ACL recap: Thursday and Friday

My wife and I spent much of Thursday driving from El Paso (where we stayed Wed. night) listening to satellite radio, fretting about Hurricane Rita. When we hit Johnson City outside of Austin, a gas station was out of unleaded and a woman there told us to make sure we had our room reserved because of everyone coming from Houston. I thought for sure we’d be paying $5 per gallon in about a day.

Alas, we had little trouble making it into the city and checking in. We scrapped our original plans to see Z-Trip open for Thievery Corp. at Stubb’s ($25, yikes) and instead decided to go to Blackalicious at Emo’s ($17, a little better). That’s when we met Chris and Jesse and Chris’ girlfriend Melissa. We were all a little beat from driving and/or working.

Regardless, Blackalicious rocked it. Gift of Gab’s flow is ridiculous. We all came away a little less than impressed with another Quannum act, Apsci. Maybe we were just tired, but it seemed the vibe was lacking.

Friday was the first day of the festival. The schedule was a little light; seeing Spoon was our top priority. (Next to meeting Dodge and his wife later in the night, of course.)

Here’s how our first day broke down:

We checked out Austin’s Hairy Apes BMX at 12:50 p.m. I was kinda diggin’ it, thinking they were Fishbone reincarnate. And then when they brought out my boy David Garza (below, left) for a guest spot, I was sold.

We caught about three songs of Kasabian (eh, they were OK) then checked out Dios (Malos) at Chris’ recommendation. I gotta say, I dug it. They’re coming to Phoenix Nov. 17, and I think I might just have to go.
We killed some time (read: found shade) before heading over to see Mates of State, a husband-wife duo. Again, another good first impression. With just keys and drums, they make some pretty damn good melodies.

After Mates, we listened to Lucinda Williams for a bit then headed back across the park for Spoon. It was our first time seeing them, and we were not disappointed. A pretty solid set in front of a really large crowd. Britt Daniel doesn’t strike me as the most entertaining front man, but his voice translates really well on a big stage.

We had to cut out a little early to get prepped for the biggie — Arcade Fire and Black Keys at Stubb’s. That’s when we met Dodge and MJ. Couldn’t be nicer people. This was my first time seeing both bands. Cripes. It was overwhelming. For starters, Black Keys just bring it. Chris had it spot on when he said: “I’m still not exactly sure how two white boys from Akron, OH, make noise like that.”

The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney punishes his drum set.
Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.
OK. What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said about the Arcade Fire? I don’t think I was prepared for that live set. Only now are my wife and I able to appreciate what they did. It was wild, sensory overload in the best way.

There’s a multitude of instruments and other odds and ends. Win Butler has a commanding stage presence, but I was totally enthralled with his brother, William, who just terrorizes the stage with energy, beating cymbals with drumsticks, climbing the speaker, throwing himself into a wall. What can you say? Really, it was hard not to get the chills when they opened with a Bob Dylan’s Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall and faded into Wake Up, with everyone singing the “oooooooh, oooooh” part. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Better was when Win introduced Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) by saying, “You guys are pretty tame for a bunch of drunks in Texas.” Holy bejesus. The place went bonkers when that song kicked in.

A busy Saturday recap to come, and maybe even some music. What a novel idea for an mp3 blog, eh?

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