Saturday, September 15, 2007

ACL Fest - Day One

It ain't supposed to be pretty...but it is.

Several things happen when you stand still too long. You can let the items around start to pile up and trap you, and you can focus your energies on keeping some things pristine that are meant to get beat up a little.

I'll leave the metaphysical aspects of those ideas to those who are more able to pay for the therapy that would better address them, but in my particular case, it means I'm beating up the notebook a little bit.

I love paper. I don't put pen to it often enough (thanks Macbook!) but when I do it, I really enjoy the tactile process of getting thoughts down on pulped wood. And when I ran across Moleskine notebooks a few years ago, with their oiled covers and thick paper that soaks up the ink, well, I'd found my personal professional fetish object.

The problem was/is, I'd buy them and not use them enough. Or not be able/willing to work them into my routine, such that it is.

Not so much at ACL Fest. Sure, I've got the gadgets that go along with the modern day vagaries of infogathering (thanks M-Audio Microtrack!), but the Moleskine reporters notebook is getting the bulk of the action. It's the primary repository of info: stuffed with the ACL Fest pocket schedule, the BMI stage sked handed off by the lovely and talented Kay Clary, and notes about the 15 bands (a mere 32 percent of the overall Friday lineup) I've seen thus far.

The notebook is the thing I find myself frisking myself for most often...more than my phone, more than my wallet. It's my current lifeline, part Google, part safety blanket. And it's starting to show a little know, like it's supposed to.

I'm looking forward to using it the rest of the weekend. And then I need to look forward to continuing to use it...beat it up some more while getting back out into the world.

It ain't gonna be pretty...but it is.

Emptying said notebook:
  • Hit the festival ground right at about 1:30pm yesterday. Press check-in was a breeze, and the Staff Entrance gate took us right into the nicely appointed press area (for an outdoor festival), right behind a B-level stage (one of eight) where Joseph Arthur, the first artist PhotoLaura wanted to see, so that worked out well.
  • After Arthur, we started the trek across Zilker Park (first stop: buy a hat. My bank account is 50 bucks lighter, but one, I found something that fits, and two, doesn't make me look too stupid. And the upshot is, I'm still alive, because I would have roasted if not for said chapeau), and it was here that it was firmly established that a festival of this magnitude just couldn't work in Nashville proper. We just don't have the space for it. Acres and acres and acres of open greenspace, and just enough hill coverage that doesn't make it difficult to walk, but buffers the sound enough so there's not ridiculous bleed. Again, eight stages, and staggered start times so you can do a walk-by on all the things you want to see/hear.
  • After walk-by viewings of the Del McCoury Band and the Heartless Bastards, mainly just to get a feel for the place, came the first quasi-extended set of the day: Nashville's own Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Again, while the ACL Fest folks know what they're doing from a press aspect (a cordoned off photo pit in front of the stage where photogs can shoot the first three songs of a set), the 'Tones opening number, with extended solos by all four players, went about 10 minutes. Ah, jammity jam jam...but they're the only jam band I like, so 'twas fun to watch from Bela's feet. (Yeah, I slid in with my "media" armband...this was before the Great Photo Pit Clampdown that happened later in the afternoon.)
  • From Fleck to Hoge: After depositing Laura safely under some shade to catch a breather, I moved over to the Austin Ventures stage, a smaller venue alongside "Rock Island" smack dab in the middle of the park, to catch Will Hoge's set. Gotta support the homies...and while it wasn't humanity as far as the eye could see, Will drew in a decent sized crowd that hung around, always a dicey prospect at a fest of this size. He broke out some new material from the record coming out on Oct. 9, and did a blistering seven minute (or so) version of "Sweet Magdeline" that got the crowd buzzing. After it was over, more than a few folks were seen walking around in circles saying "Where can we get his record?"...always a good sign. Grabbed Will for a couple of seconds for a quick interview on ye olde recording gadget, which later got repurposed for radio (more in a minute), and it was clear he had some fun. Good for him...hope this label deal works a lot better than the last one.
  • Reconvened with Laura in front of Peter Bjorn and John (whoever told anyone that wearing a long sleeve shirt on stage was a good idea midday should be fired), then dipped back down into the press area where I ran into Jayson Chalfant from Lightning 100 (say it with me..."Nashville's Progressive Radio"). Didn't realize L100 was going to be doing stuff from ACL live, but it was good to see a familiar face. Asked me what was I doing, told him, he said "What are you doing at about 6pm? Why don't you come back and we'll put you on the air?" Yeah...don't have to ask me twice. Told him about the Hoge clip, played it for him, he gave it the thumbs-up and all of a sudden I'm an accidental radio correspondent.
  • Wandered back across the expanse to see Crowded House (never saw 'em live in their first incarnation, have seen 'em twice in two days in their current one) then ambled back to Press Village, listening/glancing at LCD Soundsystem and M.I.A. on the way, did the Lightning thing, availed myself of the facilities and amenities (and yes, the age old mantra of "free food tastes better" applies universally...though the first thing I ate at the festival was part of a wrap sandwich in the press area, and it was, unbeknownst to me at the outset, stuffed full of jalapenos. I sat through the whole L100 experience with my mouth on fire. Fortunately, there was a can of water [and barley and hops] that came to my aid), then headed back out into what was now a huge mass of humanity.
  • The cool thing about the 1- and 1A-level stages is that if you want to, you can park a chair at a position that would allow you to enjoy both stages (which are only going one at a time) by just rotating your position 180 degrees. Did that for the Kaiser Chiefs and The Killers, and the sound and video systems allowed for full enjoyment of both sets with only half a turn in position. Leave the jockeying for position down by the stage to the young and fully engaged fans of the band. For casual fans (or old farts, take your pick) this was the way to go.
  • Checked out after four songs from The Killers to attempt to avoid the outgoing masses, then headed with Craig (Laura's new S.O.) and his friend Rick (a fellow ACU grad) cross-country (then via cab) to Craig's truck, where we then headed to a joint called Mangia's for pizza, beer and a two-hour conversation on the current state of power pop. Three guys on the verge of and/or well past 40 debating the merits of post-Jellyfish output would have been a hilarious sight had there been anybody else in the place.
  • Back at the ranch and in the bunk by midnight, relatively unsunburned (thanks three applications of Coppertone Continuous Spray Ultra Sweatproof SPF 30!) and oddly enough, ready to do it all again.


happytheman said...

hey enough about old farts...enjoyed the manjia's and mostly the gab.

grandefille said...

Sounded great on the Lahtnin' Live, bubba. All insider-y and such. Excellent work.

Glad you got back safely!