Austin was magical. We were able to make the most of our time there and I really do dig the city. But, I gotta tell you, MPLS still kicks Austin's butt when it comes to a *cool* music town--of course, I'm superduper biased...but still.
I must say that the festival boasted some of the most rabid, passionate music lovers I have ever stood next to at shows. I think I saw the most musical tattoos in those three days than I have ever seen in my life. It was also the most international festival I'd ever been to--the line-up and the fans were from all over the globe. I admit it, I closed my eyes and dreamed I was at Glasto a few times. Afterall, the headliners at Glasto: Arctic Monkeys, Bjork and the Killers were all at ACL. C'mon! Incredible. Our very own Euro festival.
I actually got to have a quick chat with a bloke from Manchester (!!) who had been to Glasto this year. I spotted him sitting in the shade, where I was headed (the heat was brutal), and he looked like he was in rough shape. Nursing a beer, no water in sight, his face was the same color as his crimson White Stripes shirt. He was speaking to some kids about his defiant White Stripes-shirt-wearing "statement" (they canceled, as you may have heard--a huge disappointment to him and the rest of us) and that distinctive Northern accent hit my ears like a familiar song. To my sheer delight, he told me how the Glasto crowd (yep, all 177,500 of 'em, my friend) sang *every word* of those lyrics along with Alex Turner. He called Turner a "young genius with words" and then stated, very matter-of-factly: "They're the best band since The Smiths." This coming from a Mancunian! Nice.
The heat was rough for me, I admit it. Any time there was a low point for shows, I wanted to retreat to the shade or the glorious, misting fans that were scattered throughout the park. Fitzy and I kept remarking about how well-run and organized the festival and was. There was hardly a moment that we had to wait in line too long, or felt overwhelmed by the crowd. Bottled water was $2, which is downright cheap in the festival world. And I can actually only cite a few times(during the sets of The Killers and Ziggy Marley) that made me feel crazy-claustrophobic-like. We mainly stuck to "Our Side" of the stage, which meant where ever the masses *weren't* flocking to. This worked beautifully. For big, headlining acts like Bjork, Bloc Party, Bob Dylan and more, we were able to get extremely close to the stage and have a great perspective with lots of room to breathe. Ahhh, it was niiice.
Now, on to the music.....
Bloc Party was, unfortunately, my biggest disappointment--and I still generally enjoyed what I saw of their set. (Maybe it had something to do with their time slot--4 in the afternoon, the hottest muthafucking hour of the day. oy.) I have loved their two records and listened to them a million times. I've poured over reviews of shows and interviews with them in the NME and Q. Maybe it's just the ol' Alex Turner truth: anticipation has a habit to set you up for disappointment (I'm *kinda* experiencing that a bit with the new Springsteen album right now, believe it or not...I'm confident this will change after repeated listens, of course. A-hem. Right.) So, although Kele was handsome, charming and in great spirits ("Howdy, y'all!! We're not gon' let a bit of sun and heat get in the way of having fun, now are we!?" he enthused in his clipped Brit accent) the rest of the band seemed bored and it showed in their playing. The sound was muddled and I never fucking say this, but I felt that....it wasn't *loud* enough!
So, I made a quick decision. This was one of the worst double time slots for me--Lucinda Williams was playing concurrently at the opposite side of the park. I knew we had to make a dash for it. I wanted to see her in a very bad way but my logic was: I had seen her before (at First Ave, it was incredible) and her new material has been too downy clowny for me...I had never seen Bloc Party--the choice was clear. But, their set was lacking, so I made my way over to the sweet sounds of Lucinda. She was drinky, rockin and wearing a "U.S. vs. John Lennon" t-shirt (with the classic, "WAR IS OVER if you want it" cover her back). Most excellent. As we were heading over, I heard the familiar guitar and bass lines of...the Doors' "Riders on the Storm"!!! So kick-ass for a festival, I thought. Later, she made some rambling, but well-intended anti-war statements and had a particularly spicy dig at organized religion before she played the "Gotta Serve Somebody"-esque "Get Right With God."
Speaking of gettin' saved...Fitzy and I were lucky enough bear witness to the Legendary Soul Stirrers in a revival-like setting--the one and only hot, crowded tent. Formed in 1927 (I shit you not) they were the gospel/soul group that Sam Cooke belonged to before he went secular and made the music we mainly associate him with. Willie Rogers, the lead vocalist nowadays, was *the* most moving, passionate, *soulful* vocal performers I have ever seen and heard. As soon as he mentioned Mr. Cooke and began to sing, "A Change Is Gonna Come," I was...gone.
I cried like a little bitch, man.
***I had to just post this, so I will be inspired to *finish* telling the tale. So, obviously, there's more to follow.........***