The first time I went to ACL in 2004, the festival was way smaller. This year was my fifth time attending, and being a part of the first two-weekend format felt very special.
As soon as I walked through the gates, I was lured all the way across the field by Savages’ bewitching performance. Their performance was as dark and thunderous as the rain clouds looming overhead, making me nervous for how the rest of the day would go. I couldn’t help but wonder why Savages was playing directly adjacent to Austin Kiddie Limits and chuckled to myself as I imagined their reactions.
I left Pinback’s set at the Bud Light Stage early to get a good spot for Local Natives. The five of them came out on stage dressed in clothes that looked like they were all from Urban Outfitters. The band informed the crowd that the night before that they invited their touring bassist, Nik Ewing, to join the band and that this was their last United States date on tour. After watching my favorite song of theirs, “Colombia,” I headed off for some much needed relaxation and whiskey.
After seeing one Depeche Mode song that was super boring, I went to Muse. Even though I have seen them twice before, I’ll never miss a Muse show. Front man Matthew Bellamy channeled Jimi Hendrix in a surprisingly ballsy, but only semi-cool, rendition of the National Anthem.
Day two had a lot of potential but sacrifices had to be made. Seeing Kendrick Lamar up close was my only objective for the day.
I got to the festival later than I had expected because of a massive hangover. I tried to power walk past slower attendees, but despite my efforts, only managed to catch half of Portugal. The Man.
Determined to see Kendrick Lamar, I forced my way to the front of the crowd at the Honda Stage, only to find it occupied exclusively by a pack of high school kids asking me for alcohol. I waited in that sweaty, preteen crowd for an hour, praying to the rap gods to send me the prophet Kendrick Lamar. Lamar opted to use a medley approach instead of performing full songs. He played most of last year’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d city, to the delight of myself and the teenyboppers alike.
I pushed my way out of the children’s playground a wiser man, though I was covered in sweat and germs. I saw The Cure play a few songs before I decided that I didn’t want to look at a fat, old man with goth makeup anymore (sorry Robert Smith). Kings of Leon was killing it at their stage and I managed to get surprisingly close to see the last 30 minutes of their set. They closed with “Use Somebody,” as the clouds broke open and poured rain on the huge crowd. It’s the moments like that which make ACL worth all of the struggles.
I woke up at 10:30 a.m. on what should have been day three of ACL and stared at one of the most devastating text messages I’ve ever received: “Omggg they cancelled ACL.”
ACL had never been cancelled before, it just didn’t seem possible.
I laid in bed in nonviolent protest until 3:00 p.m., when my roommates were determined to get me out of my funk with the one thing that always cheers me up: Chinese food. Things started looking up. Then I remembered the ACL Official After Shows and that, most importantly, Waka Flocka Flame would be playing with Borgore and Steve Aoki.
I entered Austin Music Hall a little late and saw Flocka’s huge frame in the crowd, pushing his way around just as his DJ started playing “No Hands.” I yelled and offered a prayer to the Based God for giving me this opportunity.
After Waka Flocka Flame’s performance, another revelation hit me: Atoms For Peace was playing right down the street.
I ran the four blocks to the Moody Theatre through a light mist and could hardly breathe, more from excitement rather than exhaustion, and I threw my money at the ticket clerk. I ran up the stairs and burst into the venue to witness Thom Yorke, Flea and three other, less-notable musicians perform their strangs, rhythmic alternative rock. The performance was incredbile.
In spite of the weather taking my dreams of day three away, I had a great day. I had one of those nights where you think the city is built just for you, and that the entire world revolves around your happiness.