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My time in the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capitol of the World” began a few weeks before Austin City Limits Music Festival, as I spent this past summer traveling around the western US. So by the time October 1st rolled around, Austin had already spoiled me with several live music feedings, my favorites being Wavves and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (can’t wait for their next release, Paper Mache Dream Balloon on November 13) . At the same time, I was also getting pretty wore down from traveling and a few of the fiascoes that ensued. Also, this happened the night before the festival:
Basically a nasty sprained toe (which I am still recovering from since I did not rest after it happened. Lolz OOPS like I care). Nothing would stop me from seeing Tame Impala, my primary reason for being at this particular festival. I checked into my airbnb Thursday night on San Marcos Street, which was walking distance to the festival shuttles I would be utilizing. I expected that maybe there would be people up and partying as the property has 2 other rent-able rooms. Surprisingly it was quiet and I fell into a restful slumber before awaking at 9am to get ready for the festivities.
After getting ready and donning my choice accessory of the year, feather eyelashes, I limped my fabulous self to the liquor store and proceeded to purchase a bottle of pinot noir. Since I am a smart shopper, when I spotted this lovely canvas wine flask at The Record Exchange in Boise (by the way, check them out nice selection) I knew I had to have it for future festivals.
Previously, I measured that this flask could hold 3 glasses of wine. As I filled the flask in a taco restaurant bathroom, I smiled. It must have been my lucky day, because I fit the whole damn bottle in there! So my Friday started off on a good note. I then put the flask in my super special secret pocket of my backpack, grabbed my breakfast tacos and hobbled on to the shuttle. I was the last person on the shuttle and we arrived at Zilker Park, the location for the party in around ten minutes. My nervous meter clocked in at about a 4 on a scale of 1-10 while approaching security. I knew I wouldn’t get into any trouble, and the worst that would happen is that my stash would be poured out. However, I purposely brought very little cash with me thinking the flask would have me covered. I scouted the security at the bag check lines and tried to find someone young that looked nice. I got in line after spotting a short girl with shades and a ponytail that couldn’t have been over 23. She glanced into the larger zipper compartment and did not see the secret pocket I had made. However in the front compartment I had a bottle of eye drops and a tincture of lemon balm (both of which I totally forgot were in there) and she asked me to throw those away. I happily obliged.
I took a deep breath of satisfaction as I wandered into the park and studied the maps located by the gate. I had been wanting to catch Austin-based garage rockers Leopold and His Fiction at noon since I was supposed to see their pre-festival gig at Stubb’s the night before. Unfortunately I had to drive to Killeen to my (insert every bad word here) cousin’s house to retrieve my wristbands, so I had to miss it. More about dickhead cousin tomorrow. I noted that they would be playing at the Austin Ventures stage which was a hop, misstep and foot drag away. I made my way in that direction just as another local group Calliope Musicals was finishing their set of trippy party folk-rock.
This lone photo that I captured really does not do them justice especially singer Carrie Fussell.
Photo by Jay Janner
As you can see she was quite interactive with the crowd, even photographed here singing to security! Another thing I noticed immediately upon walking into the crowd was that there was some sort of dragon, akin to the chinese dragons you see in parades with 4 or 5 people supporting the body and allowing the dragon to float twist and wind, dancing in the middle of the early crowd. It was more of a cuddly monster really. I thought it must be the creation of some freaky fest goers, but as the monster-dragon floated toward the backstage and into the VIP viewing area I realized it was created by the band. I wish I had arrived sooner to catch more of their set. One track that I can recall is “The Adventurers”. With lyrics about wanting to march on Washington, then in the next verse ready to explore jungles and ride on the back of a phoenix, this band is down to do it all, vagabond style. I can also appreciate the fuzzed out guitars and their inclusion of a glockenspiel. After their set, this (cute) photographer guy was all, “Wow those are some interesting eyelashes can I take a picture of you?”, and I was all “OK YEAH!” and here is the resulting photo:
Photo by David Hall
Next up was Leopold and His Fiction, who I had been jamming to for a few weeks after exploring some of the bands on ACL’s lineup. A lot of blues/garage rock acts have a rebel spirit, but these guys just scream “OUTLAW BADASSERY” in a way that a lot of their peers don’t, while still being sharp dressed. Like old school gangsters or something. I mean that in a good way because the OGs went by a high moral code ya know. There’s even a hint of Motown, a nod to Leopold’s Detroit roots. I really like the raunchy guitars on the foot-stomper “Waves (Golden)”. “You’re the golden one” the singer crooned to the crowd. I like the sound of that, yes I’ll take it!
I would DEFINITELY see these guys again in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t be surprised if Daniel Leopold were to join the ranks of Jack White and Dan Auerbach. As it was quite hot and I was supposed to be meeting up with some people at the Samsung stage, I left a tad bit early to find my friends who were watching Meg Myers.
I was able to find the crew and entered about halfway through Meg Myers set. Now I will be honest, I listened to one of her songs before the festival and did not think I would like her very much. I was horribly mistaken. I’m not even sure what song it was but I wrote her off as a regular pop singer. So I would like to extend an apology to Ms. Myers and also an invitation to have a margarita. The pipes on this woman….it’s really almost unfair sometimes listening to a studio version of a song compared to live. SHE BRINGS IT. This is more of an intense twisted alt-pop, with Tennessee native Meg wailing and hypnotically grooving across the stage. She even picked up the bass for a few songs. So intense and considering the heat she really captivated me, to the point that I didn’t even notice I was evaporating.
The ACL video footage I’m sharing comes courtesy of Space City Shows 2. Luckily for me, a fellow music lover was positioned RIGHT in front of me and was able to capture the entire set of every act I saw on the Samsung stage that day.
I had decided that with my injury, it would be best for me to just camp out at Samsung since I really wanted to see Royal Blood (who were to be next) and Tame Impala, both playing on that stage. Plus my peoples were going to be floating in and out to catch other shows and EVENTUALLY meet up for Tame Impala (was really hard for me not to make a joke right there). I had my flask ready to go so I busted out the ‘ol vino and waited in anticipation for Royal Blood. I had “sort of” caught some of the boys back in June at Bunbury. I was waiting (again) for Tame Impala and they played a stage perpendicular to the stage my friend and I were sitting at, so we could hear everything quite well, we just didn’t have the best view. It takes a certain type of hard rock band to catch my attention, as I typically lean more towards stuff I can dance like a fairy to whilst enjoying a gentle buzz. Royal Blood has the chops to get me throwing up the devil’s horns and headbanging. They have blended enough raw bluesy elements whilst still bringing the grunge sludge and interesting instrumentation to keep me engaged. If I need to get aggro pumped, this is my love potion #9.
For a two-piece band, they had enough presence to own ACL’s largest festival stage that afternoon. The crowd went berserk for their singles “Little Monster” and “Figure It Out”. I’m no gear-head but I was curious as to how with only one stringed instrument, bassist Mike Kerr is able to create the textures and sounds of a full band. From my research I discovered that with an octave divider pedal, along with other effects equipment you can get two signals (hooked up to two or more amps) from the same instrument. Their drummer, Ben Thatcher plays with so much intensity, in an interview with Modern Drummer he recalls, “….drumsticks. I went though a time where I was snapping everything, so I didn’t really care what I was using, as I knew it would break within a few songs”. Mike even got on Ben’s kit and banged the drum a bit himself. My only disappointment is that I didn’t get one of the sticks.
The British duo finished up their set with “Out of the Black”. Kerr’s chords and Thatcher’s drum pounding were enough to hit anyone right in the gut. The drummer even took a stage dive at the end.
After expending a decent amount of precious energy for Royal Blood, I was quite happy to sit back down on my blue plaid picnic blanket with my club-toe and hit the bottle before watching Billy Idol. In that moment, I smiled to myself and thought “Aw, mom would be so jealous.” Apparently Billy was quite the babe back in the day.
Image via nightflight
Of course everyone knows at least one Billy Idol song. He is, after all, legendary. So I figured it would be a very tolerable pre-Tame Impala set. And I was right! Not only did the (still quite fit) punk playboy change outfits 3 times, he rocked that middle runway stage like no one else did that day.
It’s always fun to be up close at a festival when everyone knows the lyrics and is dancing like a mad fool. This is exactly what happened when Billy played the hits “White Wedding”, “Dancing with Myself”, and “Eyes Without Face”. Idol also performed songs from his early punk roots with Generation X. At one point, I looked to my right and say an older punk rock dude with a shaved head and leather vest with an 80’s Billy Idol shirt underneath jumping, screaming and dancing like it was his first concert. I am comforted by such moments because I plan to be the old-lady psych-rock equivalent in my later years.
Image via Leadpipe Posters
Billy seemed to be having some audio trouble when starting “Rebel Yell” and restarted twice. Upon the third try, Billy quipped “If it doesn’t work this time, I’m retiring.” No one in the crowd really seemed to be bothered by the technical difficulties and chanted along with the singer as he pumped his fist in the air, finally getting it spot on. Overall, I would recommend seeing Billy Idol with a big group of friends and making a celebration out of it. That is how it felt to be in the crowd that day, a celebration of his work and legacy.
As soon as Billy finished up, my excitement and hyperventilation increased. The crowd moved in considerably and sitting down at this point was not really an option. Many people were crowding close to see Tame Impala, but I also estimated that many Foo Fighter (the festival closer that day) fans opted to catch Billy Idol and make their swift migration to the barrier afterward. I didn’t realize how much damage I had done to the wine flask up to that point. I was feeling pretty good, and standing and waiting didn’t seem to bother my foot at all. I met an equally obsessive Tame Impala fan named Haya who snuck in behind me. We chatted about POND and Mink Mussel Creek, just two of the plethora of side bands from their collective. We discussed how we planned to scream “FUCK TREVOR” during “Less I Know the Better”, aimed at the elusive woman-thief Trevor mentioned in the song. We regretted not bringing a scarf to throw at Kevin Parker, lead singer and mastermind behind the project and often photographed with the accessory, among other fangirl conversation. This is my absolute favorite part of camping out for bands. Among the crowds of people who kind of seem to be there with no purpose or passion, you get to meet fellow nerds and talk about how you get depressed because Parker hasn’t played “Half Full Glass of Wine” live for almost a year. My friends had returned at this point though some of them were late to the party and got stuck in traffic a few rows back. I spotted fellow Perth musician and POND member Shiny Joe Ryan and the other road dogs in their white lab coats, assembling the magic onstage for the evening. I also briefly chatted with a cute couple to my left, who had run out of water and were in a dehydration situation. Luckily one of my pals had refilled my water bottle as he wandered between stages, and I was happy to share. I was on my last few sips of pinot, and having consumed a bottle of wine was feeling quite friendly. I recall of my birthday this past May, I found myself in a nearly identical situation at Shaky Knees. I consumed a $27 carafe (a full bottle) of red wine after Ryan Adams played while waiting for Tame Impala. I think I will make it tradition.
Image via Ali Express
The time was ticking away and we were Moments (get it? THE MOMENT. It’s the name of a song from Currents, their latest release) away from seeing the Aussies. I got a little dizzy from all the excitement and the booze. The background of the stage showed a spinning orb as haunting reverb echoed in the muggy air. Screams from the crowd rose in unison, welcoming the band back to Austin. Tame Impala had previously made an appearance at ACL back in 2013.
To my excitement. the familiar intro that I had heard twice earlier in the summer began. Haya and I had debated whether they would be using the same one or not. I really like this intro. However I became concerned that the set would be a near duplicate of what they had been playing on this tour. I was only able to see the Perth gang once during their Lonerism tour at Headliner’s in Louisville. So secretly I yearned that they would throw “Lucidity” into the mix or shake things up a bit. It is apparent that Kevin is changing gears in the live shows, only including “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind” off of their debut Innerspeaker.
The sun continued to shine without a passing cloud in sight as twilight approached, and Parker looked into the crowd noting, “I should’ve worn sunglasses, I regret that now”. A few songs later a member of his crew assisted the front-man and handed him some black shades. Bass player Cam Avery was all smiles and bopped along to the tunes throughout the set. Dominic (Dom) Simper, the resident synth/guitar handler remained eternally cool in the heat with a stoic aura. Also on the keys, strings and vocals, Jay Watson playfully utilized the band’s vocoder during the set, complimenting Kevin on his new lenses in an alien manner. I did not have a great view of French drummer Julian Barbagallo, but my ears were pleased at the consistent accuracy that he performs with. He has a really fluid handle on his kit. I became a little irate when I heard a drunk middle aged man to my right shouting “Dave Grohl would hate this shit.” Ahem, mister drunk jerk in fact there are only three degrees of separation between Kevin Parker and Dave Grohl. The bass player for Queens of the Stone Age, Mikey Shuman, has a side project called Mini Mansions. Mini Mansions toured with Tame Impala earlier in the summer. Dave Grohl is also a long-time collaborator of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme. So there. I hope you are reading this.
Tame Impala finished their set with “Apocalypse Dreams”, one of the most memorable moments (and my personal favorite) off of their sophomore release. As I am pretty familiar with their light show, I was pleased to see an updated backdrop that seemed to beam the viewer into deep space with the laser projections giving a takeoff effect. Although I was a bit saddened not to hear more variety in the song choices, I was nonetheless elated and in my own world of ear ecstasy for the next day or so. Dancing all day can have that effect on you.
I anticipated the crush-rush of Foo Fighter fans smushing toward the stage after TI, so I immediately looked back at my comrades and nodded, “I’m out, anyone else want to book it?” It appeared that Dave Grohl and I were in a similar predicament given our injured feet, though I would not be sitting on a royal throne for the performance. It was best for me to retire my second row spot. A few of my buddies followed suit and we weaved our way out of the masses and into open space, scanning the horizon for a spot to set up the picnic blanket, plant our Tibetan flag and unwind after what we had just experienced. After we all came back to our senses and refueled with beer and a bite to eat, I realized I had to get going soon. I had late-night tickets to Talk in Tongues at Lambert’s on 2nd Street at 10pm, and I still needed to drop by the rental and freshen up. Foo rocked on in the background and we all watched on in quiet observation, our minds shimmering in the festival daze. I had an extra ticket to the late-night show, and offered it to my friend D, who had watched their set at the festival earlier that day. Seeing that we were on a slight time constraint, after taking the shuttle back into town I decided that taking a pedicab would make my life a lot easier. Stay tuned for the next installment of Austin City Limits Festival, where I cover the Talk in Tongues show at Lambert’s and Day 2 of Weekend One!