Tuesday, September 30, 2008

ACL, the wrap-up

Let me apologize for not getting to this before today - I was tired, and nursing a pretty awesome sunburn Monday. I was also pretty transfixed by the bail out fail, and the Biography channel. That being said, before I launch into my impressions of the last day of ACL, some overall thoughts on the festival in general: Bring: 1. Sunscreen. I cannot stress enough the importance of it. Even if you never burn, put on the SPF 500 liberally and often. 2. Hat. One that covers your ears. I am now the owner of a straw one, that did a much better job of covering my nose and ears than my two hands and one Heineken fan did. 3. Some sort of cloth-like device that you can lay on the ground to sit on, lest you pick dead grass and leaves from your arse for the next week. 4. A jacket - it can get chilly after the sun goes down. 5. Water bottles. There's plenty of water stations in the park, so you can refill them frequently. 6. Baby wipes - because toward 9 p.m. Sunday, the toilet paper gnomes come and abscond with the TP in the portapotties, apparently. To save money, look at hotels in nearby Round Rock. The rates are a lot cheaper, and the drive is about 20 minutes or so. Also look for lots a little farther from the venue - we found one for $7 a day (as opposed to $25) and it was an easy mile or so walking to the venue. There are plenty of stands set up along the way, and there are several restaurants as well. But the parking farther way not only saved money - it also saved time. Now for Sunday. Biggest disappointment? Adele. Not that she didn't do well - but that she didn't do at all. She was one of the new acts I was looking forward to seeing live, and after hurrying to the Austin Ventures stage, we see someone that was not Adele singing music that in no way resembled what Adele does. Sad. Adele apparently canceled her U.S. shows, and was replaced by Priscilla Ahn. It seems though, that information could've been one of the numerous text messages ACL sent out, since there were a ton of rather grumbly people that just walked away once they figured out Adele wasn't on the stage. Next biggest disappointment? Much like Erykah Badu the day before, Lacey Mosely of Flyleaf talks too effing much. People became uninterested and were walking away. It was frustrating to listen to, partly because Mosely does not enunciate anything, so everything becomes this mangled "thisschongizaboutsomethingsomethingladywemet" mess. That could be forgivable, I suppose, but the sound also bit. Sound problems plagued both the AT&T stage and the Dell stage intermittently Sunday. What was interesting was how soon everyone began migrating toward the AT&T/Dell stages area to jockey for a good spot for the Foo Fighters. I think the only letup in the Moses leading the Israelites-esque stream of people toward that area was the Raconteurs set. Sheer laziness led the group I was with - for the most part - to just stay put for Gnarls Barkley instead of trecking across the Zilker park for the Raconteurs. I had seen both bands, so it was an eeny-meeny-miney-mo situation for me. Blues Traveler played a good set - when you could hear it. The bad mix board issue crept up again when they played, so - unless you were pretty darn close to the stage - it was like listening to Blues Traveler while it was playing loudly in a car - that you were standing outside of. Gnarls Barkley was decent, but didn't blow my doors off. Cee-Lo, Danger Mouse and the gang appeared in suitcoats and ties, which Cee-Lo promptly started stripping off, choosing to do most of the set in his pants and wifebeater. Cee-Lo acknowledged that his voice was a little ragged, mostly because Sunday night was the last night of their tour. Band of Horses was somewhat obscured by all the people talking and yelling to each other on their way to find a spot for the Foo Fighters show. This was my first time hearing the southern rock meets My Morning Jacket-ish band, and I wasn't disappointed. Probably another CD I'll download soon. Then came the Foo Fighters - the headlining act. Dave Grohl is quite the showman, with an affable charm that reminds you of that guy in high school that always convinced you to do something you knew would probably result in detention, and maybe even jail time, but you did it anyway. They played all the favorites, plus a few newer ones, and came out for at least two encores. Even a kid rushing the stage didn't ruffle him. "Oh, go easy on the kid," Grohl said to security as they hustled the guy off the stage. "He's just some drunken dork. He's just a student." The audience was also treated to an absolutely insane drum solo by Taylor Hawkins, as well as a hilarious but also impressive triangle solo by Drew Hester. Although he already knew the answer, Grohl kept taking the audience's temperature, asking, "Are you ready to go home yet?" "Me neither!" he'd shout gleefully before launching into another song. The irony? This is probably the last tour and album we'll hear from the Foo Fighters for a while, since Grohl announced this month that the band would be taking a long break from music. So they probably are ready to go home. Which leads me to my final point: The beauty of ACL is that, quite often, you catch a band at the cusp of something - a long break, the big break, etc. This year, we found acts on the final show of a tour (Gnarls Barkley), acts made up of rock legends (Alison Krauss and Robert Plant) and artists experiencing a second career (Jenny Lewis), for instance. That's truly one of the best things about the festival. The other best thing? The fact that ACL organizers understand that to avoid the Woodstock-esque melees you hear about at other festivals, you have to keep people happy. People will forgive an artist for being a few minutes late, or that an artist cancels, or the fact that you run out of 24 oz Lone Stars on Sunday night, if you've managed to keep the restroom facilities copious and clean, the water free-flowing, and the merchandise, food and beverages at a reasonable price. Take note, everyone else.