Saturday, September 27, 2008

ACL, Day Two

Aside from extremely spotty cell phone service (weird because the festival's major sponsor is AT&T), the Austin City Limits Festival is by far the best festival I've attended when it comes to food, drink options, and even facilities. Yes, we're using porta-potties, but they're cleaned pretty regularly, and there's always toilet paper. One thing ACL organizers did this year is so completely genius I think all large outdoor events should take note. In a bid to keep the grounds fairly trash-free, they're offering people free swag if they come by and pick up a trash bag, and bring it back full of recyclables. It's been so successful that it's a rarity to see a dirty concert ground, as opposed to say, the State Fair, where you can easily end up with shoes that smell like dead beer and lord knows what else. Today, we started out with the Old 97's set, then Drive-by Truckers, followed by CSS, Robert Earl Keen, MGMT, John Fogerty, The Black Keys, and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Brief thoughts about each: Old 97's: OK, I love Old 97's. I always have, and I probably always will. Rhett Miller and company did a tight, crowd-pleasing set that was full of favorites. I have discovered the joys of sitting outside, under a shade tree, and listening to "Barrier Reef" with a cool drink in hand - and now I'm not sure I can duplicate the experience again. Drive-by Truckers- Until today, I hadn't heard anything by the Drive-by Truckers. But having heard good things, the shady spot snagged for the Old 97's set also made the perfect viewing spot for hearing frontman Patterson Hood and gang dish up the perfect follow-up to the Old 97's. CSS: Brazilian band CSS was infectious, and loud. They set a perfect party-vibe, and people immediately recognized their song "Music is My Hot Hot Sex," thanks to Apple. Robert Earl Keen: Like Maytag, Robert Earl Keen is the festival dependable. You grab a seat, wait for him to come on stage, and know you're going to be entertained. It wasn't any different today - and the giant crowd seemed to understand that there is no sitting for Robert Earl Keen. You stand, and hold your 24 ounce Lone Star aloft. Anything else can get you thrown out of Texas. Fact. MGMT: If New Order and the Flaming Lips had a baby, it would probably sound something like MGMT. Heavy on the synthesizer, and the irony. John Fogerty: Gotta be honest, wasn't completely excited about Fogerty - mostly because I wasn't sure he'd deliver a great set. But he completely and pleasantly surprised me with a downright awesome set - totally tight, and seamlessly going from one song to the next. Two new songs, and the rest were a mishmash of older solo stuff and CCR ditties. The crowd loved him, and he loved them right back. The Black Keys: So to give you the timeline, it was Fogerty on the AMD stage, then The Black Keys on the adjacent AT&T Blue Room stage, then Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on the AMD stage. This lead to the perfect build up for the last act of the night, because The Black Keys and their bluesy rock was the perfect thing for a restless crowd jockeying for position to see Plant and Krauss close up. Thick, gritty blues with a hefty dose of rock is what you get with the Black Keys. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: Phenomenal. Completely, totally phenomenal. I mean, I'd pay to watch Robert Plant fart the alphabet while Alison Krauss fiddled "No Sleep Til Brooklyn." But this was so good that people were still talking in stunned, reverent tones about the set as they schlepped back to their cars, eschewing one more beer run or a slice of pizza - or even a stop into Chuy's. And if that wasn't enough, T Bone Burnett sat in as well. It was like Tiffany's showing up to gift you with a tiara, and then informing you that you're also queen of the world. So there you have it, ACL Day 2. Tomorrow's agenda includes Adele, Flyleaf, Against Me!, Silversun Pickups, Blues Traveler, Gnarls Barkley or the Raconteurs (still deciding - and they both play at the same time), and the Foo Fighters.