If It's Not a Dust Storm, It's a Swamp

Next Up's Aaron Miller reports from ACL Fest Day 2

Even the usual respite of The Grove was flooded out on Saturday.
Even the usual respite of The Grove was flooded out on Saturday.

ACL DAY 2 started with Mutemath. With a new CD and a single on Twilight (embarrassing, but don't forget Thom Yorke and Ben Gibbard are on the next Twilight soundtrack), buzz about the New Orleans rockers is bigger than ever, playing an energetic and highly enjoyable set. Besides, it’s hard to be bad when your lead singer plays keytar.

Next was Grizzly Bear on the Dell stage. This band has blown up over the past year, and being one of Radiohead’s favorite bands surely can’t hurt. With such a rapid ascent into the big leagues, had Grizzly Bear completed the jump from venue band to festival band? The set began a little awkwardly, partly because the band was forced to move towards the back of the stage by the rain, but before long Grizzly Bear looked quite comfortable. Soon, their watery guitars and backwoods-Beach-Boys harmonies began to further saturate the already soaking Zilker Park.

By the time Grizzly Bear finished, it was pouring rain. I had an umbrella, but it was doing little to keep my bag dry. I caught rumor of ponchos being sold at the general store and became involved in the Great Poncho Stampede of 2009. People were literally jumping on each other to buy ponchos. When the ponchos sold out, the store started giving away their trash bags. I dangled over the counter with about 40 other people in hopes of a trash bag, but informed that 200 trash bags were dispensed in less than two minutes. It was nearly a riot.

Riot? Sounds like a job for Flogging Molly! Making my way to the AMD stage, the sudden abundance of kilts and mohawks heralded Flogging Molly nearby. “This is a dry day in Ireland!” Dave King informed the audience. Flogging Molly’s set was true rock & roll, drawing from Float and other albums. Rain fell hard on the band and the stage, but that did not deter them from flipping off the audience and inciting an odd but workable combination of mosh-pits and Irish jigs throughout the park.

By the time I got back to the Dell stage, my shoulders were aching, my spine was collapsing, my knees were buckling from sheer exhaustion, and then The Decemberists took the stage. Colin Meloy and company performed their new CD The Hazards of Love in its entirety, curing all of my ailments and replenishing the essence of my being. This album is one of my favorites of the year, but seeing it performed live is to see it in an entirely new way. It felt like watching a play, and was in no way over the top. The Decemberists did not use or props or excessive costumes. If this performance was play-like, it was Shakespearean; the dialogue is so rich there is little need for props and minimal need for costume. The set was delivered smoothly, passionately, and with much acclaim from their adoring audience.

Ghostland Observatory closed the evening with a light show that Daft Punk would be proud of and the stage presence that made them a hit. Though I don’t think it quite measured up to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs closer the night before, I found myself dancing just the same. Aaron Behrens has some of the best stage moves I have ever seen, he puts on a clinic for aspiring frontmen.

Onward to Day Three!

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More ACL Fest 2009
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ACL Fest 2009, ACL, U21

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