“Keep Austin Weird” is the slogan that both draws people to and repels them away from the truly unique capitol of Texas.
Along with its quirks, Austin also holds a nationally recognized music scene and an annual festival that draws thousands of both young and old lovers of music. Austin City Limits, known to most simply as ACL, was held for the tenth year and hosted 130 bands on eight different stages in Zilker Park.
Like many college students, I had heard of the renowned ACL but did not have the opportunity to attend until last Sunday. Now, I do not claim to be an expert on the Indie rock prevalent at the festival. My wardrobe contains a few thrift store items—I think it’s wise to recycle—and I occasionally like to wear a flower in my hair. But I don’t consider myself Indie. I knew this was going to be a new experience.
After discovering there was no nearby parking, which was why most people took the shuttle, I made the trek across acres of dead grass and busy highways to the sound of beautiful music. There, I traveled past a few of the stages, each projecting its own sphere of sound until I found the place simply titled “Eats.” The food was fresh and reasonably priced to my surprise.
I caught the end of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., which had a sweet and charming sound complete with good audience interaction. Then I staked out a spot for a group that I immediately fell in love with, The Walkmen.
The backdrop to the stage—a group of can-can dancers performing in a ballroom—set the mood for the musical experience. The audience was eclectic with some dressed to the weird norms of Austin and others sticking to Gap classics. The Walkmen completed the scene with a clean-cut look in off-white suites. The sound was smooth, yet the lyrics, voice and ecstatic beats of the drummer catered more toward the rebellion of Indie rock rather than the easy listening of jazz.
The next band on our list was Broken Social Scene. The crowd was composed of a lot of college students, some drunk, others high. The band seemed to follow suite. As the sun peaked at the hottest point of the day, people, some in Indian headdresses, some shirtless, started to get restless. A cover of Modest Mouse’s “The World at Large” was the only memorable performance.
When BSS finished up, a storm cloud loomed overhead, and the crowd began to pack in like sardines for Fleet Foxes. As remarked by a concert-goer, they were like mountain men with their echoing harmonics, long beards and humble presence. The crowd swayed and danced to the purely heavenly sound.
Crowds began migrating toward the stage for Arcade Fire, so I decided to peek in on Randy Newman’s performance. As Empire of the Sun amped up theatrics, including a light show and crazy costumes, right outside, older couples with children listened calmly to the sweet, smooth jazz inside the tent. Known for his part on the soundtracks of favorite childhood movies, Newman’s tent was an odd oasis in the midst of the crazy festival.
Tens of thousands of attendees gathered to listen to Arcade Fire. The screens on stage played movie clips related to the band’s album titled “The Suburbs” and an old fashion countdown until the speakers exploded with the electric beats. All around, the crowd reacted with enthusiasm as the music reached the far edges of the park. It was something to delight in, like most of the ACL music.
So, coming as a rookie, I discovered that ACL is a musical experience for all. To keep up with new bands, check out the original show that brought about the festival on PBS and online. Mark your calendars for 2012 for the weekend of Oct. 12-14 to encounter ACL for yourself.
Sarah Greufe is a sophomore journalism major from Ardmore, Okla.