|Este Haim | All photos by Katie Moulton|
Words and photos by Katie Moulton
Weekend 2, Day 2: The crowds got bigger, the sun got hotter, and the rock shows got better. (For a review of Day 1, click here.)
Saturday, October 12
Parquet Courts, 11:30am, Bud Light stage
One of the first sets of the day was by Parquet Courts, a band touted by many critics as slacker punks with a quintessentially Brooklyn sound—even though three of its four members (Austin Brown, Andrew and Max Savage) happen to be from Texas. The only possible giveaway during the typically breakneck set came during a brief tuning moment when guitarist/vocalist Brown ad-libbed a singalong to “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” Looking a little road-weary after a year of non-stop touring in support of critical hit Light Up Gold, the band nonetheless tore through the setlist with verve for a small crowd—playing much of that album in order (since the sequencing is so damn tight already), while mixing in songs from recently-released EP Tally All the Things That You Broke (i.e. “You've Got Me Wonderin' Now”), a cover by an Austin band, and a couple of songs such as “Dear Ramona” that perhaps will appear on their next full-length. I can't wait.
My Jerusalem, 12:00pm, Austin Ventures stage
ACL features plenty of “local” bands—probably because the city hosts such an embarrassment of musical riches. Jeff Klein, formerly of the Twilight Singers and Gutter Twins, is one such treasure. His latest project is My Jerusalem, and they'd been touring behind their second album Preachers, jumping off the road for the hometown gig—and heading right back out the next day. For the few songs I caught, Klein's heavy growl was front-and-center, a sound reminiscent of a darker, denser Kings of Leon.
Deap Vally / Autre Ne Veut
Back at the Bud Light stage, L.A. guitar-and-drums duo Deap Vally took off the top of my head with a mix of rock and wailing soul. Flame-haired drummer Julie Edwards rioted with the kit, and Lindsey Troy belted it out and laid on the licks; she even called out from the stage to the guy who taught her guitar ten years ago. Good job, dude, but the axe heroics belong to her now.
For something completely different, I caught the end of set of fringe-R&B by Autre Ne Veut (otherwise known as Arthur Ashin). The singer somehow combined his haunting falsetto with raw emotional energy, sometimes bursting into a desperate stream of verse, backed up by a powerful female vocalist.
HAIM, 2:00pm, Lady Bird stage
The throngs massed early to howl for Haim, the hottest sister act on the scene. The trio (plus drummer Dash Hutton) hit the stage in a flurry of waist-length hair and charm. The set started strong with new hits from full-length debut Days Are Gone, including radio single “The Wire,” and lots of flirty, funny banter from bassist Este. For the rest of the show they settled into the soft, shimmery, poised pop that characterizes much of their album, but the highlight for me was when lead vocalist/guitarist (and dark, powerful center of the band) Danielle told the crowd she and her sisters were “going to jam, just like at home,” and they launched into some unbridled riffs that hinted at the energy and artistry Haim is capable of—whenever they decide to let it shine.
Grimes / The Joy Formidable
I did not take the advice of a very wise commenter on my Preview post, who recommended that I skip Grimes and just stake out a prime spot for Welsh rockers The Joy Formidable. Instead I bet on the hype machine and joined the teeny-boppers for one-woman synth-pop project Grimes. However, after a few minutes of Grimes' tinkering with petal-draped keyboards and ambient whisper-moaning whilst making doe-eyes at the crowd—I got bored. Even after the backup dancers in shiny pants appeared.
So I high-tailed it to the other side of the festival grounds, leaping whole picnics in a single bound. JF was already in the midst of high-velocity show, and set-closer “Whirring” rang with as much ferocious longing as it does in my ear buds.
Kendrick Lamar, 7:00pm, Honda stage
I waded through a churning sea of humanity, then waited in line to be allowed into the crowded photo pit. Festival security tightened to a nervous chokehold for Kendrick Lamar's highly-anticipated set. The youths were so dang excited, y'all. Tens of thousands of people may have been slammed up against the railing waiting for hip hop's hottest ticket, but they remained relatively polite about it all (only one man was removed before the show started). When rap's 26-year-old king-of-the-moment—crowned by his skills even more than by his boasts—came on, he channeled the crowd's mad energy into a solid performance, engaging from the edge of the stage while delivering anthem after anthem from last year's good kid, m.A.A.d. City. I couldn't help but feed off the force of it (and the quality of the material)—though it was hilarious to watch suburban tweens screaming the hook to A$AP Rocky's “Fuckin' Problems” and lyrics like “pussy and Patron will make you feel alright.” That's a metaphor, right?
The Cure, 8:00pm, Lady Bird stage
As Kendrick Lamar's set reached a climax, I found myself in need a of a shortcut to say goodbye to friends loading out—on the opposite side of the festival grounds. All that stood between us was 75,000 bodies. Fortunately, I managed to scam my way into a backstage VIPgolf cart ride. (It's not as glamorous as it sounds—if it sounds glamorous at all—but at ACL, it's priceless.)
I went running back into the grounds just in time to hear The Cure kicking in under clear skies more midnight-blue than Robert Smith's eyeliner. His face writ large on the big screen may have appeared buried under a corpse-level of makeup, but his voice sounded as bright and light as ever. They may have been playing “Just Like Heaven,” but for the crowd on the grass under the stars—swaying, dancing, making out—it may have felt just like something even better.
I headed off into the Austin night, and the city invited me in as it had all weekend—no matter which wristband I wore.