This weekend I drove up to Austin, Texas to catch the Saturday lineup at ACL. Apart from getting pulled over by the cops for making an illegal right turn, finding out that Orbitz had fucked us over for a hotel reservation and realizing that you can only buy beer from stores until 12:00 am on Friday, my first night in Austin was pretty tame. Luckily, Saturday morning came quickly and I couldn’t help but feel that we were in for a blast. The first band I caught was Fleet Foxes. Having seen them in Chicago at the Pitchfork festival, I knew it was worth my time to catch their set again. Though, I would agree with the band when they said, "we're not really a festival band," I can say that their luscious harmonies traveled effortlessly and beautifully upon the early morning crowd. From 'Sun Giant' to the gorgeous 'White Winter Hymnal,' Fleet Foxes were a great start to my day. Throw in the witty one line banter from drummer Josh Tillman and you have on hell of a start to a Saturday morning.
The next highlight was also the surprise set of the day. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings straight out rocked my ass off. Decked out in a hideous black and yellow evening gown groomed with beanstalk heels, I could tell she was going to scorch the stage as soon as the band began the build-up for her entrance. Jones was full of soul and played right into the hearts of the crowd. She called guys and girls respectively onto the stage for different numbers, taunted her band to pick it up and rocked the microphone all through her set. I looked around to find a sea of bopping heads and dancing feet, including my own. I left thinking that Ol' Sharon was a bowl full of soul that would never hesitate offering seconds to anyone. The only mid afternoon set I was really anxious to make it over to was Man Man. I've heard the hype around their live show and I was determined to see how it would translate at a festival setting. At this point I had already said 'ahhh, fuck it' to my initial worry that the midday sun would rapidly accelerate the pace of the tallboy assault I was on and found myself with a nice warm buzz as I crept and maneuvered my way into position for their set. Man Man’s live show is everything you’ve heard about and more. It is pure raw spirit, waves of passion and fits of rage. By the end of the set, the only wish I had was that I could climb up and join Honus Honus and the rest of the hooligans on stage, cover my face with war paint, throw on a white t-shirt and join the beautiful commotion of madness that had been created under the scorching Austin sun. Do yourself a favour and go see this band if they come near you.
Believe it or not ol' John Fogerty easily stole the award for Oldest Non-Berg in a non-berg setting. His set played like a CCR greatest hits show, ranging from "Travelin' Band," "Bad Moon Rising," to "Have you ever seen the rain?" and "Fortunate Son." All you really need to know is that Ol' Fogs still shreds the shit out of his guitar and while he will probably die as most Flannelest Fogerty, he rocks shit out.
There are more bands that I could talk about, but it would feel forced as the rest of my heart really belongs to Beck's closing set. Even though Ol' Beckster was as motionless as a virgin on prom night, and seems as though he is as dead inside as Dexter Morgan, he still knows how to string together a set list from that abyss of a catalog he has developed over the years. He grabbed our attention with 'Loser,' made us long for our lost lovers with 'Golden Age' and 'Lost Cause' and incited ass shaking with ' Where It's At' and 'E-Pro'.
After the dust settled from Beck’s E-Pro finale, I began walking with the crowd to the heart of downtown Austin to hit the ‘Ginger Man’ for some pints. The walk seemed endless and the streets were filled with an air of confusion, madness and music. I felt lost and at ease simultaneously. As we finally reached the entrance of the pub, I couldn't help but smile as the feeling of confusion was washed away and replaced with one of warmth and welcoming, as I had finally received a message that my nephew Jacob had just been born healthy and free of complications, a message I had waited for all day and one that I won't forget. Proved to me that our time spent in a particular day or city is alike in that they both have the ability to start out foreign and end familiar.