Austin City Limits Festival (ACL Festival) felt like a repeat of weekend two last year. There was plenty of rain overnight on Saturday… just like last year. Except conditions were not nearly as bad and officials were able to get Zilker Park ready for the approximately 70,000 people who came to see Pearl Jam, Lorde, The Replacements, Iggy Azalea, The Avett Brothers, AFI and more acts at Austin’s largest music festival which concluded Sunday evening after six days of performances and countless after shows.
This year ACL Festival was not exactly a repeat of last year’s fiasco. Sunday was not cancelled but there were consequences from the overnight storm on Friday. Saturday gates opened an hour late while crews scrambled to drain flooded areas and spread mulch over excessively muddy patches. The late start meant four bands, Riders Against the Storm, The Chain Gang of 1974 and Wesley Bray and the Disciples of Joy had their sets cancelled. Overall festival organizers did a fantastic job of ensuring conditions were safe and fans could enjoy the experience.
Saturday we caught most of Interpol’s set at the Honda Stage amid a fair amount of muck. The west end of Zilker was generally muddier than the opposite side of the park. This did not dissuade festival goers from crowding in front of the indie-rockers from New York City. The band’s first album in four years, “El Pintor” just dropped last month.
The group has visited Austin frequently on past tours, often playing at Stubb’s BBQ. This was the first time we caught Interpol on a big festival stage. Band leader, Paul Banks (originally from England) and the boys played beautifully. The performance matched the cloudy, muddy setting well. We were already fans of Interpol and their set at ACL Fest cemented our love of this foursome who are often compared to Joy Division and similar post-punk acts.
Say Hello to the Angels
Not Even Jail
All the Rage Back Home
We planned to catch Lucius again after Interpol but dinner got in the way so we cut our losses and hustled over to the Zilker Tent for Beats Antique. Visually this world-percussion oriented band is fun to watch. Along with the world beats and electronic sounds, beautiful belly dancer Zoe Jakes entertained the crowd under the rather dry tent (most stages had wet ground) with sultry dance moves and a dramatic costume with stunning makeup.
Be sure to view some of the images our photographer Suzanne Cordeiro captured of the performance. You will also find amazing shots by her of Lorde, The Replacements, The Avett Brothers and lots more ACL Festival weekend two artists. If her shot of Lorde tossing her hair around during her show is not the best image of the singer from New Zealand, we do not know what is.
From the tent we ended up at the Miller Lite stage for Broken Bells. We had not seen the group perform live prior to their Saturday ACL Fest slot. It was a bit surprising how much we liked their sound in a festival setting. Not only was the guitar-driven sound good, some songs were simply mesmerizing. Perhaps we underestimated how much we would like a “supergroup” comprised of James Mercer (The Shins) and Brian Burton (Danger Mouse).
The pink and purple inflatable balls they released into the audience during set closer, “Trap Doors” added a nice visual element to the sunset show. Thousands of fans batted the large and small balls which slowly floated through the air as the sun dropped below the horizon behind the crowd.
Broken Bells have been playing similar set lists throughout their tour. While a complete setlist was unavailable for Saturday’s rousing performance, we found a copy of their Lollapalooza gig in Chicago last month.
Set list (from Lollapalooza 8/1)
The Ghost Inside
After the Disco
The Mall & Misery
Holding On for Life
The High Road
Sunday (day six if you are keeping track at home) began slow for Examiner. Basically, both our photographer and writer were running on fumes the last day of ACL Fest. Our first set was Johnnyswim at the BMI Stage around 4 p.m. The soulful group played well albeit to a small crowd while media and other guests of High Brew Coffee enjoyed the cold brew maker’s happy hour. We need to see Johnnyswim again (perhaps at their own headlining show) before giving a complete review.
Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) played on the Austin Ventures Stage following our stop at BMI. We listened to her wonderful voice as we waded through mud and crowds to hear the end of Phantogram’s Miller Lite set. We have seen Phantogram twice. Once at SXSW and once this past weekend. We saw partial sets both times and like the popular electronic duo. Perhaps this act is better on recordings where the listener can hear the nuances of the gorgeous psych-pop made by Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter clearly?
While we ponder the possibility that Phantogram is still perfecting their live set, we will move on to the singer everyone wanted to talk about weekend two, Lorde. The popular pop performer from New Zealand was inexplicably booked on the smaller Retail Me Not Stage when she easily could have accommodated more fans at either main stage, Honda or Samsung. We grabbed some great photos of Lorde for our slideshow and saw how devoted Lorde’s fan base is to her sound. The area in front of the stage was overflowing with fans. For an artist so young, Lorde has massive appeal.
Her 13-song set included a cover of Kanye West song, “Flashing Lights.” Lorde predictably held back hit, “Royals” until near the end of the set, singing tracks, “Yellow Flicker Beats” and “Team” to close out the performance.
Glory and Gore
White Teeth Teens
Flashing Lights (Kanye West cover)
Yellow Flicker Beat
Weekend two ended the same way weekend one did, at the Samsung Galaxy Stage for Pearl Jam. Given the stature and talent of this band it was the only option with DJ Calvin Harris playing opposite PJ. Set highlights included an extended jam during hit, “Evenflow” and a cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly.” The Who just announced a 50th Anniversary tour with a stop in Austin at the Erwin Center April 27 next year. The cover was timely and appropriate.
Pearl Jam did not disappoint either weekend. The legendary rockers led by Eddie Vedder have turned in our top Sunday headliner sets ever at Austin City Limits Festival both in 2009 and this year. It is not only Vedder’s characteristic voice and energy but the sheer talent of Mike McCreedy, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament and Matt Cameron cannot but underestimated. Both headlining sets went over the allotted 2 hours the band was scheduled for as Pearl Jam strived to give fans value for their money.
Pearl Jam delivered a hit filled set that had fans singing along at every opportunity as the set list below indicates. Pink Floyd cover, “Interstellar Overdrive” was a sweet addition. The fact that Pearl Jam’s set lists from weekend one to weekend two were vastly different was impressive too. Now if we can only get them to record another Austin City Limits TV episode…
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
Interstellar Overdrive (Pink Floyd cover)
Mind Your Manners
Given to Fly
Do the Evolution
Baba O’Riley (The Who cover)
Yellow Ledbetter (Mike McCready guitar solo of “The Star Spangled Banner” in the style of Jimi Hendrix outro)