Tuesday, September 18, 2007

ACL Day Two

Austin TX, Austin City Limits Music Festival
Day Two, 15-SEP-2007

With yesterday's fire a distant blip on the radar (and maybe after delivering some replacement Port-a-Sans) today's lineup proved just as white-hot. Actually there was a fire today, at the Arcade. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For me, the day started with a set from Steve Earle. A longtime fan, I have missed more than one opportunity to see him live (even had a ticket for a show once that I never used - long story) but it was good to hear such classics as "Ft. Worth Blues", "Tom Ames' Prayer" and the perennial crowd favorite: "Copperhead Road." Earle was joined on stage with his wife Alison Moorer for several numbers. A surprising closer to the set was a cover of Tom Waits' "Way Down In The Hole." Perhaps the most notable thing about Earle's set was that the first 1/2 of it was just him and his acoustic guitar, and the other 1/2 included a DJ on stage. This is the direction he has taken on his latest album; I'm not sure I like it. Be that as it may, I'm glad I finally got to catch Steve Earle live.

photo credit: flux-rad

The next act for me was a "sleeper" hit for me: Andrew Bird. Aptly named, Bird can whistle and warble like a bird. It's an instrument all on its own. A talented multi-instrumentalist, Bird primarily stuck to the violin and plucked the strings on this instrument, as if it were a tiny 4-stringed guitar, and alternated with a rosined bow as well. I had never heard any of his songs save for "Imitosis" but I'm glad I took a chance and caught his set. The ethereal "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left" from 2005's Mysterious Production of Eggs translated well to the large festival audience. Having seen Andrew Bird live, I can now say I am an instant fan of his work. I look forward to catching a full set from him in the future. Here's a free mp3 from his website:
Andrew Bird — Heretics.mp3

photo credit: Mark C. Austin

Just up the hill at the AMD stage, Sheffield, England's finest export: Arctic Monkeys took the stage. These young lads rocked the crowd with their wholly British observations. I was further back than I wished, but thanks to the giant screen left of the stage, lead singer Alex Turner's expressions were not lost. Particular song highlights were: "Fake Tales of San Francisco" and "When the Sun Goes Down" which they played coincidentally, as the sun was going down. I expect the Arctic Monkeys arc of fame to continue to rise.

Now to the fire I alluded to earlier... Arcade Fire took the stage after the Monkey's departure. There was a sea of people vying to get close to the stage for this one, which didn't surprise me at all. Having seen them 2 years prior, I knew that they would bring an unrestrained energy that would blow us away. Drawing heavily from their latest record: Neon Bible the 11+ (I'm still uncertain just how many musicians there were) members of Arcade Fire made the very most of the 75 min. set.

photo credit: Jay Janner, Austin Statesman

Particular highlights of their set were "Keep the Car Running", "Intervention", "Windowsill" and "Rebellion." Win Butler didn't smash his acoustic guitar (like he did on the SNL appearance) but it did have the same Creole proverb lettered in tape: "Sak Vide Pa Kanpe." [An empty sack cannot stand up]

One thing that I need to point out– all these musicians are really talented, and are proficient in several instruments. Case in point, RĂ©gine Chassagne played keyboards, accordion and even rocked a full drum kit. (In fact, she looked as comfortable as Meg White behind the drums.) Near the end of the show, one of the rotating percussionists jumped into the no-man's land that separated the crowd into left and right hemispheres and banged on his drum up and down the strip while ardent fans tried their best to touch him. A nightmare from a security standpoint, but this guy just banged on his drum with reckless abandon up to the very end. Absolutely amazing energy. If they could have swung from the rafters, they would have.

Day Three on it's way...

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