Featured Image by Lindsay Krause
Image via seatgeek
When I arrived at my rented room after the Day Wave/Talk in Tongues late nite show at Lamberts, I was pretty buzzed. I found my temporary roommates who had rented room #2 of the airbnb passed out. The girl was in the bathroom, asleep and sitting on the toilet. The other, her brother I later came to find out, was in a slumber on his bed with the door opened. So I did the polite thing and helped the fellow party animal in the bathroom onto the couch and gave her a blanket. I felt so grown-up. Promptly afterward, I sprawled out on my own mattress and was totally knocked out.
Day one of my Austin City Limits Festival experience went very well. I had my wine flask, my friends, my Tame Impala, and my wristband. On Day 2 I had to deal with a lot of bullshit getting into the festival.
I awoke around 9am on Saturday morning from a group text of fellow ACL attendees buzzing with excitement about the day ahead. My estimated sleep time was around 6 1/2 hours, so not too bad considering I had attended a late-nite show. There was no dreaded hangover, but I was a bit sunburned and drowsy. “Time to ante up!” I thought. I dragged myself into the shower and contemplated how I could disguise my “I’ve been out every night for the past month” under-eye circles. I decided to go with the usual plan, which I like to call, The Glitter Explosion.
I was also sure to don my snazzy silk printed bell-bottoms. I like them because it feels like you’re not wearing pants. My sprained toe was aching quite a bit, but I didn’t have time to worry about all that or the wine flask, so I popped some ibuprofen and headed out the door, prepared to hail a pedicab once again. After I walked down the street for about a block, VOILA! The pedicab had received my telepathic message and delivered me to the shuttle.
Now, I am going to try and keep the fiasco that ensued very brief. Basically, my cousin got a hold of my Saturday wristband and I did not know. I should have sorted the issue out the day before and it would have saved me a lot of trouble and pathetic tears. The first person I talked to at the box office basically said I was screwed, because my dickhead cousin sold the wristband to someone else and registered it under a different name. That person was already inside the festival. Even though I had the confirmation number and email receipt, this lady was not going to let me in. I was finally able to get in after my friend who had a media pass met me at the box office and told me to play it cool. Since the person who registered my wristband had linked their debit card to the wristband for cashless transactions, I would be permitted to enter under the assumption that whenever that person attempted to make a purchase they would be red-flagged and kicked out. The original purchaser trumps all is what the general rule is. So shout out to all that helped me to get in and enjoy Day 2!
Feeling very relieved, I wandered in just as Father John Misty’s set was about to begin. The singer-songwriter, also known as J. Tillman, played at Bunbury festival in June. I had planned on seeing him then, but got stuck in line for an hour waiting to enter the festival grounds. Needless to say, I was very pleased to finally get to experience the Sub Pop artist live. I met up with a friend over at the Miller Lite Stage and prayed that he would play “Holy Shit” off of his most recent album, I Love You, Honeybear. Since my foot was wrapped up, I opted out of venturing closer to the stage and settled for a center spot about 12 rows back under a Texan flag.
FJM began his 2pm set with “I Love You Honeybear”. I threw my hands in the air and swayed, cooing the lyrics to my non-existent sweetheart. In typical Tillman fashion, the singer got on the drum kit and leaped into the air, before crashing to his knees and belting out his poetry. The former Fleet Foxes member also gifted one very lucky front-row attendee a priceless selfie on their cell phone and reached out into the adoring crowd. Father John is known for his lyrically riveting indie folk and stage antics, often mingling with the crowd and making sarcastic quips throughout his set. As I looked around, I got the sense that those unfamiliar with the artist didn’t quite know what to make of him under the relentless sun that afternoon. He and his band ripped through the country-fried energetic tune “I’m Writing a Novel”. At this point, the heat and lack of hydration was starting to take it’s toll on me. I turned to my friend and told him I was going to roll out, and we planned to meet up for Unknown Mortal Orchestra later. “I’m gonna turn up the vibe now with a sarcastic meta-ballad about despair,” the folkie joked before beginning “Bored in the U.S.A.” As I wandered out of the crowd, I could feel my glitter disguise melting a bit under the heat. Pulling down my shades, I sang along passionately “THEY GAVE ME A USELESS EDUCAAAATION”, as a few amused lawn chair relaxers glanced over and chuckled.
I was starving and craving a cider. My food choice for the day was the vegetarian samosa dish with mango chutney from Lamba’s Indian Food. It was delicious, and hit the spot. I noted that it was a little more crowded compared to the previous day, but nothing unbearable. After filling my water bottle and grabbing a drink, I heard americana strummers Houndmouth in the distance over at the Austin Ventures stage. It was perfect timing. I had been wanting to see them for awhile, and I also needed to get a good spot at that stage to get front-row for Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
Photo by Peter Blackstock
I arrived to a sizable crowd during “Honey Slider”, a cut off of the newest Houndmouth album Little Neon Limelight. There were many lawn chairs and blanket sitters that were, in my opinion, a little too close to the stage. “We’re not at a 4th of July picnic people. It’s only 3:30 and you are cramping my style” I thought. I estimated that I was at least 20 rows back, and this simply would not do. It was difficult for me to advance closer to the stage with an injured foot and what seemed like a maze of obstacles. Finally, I settled in about 9 rows back after the Indiana based band finished up their popular song “Sedona”. The crowd at this performance was one of the better ones I experienced at the festival (the people that were standing and dancing, anyway). Many fans cheerfully sang along and danced their little hearts out. I looked down and noticed a white poodle in front of me, hoping that the pup wouldn’t accidentally step on my toe. It’s owner, a stylishly dressed woman with hot pink pants, retro shades and a black cowboy hat, picked up the dog and rocked to the music. One thing that I enjoy about this group is the vocal trade-off between guitarist Matt Myers and keyboardist Katie Toupin, though at times the whole band sings together. On the acoustic ballad “Gasoline”, showcasing the vocals of Toupin, she warns “Gasoline, it don’t burn as fast as me poor boy”. Houndmouth closed their set with a fun and lovely cover of “Runaround Sue”, by 60’s singer Dion. I don’t think a lot of bands could pull that one off!
I attempted to take some photos during the set, but because of the lighting at this stage (which I had problems with the previous day trying to photograph Calliope Musicals and Leopold and His Fiction), none of them turned out. Also, my phone was about to die. I hoped my friend would still find me for Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
I started following the group sometime between their sophomore record II, and latest work Multi-Love. The new album saw a shift from their crunchy, fuzzier lo-fi origins to dance-able tracks that draw more from soul and R&B. However, singer and New Zealand born guitarist Ruben Nielson has maintained the star-dusted, mellow mood the jams often evoke. As the crowd thinned out after Houndmouth, I quickly made my way to the barrier and was able to get to second row. I pulled out my trusty blanket and tried to take up enough space for my friend and I. I glanced over and noticed a girl with a tie-dyed “Stop Being Useless, Start Being Pizza” tank looking around for a good spot. She planted herself to my left, and somehow we ended up talking about our adoration of Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. She was from Santa Barbara, CA and had a chance to catch the galactic groovers earlier in the year. Soon after, a hilarious tiny brunette sat down behind me and immediately began telling me of her difficulty trying to get into the festival today. I laughed “Me too!” and we exchanged crazy stories. She also really loved UMO and seen them before, so the three of us had the terrific idea to have a smoke. My buddy showed up and offered to grab me a beer before the band started. I knew this was about to be a very fun show considering my proximity to the stage, the company I was in, and how ready I was to get down. We could see the band as they set up and did a quick sound check.
My partner in crime appeared with my brew, and we all stood up before we heard the opening sunny synth notes to “Like Acid Rain”. “I really hope they play ‘From the Sun’!” I mentioned to pizza girl. The four of us began cut loose and let the music carry us away. I heard the tingly opening to “From the Sun”, off of II, and grinned. “If you need to, you can get away from the sun”, Ruben chanted. It seemed appropriate for what I had been through earlier at Father John Misty. A few songs into the set, what appeared to be a totally wasted member of the crowd who was upfront and center began yelling “TURN UP THE BASS!!!!” like a bro in-between songs. It was totally disrespectful and the girls and I started to get a little pissed. Ruben and the bass player, Jake Portrait, gave the guy confused looks. Pizza babe had told me earlier that when she saw Glass Animals at the Samsung stage, there were Drake fans camping out on the barrier with their back turned. When the band began to play, THEY DIDN’T STAND UP OR EVEN TURN AROUND. Was the Drake/Bassnectar/Deadmau5 trifecta attracting rude and inexperienced assholes? I’ll let you make the call on that one. All I know is that is totally uncool, and aren’t the bass freaks supposed to be super fun and strung out on mollie?
Unknown Mortal Orchestra continued their set, though the energy in the crowd shifted again after the idiot parade erupted once more, and I heard someone further back say “Play some hip-hop!” “ARE YOU SERIOUS? Is that really what’s going down right now?” tiny brunette asked me with a horrified look on her face. I am pretty sure I yelled “Shut the Fuck Up”. Yes, yes I did. Of all the concerts, events, shows, festivals, I had encountered more lunacy today than ever. It wouldn’t have mattered who was onstage that day, these low-life newbies were everywhere and clearly had no passion or respect for any music to act like that. At one point, Ruben climbed on top of a giant stack of speakers, swinging his legs as if he was contemplating while singing. I read other reviews that said that the band “didn’t seem interested” or “didn’t try and work the crowd”, as if the band was being lazy. Well, when several people in the crowd were being drunk and overtly aggressive for no reason, why exactly would they want to? To me, these reviewers “didn’t seem interested” in providing the whole story and “didn’t want to address that certain artists bring in more assholes in proportion to the normal percentage of assholes”. Apart from one maybe too-long keyboard loop, UMO did exactly as they should’ve, kept the peace and brought the funk. The songs were sung with passion, and each member shined in their own way. The sets 2 closing tracks were strong, one being the psych-ballad “Multi-Love”, Ruben’s recollection of a year long polyamerous relationship between, he, his wife, and a girl he met while in Japan (via Pitchfork). The crowd danced and sang along to the final song and what some called the song of the summer, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”, bringing the energy back after the bizarre shouting earlier. I was saddened that the performance wasn’t longer, but was elated that I at last got to see them play. I parted ways with my friend with whom I caught FJM and my new smoke buddy, and pizza babe and I decided to stick together and re-calibrate.
As we headed toward the food stands about 15 minutes later, we weren’t paying very attention, but the bass player we had just seen with Unknown Mortal Orchestra rolled by us in a golf cart. “Great set!”, my girlfriend shouted and waved to him, turning around. Jake, in a black t-shirt and black sunglasses, smiled and waved back “Thanks!”.
The rest of the day was pretty anti-climatic for me. There was no one else I was really aching to see, so my new friend and I decided to chill in the grass first at TV on the Radio (whom I do really enjoy, but I had already seen them once this past May), then for Alabama Shakes. I had a good view of the Shakes on the jumbo screen, and the bluesy crooning of front woman Brittany Howard relaxed me as we watched the sun set.
There was this really weird moment, as we were walking later in the night, that p.b. and I realized everyone around us was underage. Still a bit blazed, we joked that we were stuck is some sort of weird parallel universe where we were the only people over the age of 21. I kid you not, minutes later a young couple approached us, politely begging us to buy them each a beer. We looked at each other in shock. It wasn’t the twilight zone, it was reality! Pizza babe smiled, rolling her eyes taking the money. It was too funny. She then had to head over by the colorful flags at the festival entrance to find her friend she lost earlier. We hugged, said our goodbyes, and I opted to get a little phone charge before heading towards the gates.
I wish that I had gotten to attend Day 3 of the festival to see Kurt Vile and the Violators and The Strokes, but I had to return home. Leaving Austin was a sad moment for me, and especially more sad because I took a greyhound bus to Illinois. The trip was 24 hours long. In case you have never experienced that, it’s kind of awful. But I am a soulja and if I gotta cut corners to make the magic happen, I will. I am thankful for all of the beautiful, amazing people I met at the festival and to be able to find my friends in the crowds! Although the trend of jackasses yelling rudely at festivals doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, I’m glad Day two ended well enough after a rough start. Much love Austin and I can’t wait until we reunite!