What a fest! I’m still recuperating from my treks across Zilker. On Saturday, I showed up prior to the doors opening for the first time ever and was shocked that C3 blasted the Star Wars medley to welcome the throng. Check out the below video from a staffer watching the crowd come in during a past ACL:

Givens
The Muse light show was spectacular.
The DeadMau5 show blew my mind
The Flaming Lips brought out the hamster ball and had crazy stuff going on stage and I was totally into it
I totally dug the LCD SoundSystem set
I heard the Eagles play Hotel California, though it was as I was leaving

Letdowns

Gayngs : What a letdown, for both the fest goers and for Gayngs. A bus that gets sent back full of equipment? Truly, what sort of customer service is that? Obviously the kind that you would expect from a guy who names his business after himself and talks about himself in the 3rd person (re : “If CJ takes your bus away from you, it’s either because you’re tearing it up or you didn’t pay me. Ask anybody: I’m one of the fairest guys in the business.”). Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed when I came up to the Zync card stage to find Lance Herbstrong dj’ing rather than Gayngs though I will say that he gave the crowd a great time.
Broken Bells : I was totally psyched for this set, I even arrived early enough to catch a space up at the front. Two songs in though I realized that they left all the magic on the album. The showmanship wasn’t there, the feeling of euphoria I felt when hearing the album just didn’t translate onto the big stage. I left before they even got to High Road.

M.I.A. : I left early from the Muse show to catch the M.I.A. break it down. First, the jumbotrons weren’t on. Who in the world turns off the jumbotrons on the big stage? How will the people who have been camping out behind the chair line all day waiting to see you catch a glimpse? Maybe they came back on later, but I was sorely disappointed to not be able to walk up and catch what was on the stage. I heard the opening strains of Paper Planes and jetted, it wasn’t worth the energy to try to get close enough.

Morning Benders : I recently started enjoying this album and was interested in seeing their live set but it was, in a word, a bore. They seemed unsure of what to do with the crowd and though they played well, the energy just wasn’t there for me. Maybe next time after a few more rounds of touring.

Monsters of Folk : I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a big Conor Oberst fan. I’ve seen Bright Eyes 3 times and I love me some My Morning Jacket. I came up to the stage looking forward to sticking for a while, even though I haven’t heard much of the Monsters album. The crowd though was just absolutely overwhelming, I couldn’t get close enough to be able to hear well enough to park it. These guys should have been on a larger stage.

Dawes : These guys didn’t really seem to hit their stride until the last song of the set which is truly their best one, When My Time Comes. I was hoping to see that same flaming energy throughout the entire set but instead got a slow burn.

Fave Sets

Lissie : First thing on Saturday I caught Lissie, one of the shows I was most psyched to hear thanks to her incredible voice and superb ability to create memorable covers. Lissie came out in a sun dress, barefoot and rocking a telecaster. She launched in to songs off of Catching a Tiger and kept up the pace even when beats from the Budweiser stage seeped in. Her stage banter was on target and made her seem like a more seasoned performer, undoubtedly thanks to her recent touring. Her lead guitarist, Eric Sullivan, brought his A game on some well placed solo work during “In Sleep” and “When I’m Alone”. The thing that really draws me in to Lissie is her soaring voice, even when singing softly she conjures up images of images of vast prairies and sky for me. She ended with one of my fave covers, Pursuit of Happiness by Kid Cudi. Her ability to strip down what is an otherwise dense hip hop song to the meat of the lyrics blows me away every time.

Check out the video below to hear her version of it at ACL

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros : I caught the last portion of Edward Sharpe’s set at Lollapalooza and was blown away by the crowd, the energy and the participation. For the encore, he had everyone sit down while he sang, amazing! So I showed up early and made sure to get a front spot for what was one of the most awe inspiring shows of the fest. Sharpe & crew are clearly making waves thanks to their album, Up from Below, and feel good foot stomper, Home. This set’s pureness of heart and honest brought me to tears and enormous smiles. Despite their obvious popularity, the band is still in what I call the “freshman stage”. They still seem blown away by the number of people waiting to hear them, they still react to the crowd with pure heart, they still give such an enormous amount of love and energy. I sang, I cried, I raised my hands to the sky. It was akin to being young and brainwashed by the Baptists, truly believing that in any moment God, or in this case Edward Sharpe, would bring you to a point of pure love and light. Which is fitting considering the persona of Edward Sharpe was shaped by Alex Ebert to be a Messiah of sorts, sent to the world to bring peace and love. It was beautiful in a way that is just breathtaking.

The National : This set I have been waiting for since I missed them at Lollapolloza so I could get a close up spot for Arcade Fire. The National have been on a slow and steady rise, thanks to the success of Boxer and now their latest release, High Violet. Add to that their ability to bring what are otherwise incredibly dark, dreary and haunting songs to the stage and keep the crowd engaged and you’ve got one superbly talented band. Matt Berringer, the lead singer with the golden baritone, is known for his on stage antics and his ability to delve into himself and pull out his heart for the crowd. This set did not disappoint. Matt & Co provided witty banter, played a range of songs from several albums, hit the crowd favorites at all the right moments and brought the haunting, desperate feeling you found on their albums to a new level. I attended this directly after hearing Edward Sharpe and the stark contrast of the two bands could have never been more realized. The fact that both seeped straight through to my heart’s core though is undeniable. This was the last show of the fest for me and it was the perfect, blue and howling note to end it on.

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