Sunday, September 16, 2007

ACL Fest - Day Two

You can't see everything.

That's the mantra you have to keep repeating to yourself at an event like ACL. There's just too much spread out over too much geography for one music fan to be able to draw it all in.

Saturday was no exception. I had the people who I'd interviewed that I wanted to see (Raul Malo, Kelly Willis, Sara Hickman), the Farm Rock Superstar who never fails to deliver a good time (Trent Summar and the New Row Mob), and the buzz bands about which I know some but want to know more (Arctic Monkeys, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Arcade Fire).

But then there are the things you miss that you give yourself the mental slap upside the forehead, channel your inner Homer Simpson but then deal with the regret. My quick hit list Saturday: Paolo Nutini, Blue October, Andrew Bird, Beausoliel, Nashville songwriter Jeffrey Steele (who got a solid mention on the Austin American Statesman's music blog), Cross Canadian Ragweed and Aterciopelados.

I can't even look at the back half of Sunday's lineup, because I'm gonna be on a plane.

You have to look at these things as sample a lot of great menu items, you don't overstuff yourself on any one thing, and you wait till later to make a meal out of the ones you like best. And if you don't get around to taking a taste of something, there's always next time.

Notebook dump:
  • My photog du jour is a guy Laura hooked me up with named Eric Hegwer, a scientist-turned-shooter who's building a great business for himself in the Austin area. He was experiencing a rare wedding-free Saturday, so he jumped at the chance to snag a photo wristband and fire away. We plotted out a general game plan, then we pretty much went our separate ways for the day. We intersected a couple of times, and he showed me some great images. Again, it's fun to watch people having fun doing what they do...
  • Easy ingress to the festival from the Town Lake pedestrian bridge. But it was only about five minutes in when I started to channel my inner Ron Burgundy concerning my choice of shirt: "Polyester and Rayon was a bad idea."
  • Raul Malo had the right idea to combat the heat: flowing white shirt and buzz cut, and languid renditions of his material, kicking off with a downtempo version of Every Little Thing About You off his solo debut. Other highlights included a jazzy reinvention of "Cold Cold Heart" and a gritty take on "Dance The Night Away," one of my favorite Mavericks tunes.
  • It was during Malo's set that I really noticed my only primary complaint about the festival: no clear walkways. You have to dart in and out of moving, then stationary, masses of people, and people started to get chippy when you wanted to try to get past them. Usually at things like this, natural flow ways start to take shape over time. Not here. Organizers should try to plot out some ways to direct traffic flow, and I know they can do it in a non-disruptive fashion.
  • Speaking of non-disruptive, the whole visual design and layout of the festival grounds is that way. Everything is consistent and well thought out, whereas most festival approaching this size would have gaudy vendors plopped down right in the middle of it, breaking up the natural rhythm. The food vendors (not carnival stuff, but booths featuring Austin's finest eateries) and the merchandise tents are on the periphery of the grounds, so as not to break up the focus on the music. If you want to ignore commerce, you can; if you want to focus on food, all your choices are right there in front of you. Kudos to the festival's designers.
  • Austin's own Sara Hickman typified the response the local acts got when they took their respective stages; you could see people who were clearly fans and clearly happy to see their hometown folks draw good-sized crowds. Sara responded by giving gifts to the crowd, chucking beach balls into the crowd and encouraging their frequent use. I remember Sara fondly from her post-label trauma Necessary Angels record and a quirky side project called the Domestic Science Club, and while she retreated to the world of children's music for a few years after garnering a child of her own, she's back with a record for grown-ups, some of which she showcased Saturday. Oddly enough, she closed the set with a tune called "Are We Ever Gonna Have Sex Again?" which, while it isn't for children, it certainly is about them.
  • During Sara's set, I headed to the aforementioned food court (though it feels wholly inadequate to call it that), and made the quasi-unfortunate choice to grab a sliced beef sandwich from the Stubb's BBQ tent. It But at least I can say I've had barbecue on the trip...and didn't have to fight the crowd at the late night Dylan show at the venue proper later Saturday night.
  • After Sara's set came the first "Holy Crap" moment of the day, when I turned the corner and saw that the valley between the AMD and AT&T Blue Room stages was wall-to-wall people for Cold War Kids, and it was only 3:30 in the afternoon. This did not bode well for the evening acts. I spun on my heels and headed back to the press area only slightly terrified, but mainly because I needed to stock up on water.
  • Mid-afternoon saw the natural trifecta of Steve Earle, Trent Summar and Zap Mama (and yes, there's sarcasm there), and then I did round two of Lightning 100's ACL wrap-up show, which was fun. No jalapenos before showtime this time, so it was just the external heat making me slightly uncomfortable.
  • Two words only the Reverend will appreciate: No chafing. (Thanks Gold Bond!)
  • Headed back out around 6:45 to wander: Kelly Willis playing the song "Wrapped," which her husband Bruce Robison wrote, they both recorded and George Strait made into a huge hit. (Side note: both Robison boys, Bruce and Charlie, outpunted their coverage as far as mates are concerned, Bruce with Kelly, Charlie with Emily from the Dixie Chicks. I'm just sayin'...)
  • Twilight time was the start of the purposeful social experiment. Positioning myself behind the soundboard of the inactive Blue Room stage, which was setting up for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, I could witness the tail end of the Arctic Monkeys set, while watching the crowd start to filter over for CYHSY, and then the plan was to catch a few songs here, then see how the journey would be to a similar spot across the way for Arcade Fire. Any hard data to report? Not really, other than people tend to make a hole when they see a behatted six-and-a-half-foot man striding their way.
  • CYHSY is hard to describe. Nerdcore, as a descriptor, doesn't really do it for me. Gonna need to spend some time with the record...or at least the streaming files off Rhapsody.
  • Made my way to said spot on the much-nicer appointed soundboard for Arcade Fire...and it was then I realized I'd hit the wall. Texted Craig and Eric re: extraction points, repositioned myself closer to the exits, and watched two songs from the Canadian imports before heading out. Again the buffet analogy comes into play...I want to make a meal out of an Arcade Fire show, but this was not the time nor place to do it.
  • Easy egress as well, then a quick meal at El Arroyo, fulfilling my TexMex requirement via the Enchiladas Del Mar. Head back to HQ for the evening, rest, relax, recharge, rinse, repeat...


dp said...

What - no mention of Los Aterciopelados? Don't leave me hanging Lucas!

Lucas Hendrickson said...

There's a mention, dp, right there in the "D'oh" section. I didn't get around to seeing them, though according to the AAS music blog, I should have...