Words by Lauren Gill | Image by David Turcotte
This is a story of the blazing sun, rain to rival the Great Flood, and somewhere in between, some killer music and unforgettable performances. This is the story of Austin City Limits 2012.
I arrived on Friday to a festival go-ers’ paradise. And by paradise I mean eight stages scattered amongst Austin’s luscious Zilker Park, not to mention some top-notch food vendors that dared to stretch beyond the typical hotdog, hamburger and pizza festival fare. But more about that later, onto the music! With 70,000 attendees each day, ACL has become one of the nation’s top festivals, and with good reason. It consistently has brought in big names, boasting everyone from Kanye to Stevie Wonder to Phish at some point since its inception in 2002. This year was no different, but with so many buzz-worthy bands, also came some tough choices. Schedule conflicts are always an inevitable part of festivals, but ACL’s conflicts were on a whole other level. Lucky for me, I’m an indecisive girl.
First Aid Kit
My afternoon started off with Swedish folk sister duo, First Aid Kit. With their boho dresses blowing perfectly in the wind they looked nothing less than the poster girls of folk. The Swedes were ethereal from the start of their 1:15 set underneath the blazing Texas sun, playing everything from ‘Wolf’ to ‘The Lion’s Roar’. They also managed a shout-out to Pussy Riot, dedicating a song to the Russian feminist punk-rockers. The pair captivated the growing audience like pros, proving why they are definitely a band to watch out for.
Next, I wandered near the back of the sea of people taking in Delta Spirit at the AMD stage, one of two main ACL stages. They delivered their signature indie alt-country rock sound with ease, At one point, lead singer Matthew Vasquez apparently was enjoying his time at ACL a little too much and took a tumble. But, you can’t fault a guy for being too animated on stage, so I give him props for getting right back up and continuing on with the show.
After Delta Spirit’s rousing set, I found myself on the outskirts of the Honda stage’s crowd for English singer/songwriter, Ben Howard. I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t particularly familiar with Howard coming into ACL. However, I can say that I left a fan. The beauty of festivals is that you’re exposed to so many new artists that you can discover a new favorite just wandering around. For me, Ben Howard was a classic case of that. His laid-back surf vibe combined with his sturdy voice made him a memorable afternoon find. Onwards to Tegan and Sara!
Tegan & Sara
Despite Tegan’s constant rumblings about the oppressive Texas heat inhibiting her dance moves, Tegan and Sara delivered a bouncy performance over at the Bud Light stage, ACL’s second main stage. Kicking off their set with their hit, ‘Walking With a Ghost’, and eventually delving into ‘Closer’, and ‘Back In Your Head’, among others, the crowd bopped along, certainly not letting the heat get the best of their moves.
As I was on my way to Weezer, who I had made the painstaking choice of over Florence and the Machine, I couldn’t help but stop at A-Trak, who was crushing the Honda stage. The fact that temperatures were exceeding 90 degrees didn’t stop the Fool’s Gold DJ from hosting a massive late afternoon dance party. Highlights included ‘Heads Will Roll’, ‘Big Bad Wolf’, and of course some current and classic hip-hop beats.
As expected, Weezer delivered a greatest hits set, which left everyone happy. By the end of the show, I knew that I had made the right choice of picking them over Florence, who I heard was creepily delightful, by the way. Weezer led the crowd in a massive singalong, most notably and beautifully on ‘Perfect Situation’, ‘Island in the Sun’, and ‘Undone-The Sweater Song’, which they emphatically closed out their set with. Rivers Cuomo even embraced the Texan home of the festival, donning a cowboy hat onstage.
To end the night, ACL made many festival-goers, including myself, make a decision that no one really wanted to make. Should they go with the soulful, bluesy rock of The Black Keys or Avicii’s pounding progressive house? After weighing the pros and cons in a decision that was way more agonizing than it should ever have to be, I settled on Avicii. The young Swedish DJ and producer has been making quite the name for himself over the past year, and I had a feeling that his festival set would be absolutely crazy. Correct I was. Starting off with a mash-up of The Who’s ‘Teenage Wasteland’, and his own ‘Fade Into Darkness’ it was obvious that he was at ACL to throw down a spectacle. The glowstick clad crowd, both young and old, danced it out for his hour and a half long set, which was full of the typical Avicii hits that made him blow up, and some other favorites, including Otto Knows’ remix of Burns ‘Lies’. I left thoroughly satisfied with my decision and ready for Day 2, or so I thought.
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