Although the last weekend of Austin City Limits, Oct. 11-13, was cut drastically short due to the second coming of Noah’s flood, enough excitement was packed into two days to make up for the third.
Skipping the last two periods of school (including The Review, sorry), I drove up to Austin for a long weekend of music, food trucks and permanent ear damage.
Kicking off the festival was Vampire Weekend, performing the upbeat anthem “Cousins” from their second album, “Contra.” Vampire Weekend’s distinctive sound is rivaled only by its distinctive style: the stage sported Ionian columns, floral wallpaper and a large gold mirror to reflect the entire scene. Lead singer and Cape Cod prep-god Ezra Koenig wore off-kilter Ray-Bans and a denim jacket bedazzled with a large portrait of Babar, the French cartoon elephant, on the back.
Although I’d never miss Vampire Weekend, only Dracula himself could have scheduled their performance overlapping the Arctic Monkeys. Upon hearing the first chords of “Arabella,” I lost all regard for my personal health and safety, jumping over lawn chairs and beach blankets in three-inch wedges (unrecommended), just to catch a few minutes of Alex Turner’s smooth, cigarette-tinged voice. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t check for a wedding band each time the camera zoomed in on his earth-shattering guitar riffs. Nothing will make you forget that your feet are bleeding faster than Alex Turner. And you know, the rest of the Arctic Monkeys too.
Muse capped off the first night of ACL with a bombastic medley of seizure-inducing special effects, howling guitar solos and rock-opera vocals. Even the most lukewarm appreciators of Muse (like myself) were pleased by the high-energy spectacular. Highlights from the architects of apocalyptic rock included a CGI dancing Barack Obama and David Cameron, although any signs of a coherent political agenda were lost in the stage fog. Pretentious? Maybe. Entertaining? Definitely.
Day Two brought appearances from the likes of Walk the Moon, Passion Pit, The Joy Formidable and Kendrick Lamar. Walk the Moon managed to play with the clarity of a recorded track while keeping the verve and spontaneity of live performance. The Joy Formidable’s Ritzy Bryan blew us away with a sweet Kindergarten-teacher appearance, coupled with a sailor’s vocabulary and startling proficiency for electric guitar. I hadn’t seen such a small person command so much stage attention since Kristen Santiago. It was truly inspiring.
Kendrick Lamar’s balance of fluid, laid-back beats with aggressive rap delivery kept the vibe alive for the rest of the night; at least, until it started to rain. That’s not a slang expression – it literally started to rain and continued to well into the morning of the third day. Two hours before ACL’s opening lineup, they declared the cancellation of the festival due to inclement weather and severe flooding. The pictures released of Zilker Park depicted a waterfront wasteland incapable of supporting human life. After drowning my sorrows in a short stack of gingerbread pancakes from Magnolia Cafe, I returned home in the cold, gloomy rain, a depressing end to what otherwise was the perfect weekend.