ACL AggreGAYtion, Part II
"I get older, they stay the same age." - Wooderson, Dazed and Confused
In Part I of this post, we opened up some questions surrounding the nature of giant megamassive events such as Austin City Limits Fest. In this post, perhaps we'll answer some, at least in an anecdotal sense. Guys, answers are hard! We just learned that. Also, siblings. What a hassle, amirite?
Since this is an humble blog post by a humble blogger, I am going to slip into first person right... about... now. There, now that we're all comfortable, let's get on with it. ACL Fest is a very large event, and my only experience with this event in particular, or at least single-venue, general-admission events of this enormity was with the dreaded 2009 Dillo Dirt mudfest, which was spectacular in only one, very vivid if unpleasant sense of the word. Festivals from my pre-Lalapalalapaza days were generally just gargantuan, marathon concerts, with one stage in an ampitheater or event center. This, dear reader, is a whole other experience.
I won't linger on the weather, but this year's fest won the jackpot: there was no need for protective dust masks, galoshes, ponchos, or hazmat suits, although I do think I saw attendees wearing all of these items. I guffawed when I heard Toro Y Moi thank the audience for enduring the awful heat. It did occur to me that Zilker Park offers less shade than usual with the treelines fenced off and lined with Port-a-Potties. Ever the creative problem solver, I went to one of the countless vendors and bought a hat, which, as it turns out, has a little hideaway should one find oneself short on pockets. "Remember, if you're going to put a joint in there, wrap it in plastic or you'll smell like weed," a friendly festival-goer informed me. Say what they will about Texans, we're a helpful bunch.
An added personal bonus, my sister and brother-in-law were visiting from Houston for the festival, and my other brother and his girlfriend were here from parts unknown as well, so we got caught up on family matters while we enjoyed a surprising number of the same bands. We were only separated twice: once for Grimes, who they'd never heard of, and once (though it shames me deeply to admit it) for The Cure. Clarification: it does me no shame to have chosen The Cure - I even wandered away and headed home during "Just Like Heaven," but rather that they chose the only alternative at that time.
Other than that, there are two main props I can give this festival. First, the organizers seem to have found the formula that allows these ridiculously large events to leapfrog well past the terrifying messes that were Woodstock and its 35th year anniversary revival. There were no 10-minute potty lines or five-dollar water issues, no panicked mobs nor brown-acid warnings; I didn't hear about any just-shoot-me bus queues or stage collapses. In fact, the full range of emotion that I saw ran the gamut from contented to ecstatic, except for the one friend I saw frantically making his escape from the surprisingly crushing horde surrounding Grimes, who, by the way, had a keyboard failure and just rolled with it, content to sing and dance, just she and her rhythm box. It never skipped a beat.
The second characteristic that may or may not be common to all megamassive festivals is the commitment to a local vibe. Local beers, local food vendors, and even somewhat local primary sponsors prevailed. Perhaps Bonnaroo and Coachella have similarly civic-pride-inducing accoutrements, but only in Austin do we like to sit around and talk about how great Austin is. It warms my cockles, and it helps brand this event as our own, even as our local brands gain a little extra scratch and a little extra recognition. And that statue atop the faux Capitol dome? Pure genius.