips playing Antone’s. The
almost always touring band is not stranger to music festivals, but they never
shy away from cutting their teeth at small shows, either.  Legendarily a
blues club, the 600 person capacity Antone’s has lately been expanding from
their blues base, thus luring people a few decades younger than their devoted
crowd.  Rising local stars A Giant Dog started off the evening. The set
was a little rough, but they deliver a great ‘80s punk/pop punch led by one of
the best female vocalists for an underground band, Sabrina Ellis, whose soars,
shrieks and moans lead the crowd mesmerized from start to finish.

 

        The Black Lips
ripped into a long, sweaty, beer drenched set highlighting material from their
last release Arabia Mountain, but also kept
a good dose of earlier material best described as psychedelic tinged, raunchy
garage, or as they coined it, flower punk.  During an interview, they
noted that seemingly far removed things are psychedelic, such as Dadaism. 

 

        The Black Lips
performances are always high energy, but they play with such abandon that the
audience goes wild at every show. Flying beer cans, naked people, and the
occasional not so subtle blow up doll make the crowd become the show end they
end up performing for the band while the band simultaneously performs for
them.  Much like The Fleshtones, the wall between the band and the
audience is broken down. When asked if they could explain the free for all
exercised by their fans, they noted how much they love playing and how the
crowd response encourages them. During their largely attended set on Friday at
ACL Fest, it was obvious how much of a following they’ve garnered over the
years by seeing so many people singing along with them.

 

        The opening
day of ACL Fest started surprisingly strong with big draw acts like Asleep at
the Wheel and The Wombats, followed in the early afternoon by highly praised up
and comers such as Delta Spirit, LP, and The War on Drugs.  As late
afternoon slipped into early evening, newly reunited ‘90s alternative legends
The Afghan Whigs took the stage while indie due Tegan & Sara played the
same time slot on a stage across the park, while plenty of other acts performed
on stages in between.  As Weezer played “The Sweater Song” while the sun
was setting, other attendees were sweating and slamming away to The Black Lips,
Thievery Corporation, Patterson Hood, and the recently acclaimed Florence &
The Machine.  The ever well known, genre blended The Black Keys closed the
evening.  While ACL Fest was nearing a close, The Shins took the stage for
an ACL aftershow at Stubb’s with Bombay Bicycle Club as the opening act.

 

        Saturday
kicked off with acts such as Multi-instrumentalist, soundtrack echoing Caveman,
Nashville’s
country fashionista Nikki Lane,
and the promising Canadians The Deep, Dark Woods, an alt folk band with an
approach combining minimalism and some refreshing embellishments with diverse
instruments such as banjo and mellotron.  The early afternoon saw another
round of promising acts with critical praise, including Civil Twilight and Zola
Jesus.  Neo roots rockers The Whigs (not to be confused with The Afghan
Whigs) brought the rock on in the afternoon while Rufus Wainwright gave a
flawless although without the crowd favorite rendition of Leonard Cohen’s
“Hallelujah”. 

 

        Another much
hyped act debuting in the afternoon was Oberhofer, who impressed the crowd with
a slight psychedelic twist on dance pop. Metric delivered a raving set that
everyone talked about the rest of the afternoon.  A sudden, intense
downpour cut short a set from the touted “favorite new band” Band of
Skulls. The downpour didn’t wash away the enthusiasm of the fans, however.
Before their set resumed, many sought refuge at The Zilker Stage, the only
indoor stage, and were treated to hot ‘70s soul from Lee Fields & The
Expressions.

 

        As the clouds
cleared, The Roots took one of the larger stages.  As Black Thought raised
his hand to the sky and brought the crowd to roar with The Beastie Boys “Paul
Revere” in dedication to MCA. As this transpired, the sudden cold from the
earlier rain turned to warmth.  Of course, another act emerged at the same
time that is found at almost every music festival: Mud.  

 

        Outlaw Country
legend Steve Earle took the crowd into the evening, which closed with the
iconic Neil Young & Crazy Horse performing while the equally influential
(at least in his own mind) Jack White took the stage across the park.

 

        The ACL
sponsored aftershows for the evening included DJ Questlove’s set at Beauty Bar
and a sold out Afghan Whigs show at Antone’s.  The Afghan Whigs have six
members and a large set of white colored Mesa Boogie amps, so the stage would
be cramped, but the show was also sold out, so the floor was equally out of
space.  Centromatic, an alt. rock/Americana band from Denton, TX
took the honor of opening the show.  

 

        The Afghan
Whigs were quite a treat to see at a small venue.  The ‘90s alternative
band best known as being popular during the grunge era, but their music is a
mix of ‘90s alternative and soul.  The combination is unique since they
were among the first during the trendy college/alt. era to embrace rootsier
music.  

 

        Despite the
punk garage base of the band, their sound is expansive, which could be an adaptation to playing much larger crowds, or just a
natural embellishment like many ‘70s soul bands.  Every song felt big, it
filled the room, from the opening intensity of “Scene of the Crime Part One,”
the more popular “Gentlemen” and “Debonair” and the near full crowd sing-a-long
of “Miles iz Ded” with the chorus “Don’t forget the alcohol, ooh baby!” The
crowd was transfixed and sang along for the full hour and a half set. It was a treat of the weekend to see them.  Their music
was a mix of polished angst alternative and nasty soul.  One could call it
clean and nasty.

 

        Sunday’s
festivities started at around the same time, but the larger crowd migration
into the park took place later.  Moon Duo, The Boxer Rebellion, Royal
Teeth, and Stars lured the crowds in around the early afternoon, but many
missed Stooges Guitarist James Williamson perform with The School of Rock band
on the Austin Kiddie Limits Stage at 2:30.  The last day also showed promising
newcomers such as Civil Wars, Polica, and some catchy dance rock/pop from Two
Door Cinema Club, who carried the dubious task of playing while Iggy and The
Stooges fans filled in and cramped the audience area early for their show that
would start an hour after the last band left the stage, mixing with the clean
white frat crowd camped out for The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

 

        Iggy and The
Stooges opened up with “Raw Power.” The set list, mostly taken from the album
Raw Power, seemed nastier and dirtier than the Ron Asheton era songs, although
equally loved.  Iggy invited people on stage to dance with him after the
third song while his cord handler was in the middle of the controlled chaos
making things sure things went smoothly.  Bassist Mike Watt, no stranger
to bass abuse, took some time during the set to beat his axe like it owed him
money and treat his amps like two dollar whores, thrusting hard against them to
the delight of the crowd.

 

        The ever
consummate tease and sex oozed icon at 65 years old, Iggy strutted and thrusted
his way through what could not have been less than a perfect set that included
“Search and Destroy”, “Open Up and Bleed”, and “I Gotta Right”. The set
concluded with the crowd screaming along to “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and a
continued exchange of insults given by Pop to the hungry crowd, which ate every
bit of it and the band’s performance up for an hour.  

 

        As an end to a
perfect evening or just a way to avoid what would feel like a revisit to the
‘90s, many left Zilker Park at the end of Iggy and The Stooges set, opting for a Detroit
state of mind instead of the anticlimactic, dated nostalgia and too many songs
about California.
It was a great weekend, but it after three days, it was time to get on the well
planned shuttle service or hop on their bikes and go home.

 

 

***

 

 

Black Lips

 

 

Black Lips (at Antone’s)

 

 

Sabrina Ellis (A Giant Dog)

 

 

Shins

 

 

Band of Skulls + fans

 

 

 

Lee Fields & The Expressions

 

 

Black Thought (The Roots)

 

 

Centromatic

 

 

Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs)

 

 

Iggy & the Stooges

 

 

 

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