This year marked the 11th annual Austin City Limits Music Festival, and it was as big as ever. With headliners like The Black Keys and Avicii on Friday, Jack White and Neil Young & Crazy Horse on Saturday and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Sunday, there was no way it could be a bad experience. The 2012 festival attracted music fans from all over the globe and kept festival-goers of all ages entertained.
Day 1 – Friday
This indie rock trio hails from Liverpool, and they opened the Honda stage at Austin City Limits on Friday morning. Despite repeated technical difficulties, they powered through their 45-minute set with a sense of humor. It seems fitting that their latest album is called The Wombats Proudly Present… This Modern Glitch in light of the problems they had Friday. Lead vocalist Matthew Murphy made a remark about hearing that another band had been from Liverpool once, but that “they didn’t do very well.” At one point when they were waiting for a technical problem to be fixed, drummer Dan Haggis began singing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” a capella, and tried to get his band mates and the crowd into it as well. Although it was early on the first day of the festival, The Wombats put their all into their performance, emitting nonstop energy. Every song they played was a crowd-pleaser, and though they may not be a household name yet, it seems inevitable, if the ACL show was any indication.
This seven-piece set from the U.K. never fails to impress at their live shows, and their early-afternoon set at ACL’s Bud Light stage was no different. Male lead singer Gareth delivered passionate vocals while showcasing his typical spastic dance style. He and his sister Kim harmonized well together on many of the band’s songs, although she joined the band in 2009 after their keyboardist and female lead singer Aleks left to continue her studies. Some of the members did synchronized dance moves that matched up with the lyrics of the songs during the performance. Although most of the music that Los Campesinos! creates is upbeat, they did play one song that had a slower pace on Friday, just as the clouds covered the glaring sun, creating an unplanned moment of calm that fit the mood of the song perfectly. The biggest hit of the concert was “You! Me! Dancing!,” a fast-paced tune that had the whole crowd singing and jumping. Unlike most of the artists at the festival, Gareth got up close and personal with his audience, jumping off the stage and climbing into the crowd during the last song, where he sang amongst their fans. The band showed that even a larger group can maintain camaraderie, as they performed the last few lines of their final song a capella and huddled in three small groups, with their arms around each other.
Tegan and Sara
This Canadian twin-sister duo is a treat to see live, whether or not you’re already a fan of their indie rock music. They both write songs and play guitar and keyboard, and both have similar, but distinct, voices. They alternate lead vocals on songs, and sometimes harmonize as well. Instead of mastering a sound and sticking to it, each song tends to have its own sound, so their set stayed fresh for the entire hour. They engaged with the audience numerous times during their performance, including a vulnerable moment when Sara took off her leather jacket due to the heat and humidity, and announced that it was a big deal, because that jacket is like her security blanket. They made several jokes about the weather in Austin, which definitely wasn’t prime concert weather, and they made the crowd follow step-by-step instructions in a ploy to get everyone to hug each other, as a token of Tegan and Sara’s affection for their fans. There really wasn’t a boring moment while these two were onstage.
This alternative rock band from California may have been around since 1992, but they rock just as hard as today’s younger artists. All of the members of Weezer were well-dressed, despite the muggy weather, including frontman Rivers Cuomo, who donned a sweater vest. The crowd was clearly full of long-time fans of the group, because there wasn’t one song on the set list that the majority of the show-goers didn’t sing along to. They mixed older hits, like “Undone (The Sweater Song)” and “Buddy Holly” with newer fare, like “Memories” and “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To.” Before launching into their hit “Island in the Sun,” Cuomo improvised a short tune asking for a dance partner. They also spiced up their performance by splitting the lyrics of the second verse between all of the members – Cuomo would introduce a band member, and they would sing the next line of the song. This show probably exceeded expectations even for fans that have wanted to see Weezer for over a decade.
The Black Keys
There is no doubt as to why Ohio’s The Black Keys were chosen as Friday night’s headliners for Austin City Limits Music Festival. Some fans camped out from the festival opening at 11 a.m. until their set at 8:30 p.m. just to be close to the stage. Overall, they played an upbeat show, and their signature bluesy-rock sound was perfect for a comfortable October night in Austin. Guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach is a skilled guitar player, and had no problems showcasing his talent. Both members of the group were obviously invested in making sure the crowd was having a good time, as they kept trying to pump everyone up between songs. They also seemed determine to make sure that they were playing their best, so as not to rob fans of a truly great live performance. While much of the listeners at The Black Keys’ show were dedicated enthusiasts, there was another portion of the masses that seemed to just be interested or curious festival-goers, trying to see what the hype was all about (and they surely realized it quickly). At one point during the set, a giant disco ball was revealed from under a cover that had been hanging from the ceiling of the Bud Light stage all day, and it was a big hit with the audience, just like the performers standing under it.