Austin City Limits Festival, continued
Friday, October 2, 2009
The first day of the Austin City Limits Festival (ACLF) was beautiful. And I had a photo pass, which meant that I could be in the “pit” in front of the stage. This was the first time I’d ever had a photo pass -- or a fancy enough camera to qualify for one. I quickly learned the system – you could only shoot the first three songs, no flash and stay out of the way of the stage crew and security. I added my own rules. Let the big guys (CNN, Rolling Stone and Paste) snap first, stay the hell out of the way and look like I belonged. I soon learned my way around the pit. Everyone was nice and takes a turn in front of the stage, I learned how to walk crouched down and backwards and shoot, to change lenses between songs and that stage right means to my left. Having a photo pass also keeps you on a schedule. Generally you have to be in the pit by the time the first song starts or you’re out of luck. Some stages wanted you to sign a release promising to just publish the photos in one publication and others needed special permission. I just about fell over when I saw my name on the list of approved photographers for Dave Matthews.
I stared day one of the festival with the Avett Brothers (reviewed in the last issue vol. 6, no. 23). I also caught part of the Texas swing band, Asleep at the Wheel’s set and a chunk of the indie darlings, Blitzen Trapper. The last time I saw Blitzen Trapper I was leaning against a speaker cabinet at Locals Only, I waved but I don’t think they recognized me. It was a blast to see them playing to thousands of enthusiastic people.
I ran to see the barefoot and always charming Todd Snider from there. Todd played an acoustic solo set, which is my favorite way to hear a singer-songwriter, especially a smart/clever/funny writer like Todd. Todd swings through Indianapolis at least once a year and I try not to miss him.
The next act I caught was sentimental favorite, Daniel Johnston. I admit that I knew nothing about him, but he’s an Austin staple and cult favorite. The documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” followed him in his musical and mental heath journey, winning an award at the Sundance Film Festival. I enjoyed Daniel’s set and wish I would have done some research about him ahead of time.
I’ve been a fan of Robyn Hitchcock since his days in the New Wave band, The Soft Boys. When your name is Nora it is hard to find things with your name on it. I’d always look longingly at the racks of bicycle license plates, pencils and shot glasses hoping I’d find one with my name. In literature Nora tends to be the upstairs maid or spinster aunt (we’re hitting a little too close to home here). I was thrilled to hear The Soft Boys, “Ugly Nora,” and took at as a compliment. Robyn was playing with another rock icon, Peter Buck from REM. I did my best to look like I belonged, not swoon or yell out, “Ugly Nora!”
From there I raced to see Them Crooked Vultures, the super-power trio of Dave Grohl (Nirvana)), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin). Talk about rock royalty! I was nervous even standing in from of them! What did they sound like? The guy from Queens of the Stone Age singing and playing guitar with the bass player from Led Zeppelin and the drummer from Nirvana. I’m not good a comparisons, but that one was easy! And I must say, Dave Grohl looked happy has hell to be back behind the drums where he belongs (he plays guitar in his other project, The Foo Fighters).
I had a hard time choosing between the last acts of the night, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs or Kings of Leon. I decided to check out the Nashville family band (three brothers and a cousin), Kings of Leon. They’ve got some good genes going on! I can see why they are favorites of a wide range of folks. They’re talented and have swooningly good looks and harmonize beautifully. In the last year they’ve morphed from wooly bearded garage rockers to shiny pretty art-rockers. And I’m okay with that!