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Austin City Limits 2011 (Festival Report)

It’s been a week since Austin City Limits finished and I’ve finally had enough time to compile all the music, videos, and thoughts in order to write a fair review of the weekend. I’ve been to quite a few festivals, but I’m usually enjoying myself too much and forget to really take note of new bands I hear or notable tracks and remixes. This time I went into the weekend with this festival report in mind, taking “notes” and interviewing people before the booze (and Texas sun) got to my head.

Friday, September 16th

Got to the festival a lot later then expected (as is the case when you have to fly in to any festival) and missed a few acts I wanted to see, namely Theophilus London, Delta Spirit, Fool’s Gold, Cults, James Blake and Wild Beasts. So much music! Rather then get overwhelmed, we headed over to the Google+ stage to catch Foster The People and got to pass by the Honda stage to hear a little bit of the Cold War Kids on the way. Foster the People were exactly what you’d expect at a daytime festival. Fun upbeat dancing music in the sunshine.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Foster The People – Helena Beat.mp3|titles=Foster The People – Helena Beat]
Foster The People – Helena Beat

When Foster The People started winding down, we turned around and walked over to the Bud Light Stage to catch Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley. Although I have Nas albums, and think he is a brilliant musician, I’ve never had an interest in buying tickets to see him live, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity. So I guess I wasn’t totally surprised when Nas & Damian Marley got my dancing feet stomping. The hip hop reggae sound was totally perfect for setting the tone to a setting sun over Austin.

Pretty Lights was the next act on my “must see” list. I was able to catch his show at Govenors Ball in NYC at the beginning of the summer and I couldn’t wait to get back in front of his stage. When he played “I Know The Truth” (which seems to be his summer anthem this year) people went absolutely nuts.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Pretty Lights – I Know The Truth.mp3|titles=Pretty Lights – I Know The Truth]
Pretty Lights – I Know The Truth

They stacked the end of Friday nights bill with Kanye West and Cold Play. That’s an easy decision.

We headed over to the Bud Light stage and tucked into a pocket on the left side which turned out to be pretty lucky. When Kanye made his appearance, he did it from a cherry picker that rose out of the crowd… right behind where we were standing. So there he is, 30 feet above the crowd, rapping on a tiny elevated stage in the middle of the crowd. It was epic. Would you expect anything less from Kanye? The stage had giant stone sculptures, there was a full dance troop of seemingly naked ladies, the guy knows how to put on a show.

Out of obligation I headed over to catch the last half of Cold Play, and I was surprised that they were putting on a pretty impressive show as well. There was a nod to Amy Winehouse when Chris Martin performed his interpretation of Rehab. They made for a great way to end the first night.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Kanye West – POWER.mp3|titles=Kanye West – POWER]
Kanye West – POWER

Saturday, September 17th

Day 2. On a mission to loose our collective hangover and get a jump on the day, we headed over to Austin Java for breakfast. We arrived just in time to see Young The Giant and drink a few cold ones. Didn’t get very close to the stage, but Young The Giant has a big sound so was perfectly happy listening from afar.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/08/My%20Body.mp3|titles=Young The Giant – My Body]
Young The Giant – My Body

Next up was Alexander (the dude from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros). Besides getting the feeling that Alexander hated his band, I think that the performance was really good. It started to rain a little, but it was a nice break from the Texan heat. A Millon Years and Truth were the highlight of the show. And he did some experimenting with new (apparently improved) stuff as well.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Alexander – Truth|titles=Alexander – Truth]
Alexander – Truth

Did a little walking around after Alexander and was lured to one of the smaller stages by the sounds of Chancellor Warhol. Never heard of this Electro Hipster-Hop star before, but I was a fan right away. Give him some love on his facebook page and check out his new album “The Silver Factory” on amazon.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/DopeFlyFresh.mp3|titles=Chancellor Warhol – Dope.Fly.Fresh (feat. Boss of Nova)]
Chancellor Warhol – Dope.Fly.Fresh (feat. Boss of Nova)

Skrillex was next on the must see list. I missed him at Electric Zoo, and I was told that if there is one show that I see this year, it should be Skrillex. And wow, what a correct statement that is. This guy owned the festival. Hands down best hour of music up until that point. It was a solid hour block of face smashing dubstep and house of his own uniquely fresh recipe. The crowd was one of the most packed crowds and everyone for as far as I could see, in front and back, were going off. At one point a kid came out on stage with a mask and a cape on and started doing some crazy dance like he was possessed. Check out the clip of that on our vimeo page.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Skrillex – First Of The Year.mp3|titles=Skrillex – First Of The Year (Equinox)]
Skrillex – First Of The Year (Equinox)

After the Skrillex performance I felt like I should have just gone straight home and called it a day. I couldn’t imagine anything topping that. I was surprised again when I found myself in front of the AMD stage where Cut Copy was starting to play. I took advantage of my new found crowd navigating skills that I picked up at the impossibly tight Skrillex show, and weaved my way pretty much to the front of the stage. Piece of cake. The crowd not being as tight was in no way a reflection of the performance however. Cut Copy quickly became my second favorite performance. Can’t say I would have bought tickets to a Cut Copy show before seeing them in ACL, but they proved to be fantastic performers. And while it’s a different kind of music then what I had just witnessed with Skrillex, the crowd was enjoying it just as much. A lot more jumping around and less “Bro-step” fist pumps, but great fun none the less. I had “Lights and Music” playing in my head the rest of the weekend. The stage was pretty awesome too. It was completely covered in lush greenery. All in all, Saturday was turning out to be my favorite day.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Cut Copy – Lights and Music.mp3|titles=Cut Copy – Lights & Music]
Cut Copy – Lights & Music

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Cut Copy – Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution.mp3|titles=Cut Copy – Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution]
Cut Copy – Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution

Got a bite to eat (namely a “meat sandwich” …what kind of “meat” they were referring to is anyones guess, but it was damn good) and grooved out to Chromeo from afar.

After the sun set, and dinner was taken care of, I was presented with another tough decision. Do I finish off Saturday with Stevie Wonder or My Morning Jacket? My Morning Jacket has become a favorite band of mine in the past couple of years so that was the original plan, but once I got to Austin and realized that this might be my only opportunity to see Stevie Wonder perform live I would be doing myself a diservice if I didn’t at least check it out.

So we started with My Morning Jacket. They opened the show like they were going to set the stage on fire. A lot of energy and… well they sounded like a metal band. They settled down a bit and played “Holdin On To Black Metal,” the first single off of their new Album Circuital. They didn’t play “Phone Went West” which is my fav. song, but I’m ok with that. My Morning Jacket has such a big sound that is perfectly suited for outdoor venues. I found myself lying on the ground looking up at all the spotlights from the festival slowly crossing over each other and letting the sound of Jim James and My Morning Jacket just wash over me ….it was hard to tear myself away but half way through the show we left to go check out Stevie Wonder on the other side of the festival grounds. As we approached the main stage, it became quickly apparent that we weren’t getting any where close. It almost seemed like 30,000 more people just entered the festival and they were all at Stevie Wonder. We were so far away that we could hardly hear the music. Heard pieces of “Superstition” and decided that we should turn in and get ready for Day 3.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/My Morning Jacket – Holdin On to Black Metal.mp3|titles=My Morning Jacket – Holdin On to Black Metal]
My Morning Jacket – Holdin On to Black Metal

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Stevie Wonder -Superstition.mp3|titles=Stevie Wonder – Superstition]
Stevie Wonder – Superstition

Sunday, September 18th

Sunday was considerably more hot, and it definitely played a part in what acts we saw (we chose stages that had shade near by or a tent). Caught a bit of The Walkman on the way in, and then headed over to the main stage to check out The Airborne Toxic Event.

Was really excited to see Chiddy Bang as well, but once we got in front of the stage and realized that there was no relief from the sun we went on a search for shade. Stumbled into a shaded tent and got to see a band I’ve never heard of before called Bomba Estereo. They put on an electro cumbia performance (my two favorite genres mashed together). It’s also described as Electro Vacilón or Electro Tropical. Whatever you name it, it was fucking awesome, and ended up two-stepping my ass off. The singer, Liliana Saumet is a hot little firecracker too. Running around stage, jumping on speakers… she might be the other great musical export from Colombia beside Shakira.

They also played a wild cover version of “Pump The Jam” which was A+ in my book. Strongly suggest going to see these guys live if you have the chance

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Bomba Estereo – Pump Up the Jam.mp3|titles=Bomba Estereo – Pump Up the Jam]
Bomba Estereo – Pump Up the Jam

When the sun got a little lower in the sky, we went over to catch Death From Above 1979, the side-project from the MSTRKRFT guys. Big change up from the rest of the music getting played…. big change up of what you are used to when hearing these guys perform (under the MSTRKRFT moniker). It was good old fashioned garage metal. The skys opened up to a light rain, and everything was wonderful.

We took that feeling and walked over to the Main Stage where Fleet Foxes were playing. I caught the very end of a show of theirs in New York so was happy to catch a full show. I know it sounds bad, but I still thing Helplessness Blues sounds so sweet when you hear it live.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues.mp3|titles=Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues]
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Almost immediately after Fleet Foxes finished there was a massive rush to the front of the stage. Arcade Fire was up next. They were the closer to the entire weekend and everyone knew it. We had one of the best spots in front of the stage but we had to pay for it. There was an hour between Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire and everyone pushed so tightly forward that you could literally not move. It was truly a test of will.

When showtime started to approach, a giant screen projected old-time movie theater style marquee’s with “Arcade Fire presents The Suburbs” written across them. A screen below that started to play the video for The Suburbs, a nostalgically filmed movie showing kids biking around and causing trouble in the suburbs.

When Win Butler and crew came on stage, the crowd loosened up a bit and everyone started jumping around. I didn’t really no what to expect seeing Arcade Fire live for the first time, but there is no question why they are so popular. They have an incredible stage show, and they know how to move a crowd. It helps that there are like seven thousand people in the band just going nuts on stage (one of the percussionist’s was going especially crazy with a single tom drum that he would run around on stage and beat with a single drum stick. I’m pretty sure he jumped of a piano at one point beating the drum in mid air. amaze-balls!).

Arcade Fire goes up there in the top 3 performances of the weekend. It was a perfect way to end the festival.

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Arade Fire – The Suburbs.mp3|titles=Arcade Fire – The Suburbs]
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

[audio:http://thenewlofi.com/wp-content/audio/2011/09/Arade Fire – Sprawl II.mp3|titles=Arcade Fire – Sprawl II]
Arcade Fire – Sprawl II