In 2010, at my first ACL festival, I saw Vampire Weekend & Muse. Three years later, at my last ACL as a UT student, I saw….Vampire Weekend and Muse. In fact, mid-00s nostalgia seemed to be the theme of the first day as other high profile acts included Jimmy Eat World, Arctic Monkeys and the Queens of the Stone Age.
My day started off around 1 at the Galaxy Stage to watch Widowspeak, who I later interviewed (check the paper next week). Vocalist Molly Hamilton dazed the crowd with her dreamy voice, and provided a very nice soundtrack to kick off the hot afternoon. I missed Savages, but saw that they were clad in all black, which seemed too hot for the Texas heat.
I saw about half of Jimmy Eat World’s set, and the whole thing transported me to middle school days. They played three songs from Futures, their 2004 album, including “Pain” and “Work”. “Sweetness” and “A Praise Chorus” came later, but the newer songs didn’t hit as hard. Jimmy Eat World are getting older, but the band also came across as pros, which reminded me how much I love their old albums and how little I cared about their post-2005 material.
I caught a bit of Smith Westerns, who sounded better than I remembered before begrudgingly heading to fun., who my cousins wanted to see. fun. were good performers live, playing a mix of songs from both albums, but all the qualities that bother you on record are only amplified when you see them live. They definitely worked the crowd over, and it was strange to have them playing at 4 p.m.
I’m still not sure why Vampire Weekend isn’t headlining festivals yet. The always-consistent band made a strong case, as they played an energetic 16 song set over the course of an hour, pulling in material from each of their albums. They went from song to song so quickly that they barely even gave the audience a chance to catch their breath. New songs like “Step” and “Unbelievers” sounded great, even if they didn’t receive the enthusiasm of classics like “Oxford Comma” or “A-Punk.” The set was lively, only slowing down for great performances of “Ya Hey” and then “Hannah Hunt” just as the sun was descending. All of the fan favorites got played, even non-singles like “Campus” and “California English”. As the band said goodbye to my personal favorite track, “Walcott,” we all knew it was a special set. I was also the stereotypical super fan shouting along the words to every song, so I may be a little biased.
Kaskade looked like fun from far away, but the most shocking part was how large the crowd was. I then caught a few songs of Arctic Monkeys’ set, watching singer Alex Turner do his best impression of a 60s rockstar. Some older hits like “I Bet You Look Good on The Dancefloor” and “Florescent Adolescent” sounded great, but they closed with a pair of newer songs that didn’t quite resonate. From the brief moments I saw, Queens of The Stone Age sounded fine. Josh Homme has great stage presence, but it was fascinating to see how a band with a number one album on the charts this summer couldn’t draw a larger crowd than Kaskade.
Afterwards, I went to see Depeche Mode, which was very crowded. For a large part of the show, singer David Gahan was unsuccessfully attempting to get the audience to interact. After 50 minutes, I wondered if ACL had made the right choice booking them as headliners. Then a pair of familiar chords rang out, and the band started playing “Enjoy The Silence.” They followed with a slowed down version of the intro to “Personal Jesus.” But the minute David sang “reach out and touch faith” and that legendary guitar riff played, everyone lost it. It was definitely one of the bet moments of the festival, one that the band couldn’t live up to again during their obligatory encore. The closest they came was an energetic version of “Just Can’t Get Enough.” It was a great set, but maybe one that would be better served by an audience who was just there to see them.
Finally, I saw the end of Muse from far away, and it sounded good, but not good enough to win me over.