New Constellations | An Essay on Austin City Limits Music Festival 2015

Ryn Weaver | Photo by Jason Gonulsen

What if there’s more?
What if I need just a little bit more?

Time moves fast, even if you have a plan. And as Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

So when Ryn Weaver threw her wild uppercut at 1:30 in the afternoon — specifically, during the last 30 seconds of “Sail On” — last Saturday at Zilker Park, the second day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival, I ran away from my plan and decided to stay. Because it’s important to remember that sometimes the best option is right in front of you.

“We don’t choose who we see,” Weaver said from the stage. She was talking about normal, everyday life — where you take a walk and run into an ex, or a stranger who wants to talk about life.

The idea of choosing — when you get to, and when you do not — is important in Ryn Weaver’s music. Do we even choose what music we like? When you’re moved by a piece of art — a song, a painting — is that a choice? I’m not so sure it is.

Weaver’s album, The Fool, was conceived when she saw an image of a tarot card of “The Fool”: a man optimistically walking off a cliff. She explains in a recent interview:

I found a tarot card and it’s “The Fool.” And it’s a guy that’s a traveler in kind of a harlequin-y outfit walking off of a cliff — but he’s staring at the horizon because he’s so proud and he’s just so set on living his life the way he wants to. And there’s a dog barking at his heel, warning him, and he doesn’t care, because he’s like, “I’m not a fool if I’m following what I want to do, despite what people tell me to do.”

When I entered the photo pit before Weaver’s set on Saturday, I had every intention of moving on to another band after three songs. But while Weaver was performing “Runaway,” “Pierre,” and “Sail On” — all I could think of was how foolish it would be to leave.

She ended her terrific performance with “New Constellations,” a song about searching and not settling. “It’s not selfish to not settle,” Weaver told us.

Because what if there’s more? I mean, what if there isn’t, but what if there is?

Sometimes it must be enough to accept that you’ll never know.

Festivals like Austin City Limits present you with so many choices: what to eat, what shirt to purchase, when to get to the stage to have a decent view, who to see. If you end up choosing Houndmouth over Shakey Graves, for example, it’s like Shakey Graves never happened.

So whatever you decide, there must be extreme focus — to block out everything else around you and enjoy Houndmouth play “Sedona” and “Say It.” That’s no shot at Shakey Graves — who is also wonderful — but music isn’t something you give half of your attention to. Give everything. And prepare for it all to be taken. The good stuff will leave nothing behind.

The day prior — before Houndmouth and Ryn Weaver — Austin’s Gary Clark Jr. was a revelation. I normally wouldn’t use that word to describe an artist I had seen before, but this was not the Clark Jr. of 2012, 2013, or 2014. He looked refreshed, with a constant smile– and he moved around stage like a completely different man.

His new album is the fabulous, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, and he gave the ACL audience a taste of it early, performing “Shake” after his 2012 hit, “Bright Lights.” This time I decided to leave, though, because it was enough for then.

That’s the other thing — sometimes you have to run in another direction, with the belief that you’ll meet again.

That the immediate road ahead of you was meant for something else, and a punch in the mouth was good enough for now.

Well, Austin City Limits, my mouth has been beaten. It’s bloody and it’s bruised. My plan is no longer a plan. It never was.

It was always a hope for something new.

New constellations. Next year. And the year after that.

There is always more.

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