This weekend the Austin City Limits Music Festival reaches its first true milestone, five years, and its reward is a weather forecast that actually resembles autumn: highs in the low 90s, 20% chance of rain. Although the irrigation system prompted by last year's dust bowl isn't completely installed, it looks like they won't need it. "The park is as green as I've ever seen it," says promoter Charles Attal. Also new this year are banks of drinking fountains near the two main stages. So for everyone used to bitching about the water or weather, don't worry, there's still the sound bleed-over from neighboring stages and interminable post-show waits in the shuttle-bus lines. Just kidding but don't forget that the shuttles are now dropping off and picking up at Republic Square Park, at Fourth & Guadalupe.
Whether due to its success or simply its very existence, the ACL Festival has engendered a certain amount of grumbling among Austinites, and not just Zilker residents, whose neighborhood becomes a parking lot for three days. Big surprise: This is the same city where people get up in arms when the Longhorns lose more than one game per season, the City Council thinks bicyclists should wear helmets, and people have the audacity to want to smoke in bars. In Austin, causing someone to complain is a high honor indeed. The fact remains that even before the ACL lineup is announced, three-day-pass presales sell out faster every year, and by the time the festival rolls around, one-day passes are mighty hard to come by. Very few three-day passes were available Wednesday at the ACL box office.
Those tickets sell so fast because Attal and his staff bring in acts people want to see (and will endure 105-degree temperatures to do so, if they must). Its first year, when the stages still had quaint names like Feature, American, and Heritage, ACL headliners could maybe sell out Stubb's on their own: Wilco, Jayhawks, Ryan Adams, Emmylou Harris. This year, there's a genuine rock legend who's said this tour may be his last (Tom Petty); two from the British Isles that are scarce stateside (Van Morrison and Massive Attack, still on, despite recent visa trouble); two of 2006's most-talked-about new bands (Gnarls Barkley and the Raconteurs); and Willie Nelson, who's topped Attal's ACL wish list for years. My, how it's grown.
Just think: No ACL Festival, no Rolling Stones next month. Not to mention, ACL's success combining indie and hippie was an obvious factor in Bonnaroo booking Radiohead this year. ACL and Coachella have almost single-handedly revived the U.S. festival industry, leading to events like the rebirth of Lollapalooza. Last month, the second Lolla was produced by ACL founders Capital Sports & Entertainment, and it was the first time it expanded to an ACL-like three days and 130 acts. The Chicago-based festival eclipsed ACL in terms of national media attention and, arguably, A-list talent (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West, Panic! at the Disco, Sonic Youth). So is ACL still the jewel in CSE's crown? Of course, says Attal, who insists booking Lollapalooza has no bearing on the ACL lineup.
"This is our home base," he says. "This is our baby, and it always has a special place for all of us. This is where we live."
ACL Notes Austin techno-rock sensations Ghostland Observatory, a late add, play 1:30pm Saturday on the Heineken stage.
Taping sets at the Austin City Limits TV studios this week are Van Morrison (tonight); Sufjan Stevens and the Raconteurs (Sunday); Cat Power (Monday); and Damien Marley (Tuesday). Marley tapes at 9pm; all others at 8pm. Ticket hotline: 475-9077.
Like SXSW, ACL weekend is a study in trickle-down rockonomics. Even clubs that have nothing whatsoever to do with the festival or its aftershows put their best foot forward, and opportunistic promoters snap up every square foot of available party space. And it starts tonight (Thursday): New Red River room Mohawk and Austinist.com host Local Music Is Sexy 2, a free minifest of its own with IV Thieves, Brothers and Sisters, Loxsly, 'Til We're Blue or Destroy, Horse + Donkey, and DJs Car Stereo (Wars) and Stay Gold. Up the street, incendiary Islamist rappers the Arab League storm Room 710 with ex-Frog Jimmy Flemion, while the Octopus Project and Enon entrance Emo's inside, and Heather Rae & the Moonshine Boys honky-tonk Lovejoy's. Friday, the Jolly Garogers celebrate National Talk Like a Pirate Day at Elysium's Buccaneer's Ball, with burlesque from Ruby Lamb and yo-ho-hos by DJ Raleigh. Red's Scoot Inn is the scene for Eastside City Limits, starring the Missing Tapes, Tenlons Fort, iKiLLCaRS, and Pink Nasty. At 12:30am, the party moves next door to the Austin Daze compound for B&S, TWBOD, and the Black. Saturday, drag your tired ass to Beerland for some Ugly Beats therapy or Hole in the Wall for the TunaHelpers' tasty pretour send-off Zykos, out of hiding, and I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness take over Beauty Bar. And all weekend long, FactoryPeople hands over its turntables to ACL musicians the Black Angels, the Long Winters, Damien Marley, the Secret Machines and hosts the Misprint/Insound party 12am Friday with ex-Death From Above 1979 basher MSTRKRFT. Plenty of time to sleep Monday after you call in "sick."
Outside the Park
Houston rapper Trae put Red 7 in a state of "Swang" Saturday night, bringing the Restless tour, named after his new Rap-a-Lot LP, to a restive crowd of about 300. Though Trae didn't appear until 1:40am, he instantly won over the audience by telling them, "This is my second home." His ballistic beats part 50 Cent, part DJ Screw and scowling persona ("I do this asshole by nature style") did the rest. His multitude of openers, meanwhile, put on a virtual how-to clinic of Gulf Coast rap: catchphrases universal ("Girl gimme that pussy"), regional ("Chunk up a deuce"), and local ("Get ya Horns up"); DJs that knew when to drop Chamillionaire and Trina; and MCs tossing CDs and wads of dollar bills to the crowd. Besides directing traffic on the crowded stage, the harried promoter, who was more entertaining than some of the rappers, announced special guest and onetime No Limit soldier Mia X will host Club 504 at Red 7 Wednesdays in October. The clinics will continue.
Whut It Dew
Bill Ellison, a founding member of Austin rock & roll satirists the Uranium Savages, passed away Aug. 30 after a long illness. He was 66. Ellison graduated from Houston's Westbury High School and lived in Austin until 1981, when he moved to the Rio Grande Valley to sell real estate on South Padre Island. He is survived by his parents, wife Margaret, two sons, and two sisters; there is an online guest book at www.legacy.com/Link.asp?Id=LS19067558X... Vanessa Jo Alvarez, founder and owner of Red River ink & piercing parlor True Blue Tattoo, passed away Sept. 1 in Austin. Alvarez was 35 and remembered by friends as kindhearted, creative, and outgoing; survivors include her husband, musician Charles Alberty; her parents; sister; and two brothers. Alvarez's online registry is at www.legacy.com/Statesman/Obituaries.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonId=19129937... Dewey Redman, the jazz saxophonist who recorded with Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, son Joshua, and childhood friend Ornette Coleman, died Sept. 2 in Brooklyn from liver failure, The New York Times reported. Redman, 75, was born Walter Redman in Fort Worth and played in the same high school marching band as Coleman. He attended Prairie View A&M University and taught elementary school for several years in Bastrop, coming to Austin to play weekend gigs. "I still love Texas I'm a Texan, you know," he told a sold-out Bates Recital Hall in 1999... Finally, the Chronicle family lost one of its own on Aug. 12 when Laura Carrico, wife of longtime photographer John Carrico and mother of their two sons, succumbed to cancer at age 48. Condolences to all.
Austin City Limits Music Festival, Charles Attal, Capital Sports & Entertainment, Lollapalooza, Mohawk, Local Music is Sexy 2, Red's Scoot Inn, Eastside City Limits, Austin Daze, FactoryPeople, Trae, Red 7, Bill Ellison, Uranium Savages, True Blue Tattoo, Vanessa Jo Alvarez, Dewey Redman, Laura Carrico