Saturday, September 15, 2007

ACL Day 1 and pre-Day 1

Started out the weekend with a private party on Thursday (sponsored by BMI), just a nice little happy hour (6-8pm). There was a certificate presented to Tommy Shannon, Chris Layton (a.k.a Double Trouble, Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section), Bill Carter and Ruth Carter for one million broadcasts of the song Crossfire. (all 4 are the composers of the song). Then there were performances by Adam Hood and Kara Grainger. Kara is from Australia but works with a lot of Austin musicians. Chris Maresh and Michael Ramos are in her performing band. Here's a pic of Guy Forsyth at the party. I wanted a pic of his shirt.

We usually get to the festival each day before gates at 11:00 so we can get free parking within walking distance. It's a hot day in store, in the 90s, and humid too.

Sahara Smith (local) started the day for us (and the entire festival). I was reading in the paper that she got her name from her Dad, who was trying to pronounce "Sarah" and hiccuped in the middle of it. Asleep at the Wheel, as is the tradition, were the first band to play on the Big stage on the west side of the park. If you don't feel like dancing for Asleep at the Wheel, then you aren't listening.

My big plan was to get front rail for Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, then hang on to it for Crowded House. Asleep at the Wheel started at 12:30, and I got my rail for Bela, whose band put on an awesome show. They are a 4-person powerhouse, just unbelievably great. I was in front of Futureman, who is one of the coolest-looking people on the planet with his Drumitar invention looking like something straight out of The Road Warrior. He managed to shatter a drumstick to pieces playing it with one hand and the Drumitar in the other. The Security guy offered me the broken stick afterwards, but I fought my collector instincts and let the kid next to me have it. While Bela was playing, the big fire erupted on the other side of the park, a propane tank exploded in a trailer, injured a few people pretty badly and burning a bunch of stuff including some port-o-potties.

My plan to hang on to my front spot went awry due to being roasted in full sun on a hot metal slab for 3 full hours, so I really wasn't physically able to do it for the next 2 hours it would have required to be in the front for Crowded House. I took a little break and watched Neil Finn and company on the video monitors, I still loved it.

James Hunter was my remaining "must-see" for the day. James and band are a bunch of Brits who play old-style American soul music ala James Brown, Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. He is a delight. I was really ready to leave the grounds after that, but tried to hang in there for the sake of Mr. B, who wanted to see one of the headliners: Bjork.

Seeing the evening headliners at ACL has been problematic and stressful for me for the past few years. The sound on the stages is turned up too loud to be so close to the other stages, so there is massive bleedover. We couldn't get close to Bjork because that takes an investment of time and suffering that were not made, so we found a spot mid-crowd. The plan is for the stage nearby to be finished as soon as the other one starts (except for the 2 smaller stages, which have to simply put up with being drowned out). I was enjoying hearing the music from the nearby stage, which was Gotan Project, when Bjork started her little pre-show which unfortunately started about 15 minutes earlier than she came one -- so instead of creating a mood and dramatic effect, it just made an ugly cacaphonous din that there was no escape from. Here is our view of her show. That's not a giant, it's a guy standing on something. The view sucked and I was dead-dog tired from 10 hours in oppressive heat and humidity, so we started the mile-long walk back to the car.

On the way, I could see the sharp contrast between the real Austin and the corporate shebang that is the ACL Festival. There were a couple of bands playing on the sidewalks -- just some fantastic percussion-only bands playing for tips and exposure. One was Rattletree (listen to them here), and the other one was The Oziene Experience. Awesome! Our walk was also enhanced by some wonderful wild cherry shaved ices. It really rescued the evening. I love this town.

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