Austin City Limits Recap!

Cole Alexander of Atlanta psychedelic garage band Black Lips exhibiting antics

Hey everyone! Paula here, your Assistant Music Director and Rock Director for this year. I’m a New York-born, Texas-bred, music-obsessed sophomore studying English and Journalism at GW. My activities include broadcasting two live radio shows on WRGW (Daydream Nation on Wednesdays 10 AM-12 PM and Pregame on Saturdays 4 PM-6 PM featuring Owen Diehl aka DJ OD and Charlie Lobeck aka DJ Spazzy Chuck), broadcasting live interviews and studio performances for both local and critically acclaimed musicians (latest ones have been my home state favorites The Octopus Project, Atlanta noise pop/indie rock sensations Of Montreal, and the lovely San Diego gents from Crocodiles), managing a friend’s band, DJing parties and events, and going to way too many concerts and music festivals for both my wallet and my well-being.

Speaking of music festivals, I was fortunate enough to attend Austin City Limits this past weekend in my home state of Texas! After an absurd weekend of constant traveling and early mornings (a 5 AM trek from DC-Baltimore-Houston-Austin), having the sniffles and a sore throat, ACL was a major success! Highlights of the crazy weekend included attending some spectacular shows, catching up with many old friends from high school, eating fabulous Mexican food that absolutely is not the same in DC, hanging out at the University of Texas, and exploring the amazing city that is Austin. I forgot how much goes on in the Texas capital- there’s always live jazz coming out of a cafe, college students causing trouble on the drag (the main street, Guadalupe, that runs straight through UT’s campus), and just cool people everywhere, looking for a good time. And, of course, the festival was an amazing, overwhelming, sensory overload of an experience.

My personal favorite music experiences from ACL:

– Seeing the rambunctious, frenetic show that the Black Lips put on (above). The psychedelic Southern garage punkers are notorious in Atlanta for their wild live shows, and they’ve been known to be banned from more than a few venues in Georgia. During the set, which had a huge mosh pit brewing in the center of the crowd, the guitarist Cole Alexander held up his guitar to the heavens, spit, caught it back in his mouth, and proceeded to have a sonic seizure, spazzing out on the ground while doing a crunchy, improvised guitar solo. Absolutely glorious.

– FINALLY seeing Sonic Youth live, who after almost 30 years, still prove that they’re still a revolutionary name in both noise rock and indie rock. Their amazingly energetic, guitar-jam driven hourlong set was way too short!

Deadmau5‘s light show. The brilliant colors  and intensely frenetic lights throughout the entirety of the set were amazing to begin with, and the crowd of a good 5,000+ made for a huge, awesome dance party. Definitely the most fun time on Saturday.

– Reuniting with old friends and dancing manically to gypsy punk, lower East side band Gogol Bordello. Enough said.

– Seeing Matt Berninger, dressed as sharply as Don Draper would be in a snappy suit and tie, lead a huge crowd to an encore after The National put on arguably the best Sunday show in an intense, beautiful rock and roll frenzy. As an added surprise, they had a trumpet, trombone, and were joined by the famed Canadian composer Owen Pallett on the violin, making for a spectacular, orchestral masterpiece of a show.

– Being completely blown away by Portugal. The Man and their psychedelic jams. Before seeing them live, I had only given their albums a listen-through at most, and at the pleading of a friend, I decided to go check it out. I didn’t even make it to Devendra Banhart, who I love and was playing at the exact same time on a different stage- they were just that incredible!

– And last, but certainly not least, fulfilling my adolescent dream of seeing The Strokes live. The Strokes were that band that defined my high school experience, and I was completely obsessed- I’m talking knowing every word of every song of every album and EP. To this day, I still can’t help but get nostalgic when I listen to them. Having the opportunity to see them was definitely the best part of ACL. Their set began with “Is This It,” and all it took was that one song to remind you of the first time you ever heard The Strokes. After their incredible performance and stellar light show, I probably stood in awe for a good five minutes, just taking it all in.

Unfortunately, with all large music festivals, sometimes the scheduling is really unfortunate. I heard that Vampire Weekend was good (but Sonic Youth was at the exact same time, and I was going to see them no matter what!), and I had to take care of a sick friend during Spoon, which was unfortunate, as I heard they had a brass band come on stage with them. Other notable shows from the weekend include The Black Keys, Monsters of Folk (they played a combination of Bright Eyes, M. Ward and My Morning Jacket songs in addition to the MOF album), The Flaming Lips and the xx.

Overall, I was pleased with all of the shows that I saw, and it was a fantastic weekend. I’ll definitely be going again next year! Rumors are going around that Radiohead or Daft Punk may be headlining in 2011….still too early to tell, but the experience this year is enough for me to buy my presale ticket as soon as it releases!

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