While many round the country are going to Oktoberfest events and starting to plan for Halloween, the thoughts of people in Austin are on Austin City Limits Music Festival aka ACL Fest. Whether it you are attending it, wishing you can afford it, or complaining about how bad traffic is going to be, there is no avoiding mention of the festival. For many, this is something to look forward to all year. For its 15th year celebration, the festival is bringing a pretty diverse lineup over two weeks and has revamped the setup of the park to include another main stage, an additional entrance, and other improvements.
The first day of any festival is going to get the most amounts of fans earlier in the day and this Friday was no exception. Playing the noon slot were country veterans Asleep at the Wheel. Though the crowd was still filing in, the set was full of energy and lead singer Ray Benson bantered with the audience and poked fun of Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln commercial before launching into “Hot Rod Lincoln”.
Scottish indie rockers Frightened Rabbit garnered the first sizable crowd of the day. Lead singer Scott Hutchison joked often with the crowd and commented on the weather, “It’s a motivation to become more famous, so we can play at night.” He also called out festival-goers that just go to be social and don’t care about the music. Much of their set consisted of songs from their new album Painting of a Panic Attack, but with a healthy dose of older material added in for good measure.
Over at the smaller BMI stage, Cleveland’s Welshly Arms wowed those in the audience with their combination of blues-rock and soul. Their sound ran the spectrum from the soulful “Legendary” to the bluesy “Love in a Minor Key”. Lead singer Sam Getz’s vocals were supported on stage by two backup singers that frequently did choreographed dances while those in the audience did some decidedly less coordinated dancing.
Canadian indie-folk rockers The Strumbellas showed the festival-goers that they have much more to offer than their breakout hit ”Spirits”. Playing mostly material from their new album Hope had many in the crowd dancing and singing along to their “wall of sound” approach to folk rock.
Meanwhile, Tuareg musician Bombino and his band had the Tito’s Vodka tent packed to overflowing. The world music that Bombino brings from his home country of Niger, and more importantly the nomadic Tuareg tribes, is a sort of blend of blues, rock, salsa, and reggae that is hard to pigeonhole into a genre.
As the sun began to set, two different electronic artists took the stage on opposite ends of the park. Die Antwoord took to the stage in matching orange sweat suits to do their Zef rap-rave performance. After performing “We Have Candy” the duo went through a few costume changes and various stages of undress. Meanwhile, on the opposite stage Flying Lotus performed his DJ set that consisted mainly of himself behind some screens. While Die Antwoord’s set was more about hype, FlyLo’s was more about visuals to match the music. He also joked about how most of the people watching him were just waiting for Radiohead. “It’s the best-worst job” he jested, “Everyone just wants Thom to come out.”
In the hour before Radiohead was to take the stage, everyone started crowding in to find a spot. Though it took a minute for the sound to get to the correct levels, halfway through opening with “Burn the Witch” everywhere you looked was a sea of people. After playing a couple more tracks from A Moon Shaped Pool, Thom Yorke and co. launched into fan favorites like “Airbag” and “The National Anthem”. Thom Yorke seemed to be in a great mood during the set, laughing a lot before jumping into “2+2=5” and singing an a capella chorus from The Smith’s “How Soon is Now?” The highlights for the audience was a back-to-back performance of “Everything in its Right Place” and “Idioteque” that had the majority of the audience dancing. The crowd was surprisingly respectful – as Austin audiences are often the opposite – the crowd chatter was subdued and it was a rarity that anyone had their camera up to tape the performance. Before closing the show with “Karma Police”, Thom thanked everyone for coming and said, “Let’s do this again next weekend”.