Monday, September 20, 2004

9/17

Austin City Limits Fest day one:
· Blind Boys of Alabama. Excellent. It took time to convince my wife that it wasn't pre-recorded music.
· Neko Case. Yummy, and covered in length elsewhere.
· Broken Social Scene. I'd heard good things but hadn't actually heard them before. Spacemen 3-style stoner music meets early 80s jangle pop, a la the db's. About a million guys on stage. I didn't realize that this type of music is so popular with the kids of today, but they were out in force. I probably won't be buying any albums soon, but it was a pleasant way to pass the afternoon.
· Toots and the Maytals. Damn fucking right.

During the T&tM set, about 150,000 people suddenly crowded around us, with today's stoned youth pushing at our chairs and stepping on our backpacks. Seriously, that was about as claustrophobic as I've ever felt in the open air. We left, fighting crowd all the way to the exit. I think they must have decided the number of tickets to sell based on the idea of 5 people per square foot. I don't need to see Franz Ferdinand to know that they probably sound exactly like they do on their album.

After considering trying to sell my wristband tomorrow, I've decided to go back for the Pixies tomorrow evening, even though it's going to be even worse. I'll stick to the outside of the crowd and hope for the best.


9/19

So, we went back. ACL day two had Cat Power, who was overpowered by the heat, sun, and big sky, then Soundtrack of Our Lives (I think that was the name) who were big ol' buttrockers. We retreated to the gospel tent for some shade for about an hour, then went to see Endochine (who sucked like Creed) and the Old 97s, who were a lot of fun. We left for a few hours then, and sucked down some chow & margaritas (Em's were virgin, natch) at Shady Grove. My wife went home, 'cause she was beat, and I came back for My Morning Jacket, who ruled the roost. I tried to get good seating for The Pixies, but Dashboard Confessional was playing at that stage right then (more on that stage -- the Cingular stage -- later), and I quickly realized that if I didn't leave, I was going to punch somebody. Anybody. So I went and caught a bit of Gatemouth Brown's show (he's so old that he's just phoning it in now) and still managed to get a reasonably good spot for the Pixies. Fellow next to me was kind enough to smoke me up, too. The Pixies were fuckin' phenomenal, but Joey Santiago's guitar was all but inaudible where I was. During their new Kim Deal-sung song, I headed down the hill to pee, and learned that the North side of the crowd had the best fucking mix on the field. No encore, although the many of the 50,000 people waiting didn't leave immediately. The line to the buses was about 2 miles long. Literally. It stretched from the turn at Robert E. Lee up to the Botanical Gardens, if you've ever been to Zilker Park. Luckily, my wife was willing to pick me up a few blocks down the street. We got stuck in an ungodly line of cars trying to turn around, so I found out that my Subaru offroads well, as we cut through a baseball field to a parking lot, which allowed us quick exit.

ACL day three: started with Calexico, a bit further back from Julie & Dutcher. Damn straight. I still have "Crystal Frontier" going through my head. We didn't much care for Shelby Lynne's aw-shucks persona, so we hit the gospel tent again for some shade. Some crappy-ass white blues guy was torturing people over there, but the shade was sweet enough to convince us to stay. Then came the rush. We hit Centro-Matic, where we ran into many good friends (Hi, Julie, Dutcher, and St. Neil!). Centro-Matic rocked like fuck, but Elvis the C was starting up on the hill, so we headed up there. My wife was starting to feel the heat then, and Elvis was at the Cingular stage with the terrible sound, so we went down the hill to the next stage. From where we were, we could hear Elvis well and see the big screen, so it was all good. I have no idea why he wasted so much of his fucking set on an interminably long blues jam, though. And I don't know how he can play so much of My Aim Is True without puking. But I don't care, because that was great. He played a long encore and went over his time quite a bit. After a while, they just started Spoon on the stage near us, even though Elvis was still riffing on "Pump It Up" not so far away. Once Elvis quit and the cognitive dissonance settled down, Spoon kicked some serious ass. I'm happy to report that their new keyboard player is fitting in quite well. We ditched their set about 15-20 minutes early (and ran into Von D on the way out. Hi, Scott!) to catch a bit of the Drive-By Truckers and get set up for Wilco. The D-B Truckers were in great form, but we only caught about a song before we started to get nervous at the sheer numbers of people at the Wilco show, so we headed over there. There were only about 20,000 people in front of us, so we were maybe in the middle of their crowd. I loved the hell out of Wilco's set, but the outdoor festival setting is once again wholly inappropriate for their sound. And Jeff Tweedy needs to let Nels Fucking Cline play more solos. I mean, JESUS, Jeff, you've hired the greatest chaos generator on the planet, so let him loose! The sound at this stage was phenomenal, and the camera guys were great. I could see Wilco on stage well, despite how far out I was, but the camera guys were getting some phenomenal shots, including one of Nels Cline with his guitar upside down on his amp, feeding back like a maniac, twiddling with knobs on his phrase samplers, shot from behind with the setting sun behind him. Beautiful.


Joey Burns of Calexico and guitar, courtesy Dutcher.

The sound and vision at that stage was so great that I wish all my big shows had been there. Unfortunately, the big shows I saw were all at the Cingular stage, where topography and incompetance conspired to make bands sound like shit and disappear from the big screen for moments at a time. Hopefully, the ACL crew will relocate that stage and hire people instead of slightly retarded rhesus monkeys next year. Cingular: you suck.

So, to recap, the great was: Wilco, Spoon, Centro-Matic, Calexico, the Pixies, My Morning Jacket, Toots & the Maytals, Broken Social Scene, Neko Case, and shade. (not listed: Elvis the C -- because of the bad sound and long blues jam, I'm demoting him.) The crappy was: Dashboard Confessional, Shelby Lynne, Soundtrack of Our Lives, Endochine, and Cingular. Cingular, just in case you missed the point: you suck.

1 comments:

serpil 9:14 AM, November 15, 2008  

what is "bathtub kings"? i am a foreigner. i don't know this word.

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