|Photo by Jason Gonulsen|
Words by Katie Moulton
Today's massive music festivals promise excess of experience—whether it's headliners piled on top of each other, the stimulants (rock-climbing wall! fingernail art!) that have nothing to do with music, or the legions of fans they attract. In fact, Austin City Limits festival in Austin, Texas has grown so big that this year it expanded to two full weekends, with musical happenings bleeding through the week between.
Since I'm a solo first-timer (at ACL and in the city of Austin), the key to my weekend is to avoid becoming overloaded. First, I'm doing my homework – while I won't discount an act based on their performance last weekend, a rave review could pull me in their direction. At least for a few songs.
The real key is prioritization, so below is a preview of sets that for me are 1) Can't Miss; 2) On the Itinerary (but no guarantees); and 3) Only if there's no booze left in the media tent.
Friday, October 11:
Purity Ring (7:45pm), Austin Ventures: Shrines, the debut by this crafty boy-girl Canadian duo, has stayed strong as one of my favorite albums of 2012-2013 thanks to its ethereal synth weirdness and Megan James' robotic angel voice. I can't wait to see how this cavernous-yet-minimal synthpop translates to a vast open space at sunset.
Savages (1:00pm), Honda: I caught this all-female, black-clad art-rock outfit in the blazing heat of this year's Pitchfork festival, and one note from lead singer Jehnny Beth turned my sweat to ice. The British band's debut album came out earlier this year, and while critics like Jim DeRogatis of “Sound Opinions” tout it as a best-of-the-decade, I maintain their live performance is far superior.
On the Itinerary:
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down (1:30pm), Barton Springs: No one in the alt-folk game sounds quite like Thao Nguyen, and the band's 2013 political-minded We the Common is feisty as hell.
Arctic Monkeys (6:30pm), Skyline: Since Kanye West won't be demanding my full attention (link: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/oct/10/kanye-west-arctic-monkeys-jimmy-kimmel-live), I'll check out these British punk revivalists fronted by Alex Turner, who with their latest effort AM, are showing signs of maturity within their wry, eff-off attitude.
No Booze in the Media Tent:
Vampire Weekend (6:00pm), Lady Bird: This year, this band known (to me) for their Ivy League aesthetic and lazier-than-Paul-Simon co-opting of cultural sounds in service to slick indie pop...put out a pretty good record. Let's see what they do live. Maybe.
The Verve Pipe (2:30-55), Austin Kiddie Limits: The band's best-known hit was 1996's “The Freshmen,” a song about teenage suicide and drug use among other light themes, has since become the single that never dies. Now the Verve Pipe do kids' music?
Saturday, October 12:
Parquet Courts, (11:30am), Barton Springs: If you don't own last year's instant post-punk classic Light Up Gold...well, rectify that. Then check out the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Texas foursome's new EP Tally All the Things You Broke, released just last week. It's the sound of the band spreading out, with a particularly Beck-ian closing track. None of the recorded intensity is lost on-stage, with the added bonus of bassist Sean Yeaton's whiplash-inducing head-banging.
|Este Haim | Photo by Jason Gonulsen|
HAIM, (2:00pm), Lady Bird: Don't wanna say I told you so, but...I did. (link, scroll down page 1, and page 2: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/rftmusic/2010/04/show_review_setlist_julian_casablancas_strokes_st_louis_april_26_2010_haim_phrazes_photos_video.php) With new release Days Are Gone debuting high on the charts (#1 in the UK! #6 in the US!) and infectious single “The Wire” living in my ear, this trio of LA sisters (every one more talented than the last) is blowing up.
Kendrick Lamar (7:00pm), Honda: Have no doubt, Kendrick Lamar, as one of the most exciting hip hop artists in recent memory with last year's good kid, m.A.A.d. city and the throwdown verse heard round the world, will draw the throngs. And I finally get to be there.
On the Itinerary:
Grimes (5:00pm), Honda / The Joy Formidable (5:00pm), Barton Springs: Here I'm divided. Grimes is the project of Canadian Claire Boucher—bizarrely beautiful/beautifully bizarre mystic-pop that's as visually intriguing as it is sonically. Wales' The Joy Formidable has mastered a wailing wall of rock, and I'd love to experience the blast of “Whirring” live.
The Cure (8:00pm), Lady Bird: I guess I have to, right? But could they ever sound as good as they did on the stereo while I bopped or moped around my middle-school bedroom?
Sunday, October 13:
Unfortunately, I have to catch a flight Sunday afternoon (assuming I'm still mobile), so I'll miss most of the highlights. If you're there, this is what I would do.
Can't miss: The Super-Groups
Divine Fits (4:30pm), Honda: Britt Daniel of Spoon + Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs = stylish, growling excellent rock and a surging gothy cover of early-Nick Cave's “Shivers” I haven't been able to shake for a year.