It was a couple weekends ago now that I found myself wandering the dusty fields of the Austin City Limits music festival. My first year of ACL, Austin’s 14th. From opening night with The Foo Fighters to the finale by Florence and the Machine, the artists made up a wide range of music styles and talents. Most were really impressive, a few underwhelming, but all in all, the weekend was a great one.
As of 2013, this annual festival takes over Austin from Friday to Sunday for not one but two consecutive weekends, just to cause a bit more havoc for the good people of this city. The buzz starts a few days before that first Friday: a small city of stages and tents is created from the expansive spaces of Zilker Park, yoga instructors across town lead classes to their new ACL playlists, and Uber drivers are shipped in from all over Texas to shuttle around the masses of music lovers.
I don’t have much festival-going experience, but I will admit that there’s something to say for going home every evening to shower and rally before the next day’s line-up, however wrong that may seem to hard-core festivalers. In this case, though, there was no choice – everyone went home each evening to return the next day for another round.
There were also no performances after 10pm. At first, I thought this was a bit ridiculous – there are still plenty of hours left to enjoy some good music. But in reality, it was pretty nice getting home before midnight, even after stopping for food on the way.
A few of my favorite ACL moments were the Foo Fighters (of course; and despite only moderate sound volume), the Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Jose Gonzalez (a Swede!), Sylvan Esso, alt-J, and Florence.
Oh Florence, you actually deserve a blog post on your own. I will say that you are in equal parts an amazing entertainer and songstress and I will never forget your whimsically refreshing twirls and skips across the stage in front of tens of thousands of ACL-ers. Her ability to create such happiness through a crowd so large was incredible, and her voice – both in melody and in speech between songs – put a smile on my face as she asked her audience to be the choir she couldn’t bring along with her from the U.K. Clad in white satin overalls and a button-up orange shirt beneath (which matched her hair), Florence wore no shoes (allowing for maximum twirling ability) and no makeup (I think) – a welcome contrast to the tight/short/low-cut clothing so often worn by female entertainers.
Despite feeling like I was getting a cold from the dust and the immense floods of people during Hozier’s set, I made it through my first ACL exhausted but healthy, and happily music-ed. And yes, music-ed is a word now.