Review: Austin City Limits Festival 2010


The 2010 Austin City Limits Music Festival this past weekend was a wonderful flashback to summer. It was three days of music, food, and 85-degree weather in Texas. I had to keep reminding myself it was October. I was really impressed with the festival, it ran very smoothly and the people there were great. I’d say the highlights were performances by The Strokes, Band of Horses, Monsters of Folk and Muse, Amy’s Ice cream (not a band, just good ice cream), and the free shuttle buses to the park.

After making our way through a few lines (for wristbands and a shuttle bus ride) on Friday, we made it to Zilker Park, which is about 10 minutes from downtown. First band on the agenda was The Black Keys. When we arrived there was already a huge crowd in front of The Black Keys’ stage. They were on one of the two main stages, which had jumbo screens set up on each side of the stage. I quickly learned that it was not likely that I was going to be within view of the main stage performers. I’m sure that superfans of The Strokes had set up shop right in front of the stage at noon that day, when the gates opened.

The smaller stages offered more of a view of the performers. There were 8 stages in all, including a “kiddie” stage for the very underage music fans. The layout of the stages was quite a challenge in acoustics. The stages were set up such that you would only hear the sound of the concert happening in front of you. With some staggered times in terms of performances, ACL did a good job of preventing any overlapping sound. Here’s the layout:

And here’s the list of bands we wanted to see:
Day 1: Band of Heathens, Spoon, The Strokes
Day 2: Lucero, Local Natives, Monsters of Folk, Muse
Day 3: Gayngs (attempted), Robert Earl Keen, Band of Horses, The National

Since The Black Keys area was pretty packed, we made our way to Band of Heathens:

And then headed back to the big stage for Spoon.

We had to pass on Vampire Weekend (at the other end of the park) in order to secure a good spot at The Strokes show at 8pm. Their show was really fun, with some video game effects as their backdrop. Julian Casablancas was full of random mutterings, mentioning the Thundercats television cartoon and pointing out that he wears sunglasses at night. The band played a bunch of songs, including some of their “oldies” that they were asked to rehearse and perform. Overall, it was a really fun show and made getting up at 4 am completely worth it.  Can you spot Tetris in the picture below??

Saturday – Day 2

We started the day with Local Natives. I had been curious about them and it was a great show. They clearly had a following, as there was a big crowd assembled who seemed to know the lyrics.

Then Monsters of Folk appeared in their fancy suits and sunglasses and played a two-hour set.

“Supergroups” such as Monsters of Folk require many guitars…

The singers alternated, and here’s Conor Oberst taking a turn at the microphone.

And then it was M. Ward (my favorite). Though I miss his solo songs. He’s been spending too much time with She & Him and the Monsters of Folk.

Between bands (or on our way to another stage), there was time for snacks.  I have to say that the food at ACL was really good. There were local vendors there, and lots of options. It was a nice alternative to the fried and boring stadium food you sometimes encounter at concerts. This place had tacos, ice cream, iced tea, fancy sandwiches, and BBQ.

To end the night, Muse put on a headliner-worthy performance. I’m talking lasers, light shows, glowing instruments, and a fully sequined suit for lead singer Matthew Bellamy. The jumbo-tron screens were a huge help. The camera work was so good that it didn’t matter if you were far from the stage. The editing and various camera angles provided good quality, fast-paced visuals of the happenings on stage.

Sunday – Day 3

On Day 3 I was excited for Band of Horses, and I was looking forward to checking out Gayngs and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Though I had not seen Gayngs perform before, as I got to the stage I knew that the people on stage were not from Gayngs. It was weird though, I didn’t think that bands just skipped festival performances. Sometimes tour buses break down, but they had played the night before in town at a festival after-party. So where were they? I found out after the fact that they had a little bus rental snafu.

Next, we headed over to see Robert Earl Keen and get our country music fix.

Then we saw a little bit of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, but it was a huge crowd, so we decided to head back to get a good spot for Band of Horses. This meant walking through what I called “chair village.” This was the large area, about 50 yards from the stage, where people were allowed to set up folding chairs.

People seemed to be camped out there, in their chair community, in order to have a nice, comfortable spot for The Eagles that night. We resorted to sitting right on the grass, which was a good move since (a) I didn’t really want to buy a chair and (b) we walked back to the hotel two of the nights, and adding a chair to that walk would not have been pretty.

Anayway, once we got in front of chair village we found a large open space and got a good seat for Band of Horses. They played a great show, and there was no talk of Andrew or any other boisterous fan.

Then we checked out The National. I’ve seen them more times than I should admit, but I got to hear a few songs, like one of my favorites “Afraid of Everyone”.

And then we said goodbye to ACL.  The National’s “Apartment Story” played in the background as we walked to the shuttle bus, which was a nice ending to the three day festival.


3 Responses to “Review: Austin City Limits Festival 2010”

  1. 1 Ben

    Sounded like a great weekend of music. Too bad you missed Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Temper Trap, and the Flaming Lips. It’s hard to see everyone. We are thinking about going down next year.

  2. Hi Ben, you’re right, it was harder than I thought to get from one stage to the next. It’s a big space and there was a mass of people (and chairs) to maneuver around. And lots of band overlap. You had to sort of pick your favorites. Next year it’s going to be earlier, in September, so probably hotter. Bring your sombrero!

  1. 1 Review: M. Ward @ Webster Hall 5/1/12 « Second Doubles

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