OK, do you really want to know how tiring a musical festival can be? At some point late in the afternoon on Friday, Day 1 of the Austin City Limits Festival, 2008 edition, as I left the media tent, I realized that I was missing my green wide-brimmed hat. I turned around, looked at the computer area for it -- not there. I went to the media area's welcome table and asked if somebody had turned in a green hat. One of the ladies there looked at me and said, "You know, you've got one hanging around your neck..."
So the first thing you need to know about a festival is that it can be an utterly exhausting experience, even if you're the type of person who handles utterly exhausting experiences well (as I do).
Miss Mary Mack arrived in downtown Austin around 10 AM, caught the shuttle at Republic Square and after checking in at the media area, strode into the grounds pretty much right at 11 AM. These pictures are a view to the east and then to the west of Zilker Park. At 11 AM, it's pretty empty. By 6 PM, it's near chaos.
We headed west to the Austin Kiddie Limits stage, which once again this year is tucked away right next to the AT&T blue room stage in the northwest corner of the park. The best part of the stage (besides the music, of course) is the fact that it is covered. Yay shade! The worst part of the stage is that's tucked away in the northwest corner of the park, about as far as possible from the media tent. Which meant for a lot of hiking throughout the day. (See hat anecdote above.)
Uncle Rock kicked off the stage with his band, the Little Playthings, and they sounded great ("Sugar Talkin'" the Superhero Medley, lots of uptempo stuff. For most of the set, they were joined by URock's son Jack, who sang harmony. Uncle Rock played up to the crowd and the photographers (this might be my favorite photograph of the day). Uncle Rock finished up at noon, and we toured the AKL area.
We watched an African dance troupe, Miss Mary Mack got free ice cream at the HEB booth (sadly, no cheap fruit and veggies this year), and reluctantly sat down to get her hair punk-styled. (A few blue streaks, and that was it for her.) After a little bit of coloring book coloring, we headed back to the stage to watch the Q Brothers, who did a nice little set of positive hip-hop, joined by AKL producer Tor Hyams on keys for a couple songs.
By the time the Q Brothers' set ended, we were getting hungry, so we left the area and headed out to the food court which, thankfully, has a huge selection of Austin-based vendors to choose from. Of course, Miss Mary Mack picked cheese pizza, but I got myself a pulled pork sandwich from Stubbs. Fortified with protein and carbs, we headed back to AKL to catch most of Jambo's set. We saw 'em last year, but it was nice to hear the set again and actually be familiar with the songs. That thing attacking Melinda McGraw is a puppet puppy dog for "I Love My Puppy Dog."
Miss Mary Mack and I headed back to the media area because I had an interview scheduled. Unfortunately, the act was running behind and ended up not being able to make the interview. But Miss Mary Mack and I played Ziggity for, like, 45 minutes in a very shaded area. All things considered, not too bad. Miss Mary Mack, however, had reached her limit for the day, so we walked all the back to AKL, then out of the park so that her uncle could pick her up.
Which meant that I could catch the tiniest part of Patty Griffin's set from a loooong way away, then over to the Mates of State set at the Austin Ventures stage. They had a small string section for part of their set, and it really helped. That's the beauty of ACL, though -- you can bring people you might not be able to afford for a small club show. Here's how good they were -- as soon as they finished the set, I knew I'd be heading over to the Waterloo Store onsite to pick up Re-Arrange Us, their latest album. (Which I did.)
The rest of the evening was great -- David Byrne playing some of his greatest Eno-era Talking Heads material along with new stuff. I love Stop Making Sense, but its total focus on the band to the exclusion of the audience means you don't get that crowd sing-along feeling. When 15,000+ people shout, "My God, what have I done?" in "Once In a Lifetime," you get that release. Also, Byrne and his white-clad band and modern dancers (loved the office chair suite) totally ignored that "no white after Labor Day" rule.
From there, I scooted all the way back across the park to hear the rest of the Swell Season's set. They seemed plagued by technical problems (with the piano, with Glen Hansard's guitar, with overwhelming sound coming from Alejandro Escovedo's set nearby), but it really was a compelling set. I heard "Falling Slowly," some other songs from Once, but Hansard also played a Van Morrison song (source of great technical difficulties) and the band played a Frames song to close the set.
And at that point I was done. Felt like I couldn't do the rest of Escovedo's set justice, so I went to Waterloo, picked up the MOS disk, and got in the shuttle bus line for home. So here's the line.
OK, it's time for a breakfast brunch with the family, then off for Day 2 and then Family Music Meltdown 2 at Ruta Maya (6 PM, join us if you can!)