October 17th, 2010
Pride and Pestilence: Austin City Limits
On occasion, we Loopsters do things outside our comfort zone. Sometimes that comfort zone is as easily defined as “Houston”. Sometimes the zone is something that we would never do unless otherwise compelled. In either case, we tackle these trips and other doings with some Houston pride and sometimes leads to a bit of Loopster pestilence, hence our new column: Pride and Pestilence.
Music is a celebration all on its own for me. When someone mentions a music festival I briefly wonder why we need a celebration to honor a celebration… Then I remember that Oktoberfest exists, a party of beer-drinking to honor the culture that brews best, and I rest a little easier. These are the reasons that I was so excited that something like Summer Fest was starting in Houston after years of Buzz Fests and Arrow Fests. “Just throw ‘Fest’ at the end of the title and nobody will know otherwise,” seemed to be the thoughts of the marketers.
This past year, I was a little disappointed that, when push came to shove (which would have landed you in two inches of mud), Summer Fest, ye’ little Houston music celebration, tried to compare itself to one of the big dogs. We’re all about throwing little pot shots here and there, trying to disturb the big, bad wolf, but we know enough not to open the cage’s door after we rattle it a little.
After seeing Houston try to claim a piece of the music festival pie from our disheveled hipster brethren to the North and West, I made my second pilgrimage to Austin City Limits. I tried to be a little smarter this time around. There were several key mistakes that I wanted to avoid:
- Book a Hotel Room: Last year I bummed my way onto my friend’s futon. Unfortunately, futon did not come with pillow or blanket. Also, it did not come with a key to the apartment, so one night I was out in the cold without a place to stay.
- Reinforce Bank Account Balance: There’s no better way to forget that you don’t have any money than to use what little you have to get rip-roaring drunk on Heineken and put yourself on the brink of food coma with brisket tacos. The surprise is waiting for you back home when you try to pay rent. I got 99 problems and a bi… ahem… 98 of them are money related.
- Pack More Clothes (and maybe a Poncho): Anyone that was at ACL last year knows what a mudfest it turned into. The Dillo Dirt was everywhere and it was not to be ignored. A rainy fest without an umbrella is a bad idea.
After making sure that all my bases were covered, all that there was left to do was enjoy the festival. Three days of walking in countless circles from stage to stage to food court listening some bands that you love, hate and will grow to loath or like eventually, is always a good time. You could have put Justin Bieber on stage and I would enjoy it… Maybe not the music, but watching some parents try to keep their 14 year olds from storming a stage would have been worth it.
For me, the highlights this year were spread out. Last year, I walked into the gate and into the best show of the festival, Phoenix (Thomas Mars touched me! Literally!!). This year me and my team of music lovers formulated a bit of a plan and schedule. Instead of talking your ear off about each band that blew me away, let’s just leave it in a list and move on, shall we:
- Vampire Weekend: Heard stories about how fun they are live. Now I have one for myself.
- The Strokes: They’ll probably break up again soon, but for now, live the dream my brothahs.
- Yeasayer: You won’t find a naysayer here.
- Mayer Hawthorne: Do you like motown? No? You’ll still like Hawthorne. I promise.
- Local Natives: There wasn’t a show I was amped up for more than this one and I wasn’t disappointed.
- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros: Only caught a little bit, but talk about a captivated audience. It was like he had every person in a trance.
- Band of Horses: Lovely. Simply Lovely.
- The National: Disappointed I didn’t see their full set after catching the last three, very emotional songs.
You’re never going to be let down when you’re cruising Zilker Park for ACL. I did learn one very important thing this year. The shows at the clubs around town after the security staff kicks you off the grounds might make the ACL experience even more worthwhile.
Friday night took us to Antone’s for Mayer Hawthorne. My friend and I made it just in time to catch the opening act, Kings Go Forth, after a little game he called “let me drop the tickets on 5th Street and see if we can find them.” Watching two grown men dance around like groovin’ idiots without a girl within arm’s reach was probably rather spectacular for the people watchers at the show. Not that I was one of those two grown men (… I was.).
Word of Black Joe Lewis playing at the Continental Club on Saturday night had us just as excited. The new album is coming. I can smell it. And, with the Continental Club’s tiny venue, you could smell the sweat dripping from Joe’s brow.
It’s the idea of the juxtaposition of monstrous venue to tiny club that really makes you appreciate the music for what it’s worth. It’s seeing the same band you just watched set a sea of people in motion and then watching them electrify a few diehard fans only hours later. Both great experiences, but inspiring a different part within the music lover’s heart.
In truth though, the true juxtaposition that was the biggest treat during ACL weekend was receiving a picture text from a friend of mine. She found a Loopster on the prowl wearing a “Keep Houston Corporate” t-shirt won during Where’s Pauldo. What a perfect venue to further a bit of Houston pestilence than amidst the “Keep Austin Weird” tie-dyed nonsense. Does this make us legit or am I being self-glorifying? Maybe a bit of both, but one thing is for certain: It was glorious.