As the grounds opened up on Saturday, many festival-goers headed to the Barton Springs Beer Hall where you could find a 100-foot-long bar with 16 adult beverages on tap. But the key details here were the large flat-screen televisions where the faithful could quench their college football thirst. Austin is a college town, after all. And in Texas, football is king.
Speaking of kings, Reignwolf amazed the crowd at the smaller Austin Ventures stage in the early afternoon. Jordan Cook came out like an unassuming roadie, plugged his guitar in and proceeded to tear the place down with his special blend of distorted, howling blues-rock. First he jumped behind the empty drum set, where he’d bash away WHILE playing guitar. Then he’d drag his guitar back over and stand behind, or on top of a lone kick drum at the front of the stage. Or he’s stand, or sit, on the subwoofers lining the front of the stage, letting the crowd up close to enjoy the experience.
Back over on the Lady Bird stage, the sisters HAIM thoroughly rocked the crowd in a way perhaps few were aware that they could. Often compared to Fleetwood Mac, the similarities are there, but HAIM has come into their own. Lead vocalist and guitar shredder Danielle took charge of the large stage. Alana rocked her keyboard and guitar and occasionally played percussion, as well. Bassist, Este, was the most vocal with the audience chatting and joking in between most songs and Danielle reminisced about getting their biggest break at SXSW two years prior and spoke of their appreciation for their Texas fans. They played several songs off their newly released debut album Days Are Gone including “Falling” and “The Wire.”
Portugal. The Man played to this crowd next, ripping through songs from their most recent album Evil Friends, produced by Danger Mouse. They also performed several cover admirably, ranging form the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter” to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” to an amusing, and unexpected, rendition of “Day Man” from the TV show It’s Alway’s Sunny in Philadelphia.
Elsewhere in Zilker Park you could check out Wilco, The Joy Formidable, Silversun Pickups, or Austin’s own The Bright Light Social Hour. Over on the Honda stage was Grimes, the pixie-voiced-goth-electro songstress from Vancouver followed by Kendrick Lamar, a small but bright light of hip-hop in a Texas sky filled with mostly rock acts. The young crowd sang along to every song, mostly from his 2013 album good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Co-headliners on this night were Kings of Leon on the Samsung Galaxy stage and, over on the Lady Bird stage, The Cure. And though not as dynamic as Depeche Mode from the previous night, Robert Smith and company played nearly 30 songs for the all-ages crowd. “Lovesong,” “Just Like Heaven,” “Fascination Street,” “Pictures of You” and “Boys Don’t Cry” were just a small sample of what was witnessed, all played to record-quality perfection.
Mother Nature had different plans for Sunday at ACL as the few showers and sprinkle on Friday turned into a proper deluge overnight on Saturday. Flash flood warnings, record rainfall, and epic water levels gave festival organizers no choice but to cancel the third day of the festival. By mid-morning, the word had gone out over social media outlets, with the promise that ticket buyers would be refunded a third of their purchase.
But Austin, this music Mecca, would not be kept down and news and rumors of pop-up shows had started by early afternoon. The Mowgli’s announced that they would be playing a street corner across from a Homeless shelter, asking fans to bring any items which might benefit the cause. They would also go on to play, with Smallpools, that evening at Lambert’s. Franz Ferdinand got hooked up at Infest.
And the big rumor was that Atoms for Peace would be playing at the Moody Theater, home of the Austin City Limits television series. The line stretched around the blocked before official word confirmed the rumors. Capacity limits and a wristband ticketing system were announced, along with a $10 charge. And, after 5+ hours of waiting in line, the doors finally opened to the very patient fans. Around 10:30 the lights went down, and the band took to the stage. Thom Yorke and Flea both wore ankle-length skirts, for greater freedom of movement, no doubt. Oh yes, there would be dancing. The full band, put together to play shows in support of Yorke’s The Eraser, fleshed out these songs in a way that he and Producer/Engineer/Radiohead 6th man Nigel Godrich wouldn’t have been able to accomplish alone. The band, also consisting of percussionists Joey Waronker and Mauro Refosco, played several of these cuts along with some from their debut album AMOK. Standouts like “Default” and “Harrowdown Hill” kept the crowd on it’s feet for the majority of the show. They also pulled the Yorke-sung UNKLE classic “Rabbit In Your Headlights” out of their hat, swelling to a crescendo that only this band could deliver. “And It Rained All Night” was a fitting number, considering the weather situation and the band closed with “Black Swan” from The Eraser. Atoms delivered on their festival-ending performance, as promised, capping off a great weekend proving that, in Austin, it IS all about the music.