Another steamy and searing weekend blanketed Austin as fans flocked to Zilker Park for the 11th annual Austin City Limits music festival. For three glorious days attendees were sonically bombarded with indie and alternative royalty like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Black Keys, The Avett Bros., Neil Young, Iggy & the Stooges and Gotye.
Day one of the festival opened with energetic indie acts like He’s my Brother, She’s my Sister and the Wombats only to be followed by Patrick Watson, who joyously laughed throughout his performance of tracks from his latest album, “Adventures in Your Own Backyard.” Ben Howard soon took to the searing Honda stage after, squinting into the sun as he sang his own soulful songs like “Old Pine” and “The Wolves.”
Alabama Shakes and Florence + the Machine ascended to their respective stages just as the sun was setting. Florence Welch glowed as the sun glinted off of her red hair and radiated from her green eyes. She was a vision, impossible to deny as she beckoned the crowd to offer up its “human sacrifices” during “Rabbit Heart.” Dozens of ladies were raised to the sky as the sun kissed the horizon and then disappeared.
M83 took to the Barton Springs stage as the moon climbed into the sky. Those who chose to watch their set felt as if they were watching a vision from the far-off galaxy itself as the notorious M83 “monster” slowly walked onto the stage, raised its arms and shone lasers from its fingers over the crowd. The band then followed the monster and performed unforgettable versions of “Midnight City,” “Reunion” and “We Own the City.” After their set, a loneliness set in that can only be found after a long journey across the universe with a galactic shoegaze band, but it was quickly replaced with the elation of the choice between watching the Black Keys or dancing the night away with AVICII and his giant head of a stage.
Wearied from the long day of amazing music, the sunburned ACL attendees trudged in for round two on Saturday. Thankfully, the day started off soothing and cloudy as Bombay Bicycle Club and Zola Jesus prepped the crowd for a day of intense music. The Whigs and Big K.R.I.T. soon shook the AMD and Honda stages, a warning rumble for the acts that would soon perform in Zilker Park. Metric’s Emily Haines and her crew owned the AMD stage, powering through tracks from “Synthetica” as a welcoming drizzle fell over the crowd. Meanwhile, across the grounds, a sickly Andrew Bird was battling through his own set. Shortly after, the clouds gave way and rain bombarded the park, turning the ground into a mud pit for the duration of the weekend.
The storm did not stop Punch Brothers from claiming the Austin Ventures stage as Genius Grant winner Chris Thile and his bluegrass brothers played to the crowd hiding under umbrellas and tents near and far. Meanwhile, fans at the Bud Light stage boldly braved the elements to dance along with The Roots.
The weather subsided as the day subtly faded to night and Gotye claimed the Barton Springs stage. Wouter “Wally” De Backer ran back and forth across the masochistically musical maze, utilizing pianos and percussion instruments strewn about to imitate the strange beats from his records. The main attraction came near the end of his set as the crowd roared a welcome to Kimbra, who sauntered out onto the stage for her part in the wildly popular track, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” As if Friday night could not be topped, Saturday ended with living legends Jack White flanked by his all-girl band and Neil Young playing at nearly the exact same time. The weekend was turning out to be absurdly legendary for the lucky 75,000 fans in the crowd.
The sun rose on Sunday on a surprisingly gorgeous day, and Kimbra started the day off with a bang at the Honda stage. She wailed and pranced around stage with her tambourine like some sort of indie cheerleader, pumping the fans up for a ground-shaking performance from NEEDTOBREATHE. The most memorable moment of their set, and possibly even the best cover of the weekend, was their rock ’n’ roll rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” amid a constant stream of bubbles from a fan with an endless supply in the crowd. Indie acts the Bad Books (Kevin Devine and Andy Hull’s latest project), the Civil Wars and Two Door Cinema Club were the main attractions before headliners The Avett Bros/ and Iggy & the Stooges performed. Iggy Pop was a sight to see, especially when the aged king of punk rock invited a few lucky members of the crowd to storm the stage and dance with him. He blazed through versions of “Raw Power,” “Search and Destroy” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and finally the Red Hot Chili Peppers claimed the Bud Light Stage. “Raw Power” was likely written by Iggy Pop just for them, as Anthony Kiedis and Flea lept over the stage and nearly incited a riot among the crowd as they surged forward to the sounds of “Can’t Stop” and “Otherside.” It was an overwhelming amount of energy unlike any other act that somehow filled the large stage with its sheer force.
ACL proved to be one of the best festivals of the season by far—hands down. Whether next year can top the epicness of legends like Iggy Pop and Anthony Kiedis taking the stage within hours of one another must be determined over the course of the now two-weekend-long festival next year. Until then, in the words of Neil Young, keep on rockin’ in the free world.