Saturday, September 16, 2006

Austin City Limits Festival: Day One Review

Aloha from Austin! Day one is in the bag. I can safely say today was a mixed fare, some good, some bad, some somewhere in the middle.

David Ford

I will get the bad out of the way first. Parking downtown sucked this year. The Festival directors moved the shuttle pick up area this year for who knows what reason. The previous three years I went, it was at a park around 17th street, close to U of Texas campus. This year it was moved to Republic Square, way the hell downtown at 4th. This area is under heavy construction, not to mention you have to compete with all the state employees and other workers. I hope the weekend takes care of some of these problems. Plus ot took so long that I only got to see David Ford's last song. Musically, one thing was in need of a tweek. The artists who are mainly acoustic at the 4 large stages were too quiet. Turn up the volume! I could barely make out Ray Lamontagne and Van Morrison. In fact, sound quality was so bad for Morrison, I was only able to hear one song in its entirety. They had secondary speakers for those of us who came in late to the set from John Mayer, but it did not sound like they had them on. All other stages, sound quality was excellent. One band I was looking forward to checking out was Wolf Parade. Well, this is an instance where a produced studio sound is much better than the live effort. The lead singer had a vocal quality like PIL era John Lydon and to most of us, that was not a good thing.


The somewhere in the middle happened to be the majority of my day. The Dears sounded good, but nothing too far from the albums. Since I did not know much from Stars and Sparklehorse, I had no idea what to expect. They put on good shows, but nothing amazing. The biggest issue I had was with Guster and Gomez. They both played well, very good shows, great energy, brought the crowd in. My problem was this: Gomez played about 4 songs off of How We Operate, focusing mainly on the back catalog, while Guster did the complete opposite, 4 older songs: I Spy, Airport Song, Demons (really old school), and Barrel of a Gun, then the rest from the new album. Yeah, they only have an hour, but thats worth 12 or so songs. I expected a better mix.

On to the good. Ted Leo + Pharmacists were excellent. Punkish guitars, great energy. They came to entertain, as did Gnarls Barkley. Coming out in lab coats and ripping into She Blinded Me With Science, they tore into a cover heavy set, sampling the Greenhorns, The Doors, and of course, The Violent Femmes. Cee-Lo was entertaining, telling little stories that segue between the songs. And they had a string section called the G-Strings. Great name. Thievery Corporation just kept a constant groove going, which was highly danceable and enjoyable. John Mayer was strong, showing his guitar prowress, switching between the blues lick laden electric to the more folky acoustic sound. During Daughters, he went from female empowerment to female objectification with one line slipped into the song: something to the effect of Austin women are the sexiest around. After introducing the band, he introduced himself as John Secada.

Matt Nathanson

The highlight of the day was Matt Nathanson. Completely unexpected. Joe has been talking about him for years and boy was he right. Matt was extremely fun and he had a great crowd awareness. The sound was great, vocals were tight. A great show. At one point, he started into the opening lick for Sweet Child O Mine, did his best Axl impersonation, then started riffing into Paradise City, then proceeded to ask women, still in his Axl voice, to get her boobies out. And somehow, he incorporated Cheap Trick's I Want You To Want Me.

The biggest problem I faced was seeing everyone I wanted to see. Scheduling this many bands on this many stages causes viewing problems for the fans. I was only able to stay at 3 acts for the whole set. But I did get to manage about 3 songs out of everyone I saw. So, my advice is try and see as much as you can, but if an act is the be all and end all to you, don't miss them. They could always throw a curve and you may miss it.

Get more info as to what happened today at the Daily Wrap on the ACL Fest page. Also check our site for previews of the rest of the weekend. For those who couldn't make it, AT&T's Blue Room is webcasting select shows. Saturday's webcast schedule is:

12:30 PM Federico Aubele
01:30 PM Ghostland Observatory
02:30 PM Ben Kweller
03:30 PM The Secret Machines
04:30 PM Los Lobos
05:30 PM Aimee Mann
06:30 PM The String Cheese Incident
07:30 PM Iron & Wine
08:30 PM Ray LaMontagne
09:00 PM Los Lonely Boys

Time for bed. Tomorrow is a new day. I'll be back tomorrow night with more.


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