Out-of-town artists and musicians at this weekend’s Austin City Limits Music Festival received a good sampling of the unpredictable weather that is characteristic of an Austin fall. High humidity and ominous clouds loomed overhead all day Friday and Saturday until the rain finally began to fall late Saturday afternoon. While some festival attendees took refuge under umbrellas, ponchos and pavilions, others opened their arms and embraced the refreshing yet inconvenient precipitation. Bands continued to play, crowds continued to bounce and festival hippies continued to walk barefoot through the grass.
This year’s turbulent incarnation will be remembered as the last one-weekend ACL before it expands to two weekends next year.
Umphrey’s McGee proved its musical versatility through epic, genre-transcending songs that seemed to have no end. The guitar work was some of the best heard all weekend and showcased the members’ shred abilities. The band’s chemistry and raw musical talent went unmatched by any other act of the night. Crowd members with no previous experience stared in awe at the six-man human mix tape.
“I heard them while walking out to go home but they were so good I had to stay,” John Shields from New Jersey said. “The best part of this festival isn’t the bands that you know, it’s the bands that you don’t know. And the chicks.”
Florence + The Machine:
“We are Florence and the Machine, we come from England, and we have a reputation for demanding human sacrifices,” Florence Welch, lead singer of Florence + The Machine said at the opening of the band’s hour-long set. The dynamic show was one of the most enjoyable performances of the day, audience members said. Welch wore one of her signature ball gowns and took the stage in a slow, steady saunter. Her charm lay in the way she would quickly transform from an ethereal dominatrix bellowing out guttural verses, to a giddy schoolgirl skipping across the stage in her black Mary Janes. The set ended in a massive jumping spree to the band’s hit, “Dog Days Are Over.”
The Black Keys:
The rockers gave an energetic performance that included an array of new hits, as well as older, bluesy tunes from albums in their extensive library. The band relied mainly on its music to provide entertainment, and there was very little commentary given by lead-singer Dan Auerbach. Fans didn’t seem to object to the lack of banter, and danced along to the garage rock stylings until the set ended.
Father John Misty:
Lead singer Josh Tillman came prepared for his set at the Austin Ventures stage. Carrying a bottle of Tito’s Vodka and wearing a pair of red, heart-shaped sunglasses, Tillman opened the band’s highly energetic and eclectic set in a prayer laced with sarcasm. In true Tillman fashion, he held his steadily emptying bottle of liquor and yelled, “I’m ready for anything now. Just try to fuck with me!” The entire set seesawed the line between entertaining and outright ridiculous, a common theme in Father John Misty’s performances.
Appearing on stage with a seven-piece all-girl backup band, White played songs like The White Stripes’ global hit “Seven Nation Army” and that one Raconteurs song, concisely summarizing his prolific career within an hour and 30 minutes. His expert guitar playing was supplemented by a wide array of instruments like pedal steel guitar and organ, providing an alternative to the old-school Neil Young crowd.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse:
The crowd was filled with everyone from neon-clad teenagers to middle-aged men wearing shirts from previous Neil Young tours. Young and his band of graying, balding rock stars took the stage before thousands. Long instrumental breaks were frequent and several songs lasted for more than 15 minutes. Audience members didn’t seem to mind the altered versions of classic songs such as “Cinnamon Girl” and “Down By The River” as everyone was held in awe by the sheer fact that they were given the chance to see the rock legend live.
The Canadian indie band cosmically fascinated, playing old tunes like “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” and new songs from their latest album, The North. Dual lead singers Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan engaged in conversational vocals while drummer Patrick McGee displayed his 30 years of experience through incredible syncopation in a classic stadium rock drum setup. The provocative and sensual lyrics even provoked one audience member to throw her bra on stage. Afterward, Campbell exclaimed, “We’re going to come back to your town and blow your fuckin’ mind!” at which point McGee hurled his drumsticks into the unsuspecting crowd.
Two Door Cinema Club:
Back for their second festival since 2010, Two Door Cinema Club lit up the stage with alternative rock music that feels tailor-made for atmospheres like ACL’s. Crowd surfers were common and teenage girls were sporadically hoisted above the bobbing heads of the sweaty, bikini-clad throng. The entire crowd clapped their hands and danced along as the performance came to a close with the band’s hit “What You Know” from their first album, Tourist History.